Thursday, December 6, 2007

Pastor Claus...

...okay ...Bishop Claus would be more accurate and descriptive. If you have not learned about the real St. Nicholas, Pastor Weedon has a wonderful post about him. It is located here.

Every Christmas season, starting on his feast day (December 6th), Lutherans begin to talk about the real Santa Claus. Even churches who didn't give a moment's thought about saints or church fathers during the previous 11 months start talking about the mythology that surrounds this relatively obscure Myrian bishop.

Typically, you never hear a thing about theological titans like Augustine, Irenaeus, Clement, Polycarp, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Tertullian, Jerome, Thomas Aquinas, or Cyprian... but they were not graced with the marketing boon of becoming the icon of a holiday season that tempts us with sloth, greed and gluttony. Stores like Hallmark make loads of money each year selling sets of figurines of Santa Claus as he appears in the native garb of the various countries who venerate him. He is obviously an important political football all across the cultural community. December is his 15 minutes of fame and we fight over him with a bold zeal for history that is almost unmatched in the areas of perceptiveness and dedication. (For example: I remember the deafening silence on the part of most Christians who barely noticed this horrible rewrite of the Pelagian heresy.)

I guess that it must be all a part of that yearly battle to preserve Christmas from secular commercialism. You cannot open a Christian magazine or hang around after church without hearing about the truth of St. Nicholas, the truth of Christmas in general, and the importance of giving our kids the proper perspective. It is all one ideological package and Santa is usually the linchpin of the discussion. I wish that the modern church cared about presenting the rest of her rich history as much as she does about defending Bishop Claus.

So, I'm not going to talk about him here. People have presented much better posts about St. Nicholas than I ever could. Before you get engrossed in the story of a man that we unfortunately know very little about, might I suggest that you consider my alternative point:

Bishop Claus is not the only pastor who bears gifts this season. As he does every month in the year by virtue of his divine call, your own pastor offers the two greatest gifts that you can ever receive: God's Holy Word rightly preached and the Holy Sacraments properly administered. While you are out amassing and hoarding earthly treasures, do not forget the priceless gifts from heaven that are freely offered to you in the Divine Service. Do not be so busy that you neglect church this advent.

Do not cheat your soul in favor of something as worthless and ephemeral as shopping or a social function. Every year we must turn down social engagements when they conflict with the schedule of our church. Lest one assume that I am suggesting something that I do not do myself; I will tell you all that, this year, I declined my invitation to see the Secretary of the Army in favor of a Wednesday night advent service. I say that not to get credit for my feeble dedication, but as evidence to support my effort to turn the tide of absolute apathy regarding what the priority of a Christian should be.

A dedicated Christian loves and cherishes the church and seeks her out at every available opportunity. A dedicated Christian will pay any price and travel any distance to hear the Word of God every single time that it is preached. This is not to merit favor from God by your attendence, but to protect you from the filthy desires of your sinful flesh and the deadly lies of the devil.

Listen to beloved Pastor Luther:

"Likewise those fastidious spirits are to be reproved who, when they have heard a sermon or two, find it tedious and dull, thinking that they know all that well enough, and need no more instruction. For just that is the sin which has been hitherto reckoned among mortal sins, and is called ajkhdia, i.e., torpor or satiety, a malignant, dangerous plague with which the devil bewitches and deceives the hearts of many, that he may surprise us and secretly withdraw God’s Word from us.

For let me tell you this, even though you know it perfectly and be already master in all things, still you are daily in the dominion of the devil, who ceases neither day nor night to steal unawares upon you, to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against the foregoing and all the commandments. Therefore you must always have God’s Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears. But where the heart is idle, and the Word does not sound, he breaks in and has done the damage before we are aware."
[Large Catechism 1:99-100]

Saying that you are a dedicated Christian and being a dedicated Christian are two different things. Your faith is not another errand that is added to your "To Do" list and prioritized. Your entire life is to be one of repentance and slavery to Almighty God. The treasure that you eagerly seek is Christ and His eternal gifts which are freely given to you without price or merit. Everything else is done in view of that fact.

That is just my opinion as a simple layman, but I'll bet you a candy cane that Bishop Claus would agree with me.

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