Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I am writing these lines on Monday, December 26th, the second day of Christmas and the day when the Church remembers Saint Stephen the First Martyr (Acts 7:54ff). Tomorrow is the day of Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist and on the day after that we remember the martyred Holy Innocents, the young boys of Bethlehem who perished in King Herod’s futile attempt to kill the infant Savior (Matthew 2:13-23). Christ came down to earth that we, like St Stephen and St John and the Holy Innocents, might go to heaven. As we keep this blessed Christmastide we remember the dear members of our church who fell asleep in the Lord during this past year and who now with all saints celebrate the heavenly Christmas: Myrna Curtis, James Gray, David West, and Darlene Grant. May the Light perpetual that is Christ ever shine upon them! And as we sing in that wonderful Christmas carol, Now Sing We Now Rejoice:
Oh, where shall joy be found?
Where but on heavenly ground?
Where the angels singing
With all His saints unite.
Sweetest praises bringing
In heav’nly joy and light.
Oh, that we were there!
Oh, that we were there!
Because New Year’s Eve falls on Sunday this year we will not have an evening service but only the usual 11 o’clock Divine Service of the First Sunday after Christmas Day. But we will in fact have Divine Service on the morning of New Year’s Day, a day which from ancient times has been kept in remembrance of the Circumcision and the Name of Jesus (Luke 2:21).
The last of the twelve days of Christmas, January 5th, is the Eve of the Epiphany of our Lord (Matthew 2:1-12). There will be a festival Divine Service at 7:30 in the evening. Vicar Matthew Schettler of Immanuel Church at Loch Raven and Belvedere will be our guest preacher. We will sing familiar Christmas carols which speak of the coming of the Wise Men: The First Nowell, What Child is This, We Three Kings of Orient Are, and that truly marvelous Epiphany hymn, As With Gladness Men of Old. Although in recent years a sadly neglected festival, Epiphany is in fact “the Christmas of the Gentiles.” In the coming of the Gentile wise men to worship the infant Lord, Christ is manifested as being not only the Savior of the Jews but also of those Gentile nations of which you and I are members. Following the Divine Service there will be a simple reception in the undercroft. Do plan on attending the Epiphany celebration if you possibly can. It will bring your observance of the Twelve Days of Christmas to a truly joyful conclusion. If you need a ride, do not hesitate to phone or email me (410.554.9994 or firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will see to it that you get one.
I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped decorate the church for Christmas and also to thank you for your Christmas cards and gifts. Thank you very much and may God bless you for your generosity.
Just before Christmas we received the very good news that the Mayor of Baltimore has signed the document placing our church building on the City’s register of historic buildings. And so this long process has finally come to a happy end! As soon as possible there will be an event to celebrate this outcome. Due and timely notice will be given.
Another project which has now come to completion is the restoration of the stone sign in front of the church. It now has an automatic device which brings the lights on every evening. This, too, has been a lengthy process. I must especially thank Paul Techau for his hard work which has made this happen.
On Thursday, January 4, there will be a Choral Vespers for Christmas and Epiphany at 7:00 P.M. at Martini Church, Sharp and Henrietta Streets. It will be sung by the Kantorei of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Martini Church has plenty of parking spaces. A reception will follow Vespers.
Our next Voters Meeting takes place after Divine Service on Sunday, January 21. We hope that at this meeting we can make a decision about acquiring our Synod’s new service book and hymnal, the Lutheran Service Book. It has the best of The Lutheran Hymnal published in 1941, the “red book,” and of Lutheran Worship, published in 1982, the “blue book.” Members who have borrowed copies of the Lutheran Service Book are reminded to bring them back so that others can examine them and so have an informed opinion about this publication.
The recently formed Maryland chapter of Lutherans for Life will participate in the annual March for Life in Washington on Friday, January 19. This is an important witness to the sanctity of life from conception until death. In an ancient prayer for Christmastide the Church speaks of God as having “wonderfully created and yet more wonderfully restored the dignity of human nature.” And so the Church has a solemn obligation to bear witness to “the dignity of human nature” and to oppose everything which opposes and degrades it especially in a time such as this when human life is seemingly very cheap indeed. If you are interested in going to the March do let me know. Arrangements are being made for getting there and back again.
Do remember that we have an adult class each Sunday morning at 9:45 A.M. Mary Techau teaches the little ones who come at that hour. In the adult class we have for a number of weeks been studying the Augsburg Confession, the principle statement of the Lutheran faith. In this era marked by indifference to truth, by what has been called “the dictatorship of relativism” – the notion that truth cannot be known and that every religion is more or less true – it is more than ever necessary to be firmly grounded in the truth revealed in Holy Scripture and confessed by the Church.