Friday, December 28, 2012


My times are in your hands (Psalm 31:15).

When, but on New Year’s Eve, is the world so focused upon time? To be sure, alarm clocks are set and calendars are consulted all through the year. But never does time receive as much united attention as when the minutes, then seconds, are counted off to mark the end of one year, and the start of the next.

Turning to a new calendar year seldom brings an instant major change in life—no more than a person’s birthday does. But, like a birthday, New Years is a marker in life. Decades from now someone will say, “Remember in 2012…?”, just as some folks now ask, “Remember in 1957…?” or, “Remember in 1981…?”

Whether the year comes to an end with sober reflection, or by being anything but sober, no one misses the fact that another year has passed. Another whole year! What was that year like? Will we remember it with fondness or sorrow? Did we meet the expectations we had set for ourselves? Was it a year to be proud of—or not? Does remembrance of the year bring mixed feelings? Many do.

What about next year? What will be written in our Book of Life by the time 2014 rolls to the top of the calendar list? How many weddings will we attend? How many funerals? Who will be missing from our circle of loved ones 12 months from now? And, just how many New Years do we have left?

50 years ago a group of teenagers chatted about the coming year, and what they thought future years would bring them. They had the usual dreams, and the usual unrealistic expectations. They didn’t claim to know the future, but they were quite certain it would be exciting. One of them was especially excited about something that President Kennedy had recently done. He told his friends all about the newly formed Green Berets. He predicted that one day we would see him wearing one of those green hats.

That never happened. He did end up in the Army. He was drafted. He reached the rank of sergeant. In Vietnam he won some medals. In Vietnam he lost the use of one leg—and part of his mind. That’s when time pretty much stopped for him. Visit him today, and he will talk about his hope of becoming a Green Beret next year—in 1963!

Who would have thought? Who would have expected? Who knew? God.

The Sergeant is all right, even though his memory has skipped 50 years. The New Year will also be all right for him. The same Lord who held him in his hands ever since his Baptism, the same Lord who shielded him from death in combat, that One will guard and keep him until the final second of his earthly life is counted off. After all, his times are in God’s hands.

And so are ours!

Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military

Friday, December 21, 2012

The First Christmas Was Not a Currier and Ives Moment

How would you react if you read in this e-mail that on Sunday, to recreate a more realistic understanding of the first Christmas, that we would be having several barnyard animals in the church during the worship service? In all probability, you might very well consider not attending. It wouldn’t be due to bad motives, but who wants to go to church and put up with cows, sheep, goats, etc. with the noises and smells they make? We like things clean, pleasant and quick. Interestingly, when God came to this earth nothing about his entrance was remotely like that.

Now don’t worry! The only animals in church this Sunday will be the ceramic figures which make up the Nativity scenes decorating our sanctuary. But the point about the messiness of Christmas is something we should more seriously consider. There was nothing sentimental about Christ’s birth. Rather, a more descriptive word would be “shocking”. God himself becomes a human being in the most humiliating circumstances and from a human point of view, things don’t get much better throughout the years of his time on this earth – which all points to the seriousness of this season. The purpose of his coming was not to produce a warm and fuzzy feeling. If that had been the case, God would have rained egg nog on us. No, humanity needed the surgical procedure of being freed from the power of sin and death. And this surgery could only be done by the Son of God himself through his death and resurrection.

If we do not understand the reason for Christ’s coming, there is no reason for any type of sentimental joy during this time of the year. For then we are left with only the crushing prospect of facing death in the cold winter of our lives. The joy of Christmas is in its messiness. Join us this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) for a much needed serving of that Christmas joy.

Hawaii Lutheran Church (WELS)

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Honolulu, HI
Community Lutheran Church holds protestant chapel services in Honolulu, Hawaii near Pearl Harbor, HI. We are next to the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hickam Air Force Base, and Fort Shafter Hawaii. Look for us directly behind the Salt Lake, Hawaii, Target.