Gerald B. Kieschnick, president of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, released a special Christmas message Dec. 12. Following is the text of that message.
“O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet, in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
This Christmas carol was on my mind during a trip to Bethlehem the first week of December. The peaceful sentiment of these words was contrasted with the discontent in that Palestinian area, part of what is known as the West Bank.
Unemployment rates hovering at 50 percent, previously intact homesteads with large olive groves being separated by a 24-foot-tall concrete wall over 500 miles in length, and political unrest unsettling the lives of the residents in that region were a sharp contrast to the serenity one often associates with the calmness of Bethlehem described in “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
Yet, such contrasts mark the lives of the people for whom Christ was born. Instability invaded Joseph’s life when his betrothed wife, Mary, was found to be with child. Balance was restored when the angel appeared to him saying, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” — which means, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23, NIV). With the promise of “God with us,” Joseph “took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus” (Matt. 1:24-25, NIV).
Since we dwell in a world tainted by sin, our days on this earth will be characterized by chaos and disorder, manifested in family strife, job loss, and any other number of life’s challenges. At the same time, we live under the promise of “God with us.” “The hopes and fears of all the years” are enveloped in God’s salvation through the Christ Child born in Bethlehem, whose righteousness is graciously and mercifully poured out upon us through Word and Sacrament. May Immanuel bring peace to your life and put joy in your heart this Christmas season!
“O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Immanuel!”
Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
Posted Dec. 18, 2008