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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Christmas Day 12/25/2015

Whenever I have the privilege of delivering a sermon, I feel a great sense of responsibility, and I take that responsibility seriously. But on this Christmas morning, in front of a small group of Christian faithful, I feel an even greater sense of accountability in delivering the Good News. A couple months back, when I said “sure” to preaching on Christmas, I didn’t know that I’d be faced with the John 1 text one scholar alarmingly tells us includes “all of the most difficult theological assertions Christians ever [get to] hear.”

John 1 is poetry, and it is lyrics. It is not a story about the decree of an emperor, a lowly manger, or shepherds in the field. Last night, we got the story. Today, we get the mystery.

 The Word who was with God in the beginning has made everything that exists. He is the light of all people. He shines in ways that cannot be overcome. This light that comes from God is different from, and greater than, the natural light of the universe. This light is the person of Christ. He has become flesh this Christmas day. God’s one and only, God’s son, radiates grace and truth. The eternal comes into the world radiating grace and truth.

For me this Christmas week, life’s truths have been front and center. My new vocation has required me to move from my former holiday routine, with all of its freedom to focus on my own family, toward what a pastor’s life is like during the holidays. Rather than being able to concentrate on what’s “mine”, what’s important in my life, this year I have different responsibilities and expectations of my time that place me right, smack in the middle of this congregational family.

I’ve been making time for those who can’t be with their own right now. I’ve been spending time with those who are mostly alone – day in and day out. I’ve been able to visit with all the Bethany members who make their homes in assisted-living and nursing facilities. And this week, I’ve even gotten to take a turn as Bell Hospital’s On-Call Chaplain, sharing a few words of hope and comfort with people who surely don’t want to be in a hospital room at Christmas.

And it is in these places, that I am reminded about life’s truths … including an especially painful one: and that is, that the same people who used to sit in these pews on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, have moved on to a new point on life’s continuum, a point that all of them, of course, would rather have avoided ... These faithful servants have moved on to a new place.

And as the Intern, I meet them in this new place. I visit and I notice eyes that are able to follow my movements, but I don’t hear them speak. The same voices which in the past may have sung in our choir … taught little ones in Sunday School … these voices are silent. Or maybe when I speak with them, there is a bit of a response but mostly I sense emptiness and confusion. I see them struggle as they try to recall where they’ve seen my face, and I see their frustration when even the simple details escape them.

And certainly there is physical pain, sometimes great pain, along with medications that numb the senses. Often there is movement that is seriously restricted.

Disappointment and weariness are the order of the day.

These people I go see are the members of this church family who only a few short years ago were sitting in these pews on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

This is Christmas morning, and it may seem odd to be lifting up the lonely and isolated and hurting. But I’m hoping that in bringing them to mind on this most joyful of days, we can think of them, not so much in a sad way, but in one that might help us identify more deeply with them. Probably for you, as well as me, life is pretty good right now, and it’s hard and it’s uncomfortable to consider situations like this as an actual likelihood – for a loved one, maybe even for ourselves. Still, one of life’s important truths is that we’re all moving toward new points on our continuum, and some of these points are ones we’d rather avoid.

Where is the Christmas hope and promise for our family members who no longer have a voice, who cannot remember, those in pain, without the freedom to move? In the midst of this present reality for each of them … and this future probability for each of us, we can see hope, a time when each of them, each of us, is ultimately able to break free … because of Christ’s grace and truth, the grace and truth John’s Gospel speaks of in verse 14: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

His grace which is at times almost beyond our comprehension … His truth – which trumps all of our life truths.

We live with the assurance that all of Christ’s faithful servants will one day break free of pain and heartache and grief. Jesus Christ has come for each of us, for you, and for me. Jesus, the Messiah, is fully able to understand suffering and pain and the unavoidable challenges we have in facing death. He has come to dwell among us, taking on our form, our humanity, and Christ has shown us what grace looks like: in healing, restoring, making people whole.

In Fred Pratt Green’s hymn we hear:
O Christ, the healer, we have come
to pray for health, to plead for friends.
How can we fail to be restored
when reached by love that never ends?

From every ailment flesh endures
our bodies clamor to be freed;
yet in our hearts we would confess
that wholeness is our deepest need.

In conflicts that destroy our health
we recognize the world’s disease;
our common life declares our ills.
Is there no cure, O Christ, for these?

Grant that we all, made one in faith,
in your community may find
the wholeness that, enriching us,
shall reach and prosper humankind.

Christ will take our “life truths” and turn them completely around because today he comes: to our church family, to us, and to the world. He comes this Christmas morning to change things forever. Through his incarnation; through the life he lived among us; through his suffering, death, and resurrection and his promise to return.

Members of our church family have hope.

We have hope.


Vicar Terry Frankenstein


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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