Some Random Pastoral Ponderings…
“Mary had a little lamb. Its fleece was white as snow….”
As some of you know, my mind sometimes works in strange ways. As I was walking through the grocery store the other day, thinking about Christmas, this nursery rhyme just popped into my head! And, as often happens with songs like this, once it popped in, I just couldn’t get it out again. It had become what some people call an earworm.
After a while, it dawned on me how appropriate this song (at least the first part) is for the Christmas season.
On that first Christmas, some 2,000 years ago, a young virgin by the name of Mary had a child…the baby Jesus. Today we recognize this child as the “Lamb of God” who came to take away the sins of the world. Jesus became for us the ultimate sacrificial lamb whose blood was shed so that we shall, once and for all, be freed from the power of sin, death, and the devil.
This child, this Lamb of God, had fleece as white as snow…for Jesus, of all human beings, is the only one without sin…a lamb that is pure and unblemished. Although the people of Jesus’ day wouldn’t realize this for another thirty-three years or so, we post-Easter Christians are clearly aware of how important this gift from God is for us.
In the midst of the flurry of holiday activities and the host of distractions of this Christmas season, I invite you to take a few minutes each day to pause and ponder what this wondrous gift means for you and for your life. How has this little lamb of Mary’s changed your life?
In this month of December…this season of Advent…as we prepare to celebrate the holy event of Jesus’ birth when God broke into this world in human form to show us how dearly we are loved, may we find blessing and hope as the warmth of that love surrounds each and every one of us.
Yours in God’s love,
Music to Our Ears…
Each month we plan to include a little article about a favorite hymn. If you have a favorite hymn you would like featured in this space, please send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Although it isn’t necessary, we would love it if you would include a little story explaining why this is your favorite hymn.
This month’s hymn is ELW #268, From Heaven Above to Earth I Come, by Martin Luther. It seems appropriate for the month we celebrate Jesus’ coming into our world.
Martin Luther never expected to marry because, as an Augustinian monk, he had taken a vow of celibacy. Even after discovering the great Reformation truths of Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, he still intended to keep his vow. As the Reformation picked up steam and other monks began to marry, Luther exclaimed, “Good heavens! They won’t give me a wife!”
It wasn’t just monks who were renouncing their celibacy. The nuns were also. When Luther heard that a group of nuns from a nearby cloister wanted to escape their situation (which amounted to virtual captivity), he agreed to help them, even though doing so would be a serious breach of the law. Enlisting the aid of a local merchant named Leonard Kopp, Luther arranged for the nuns to be smuggled out in the empty barrels used to deliver herring to the nunnery. It was a fishy plan if ever there was one. But it worked!
Having liberated these women, Luther now felt responsible for placing them in homes. He managed to find husbands for all but one of them…Katharina Von Bora. Two years passed, and Luther was deeply troubled by his failure to find her a husband. She was now twenty-six years old, brilliant, effervescent, but still unclaimed. One day, while Luther was visiting his parents, he joked that he might have to marry Katharina himself. His father heartily endorsed the idea, and, to make a long story short, the two were married on June 27, 1525.
By autumn, Katharina informed Martin that she was pregnant, and Luther cheerfully announced, “My Katherina is fulfilling Genesis 1:28”…the verse about being fruitful and multiplying.
“There’s about to be born a child of a monk and a nun”, he bragged to his friends…at the time, a sin if there ever was one! Their first child, little Hans, was born on June 7, 1526. called it “a Christmas child’s song concerning the child Jesus,” and it was sung each year during Christmas Eve festivities at Luther’s massive home…a former Augustinian monastery…on the upper end of Wittenberg’s main street.
For over 500 years, this has been one of Luther’s greatest carols, delighting children today just as it thrilled little Hans in the sixteenth century. May it warm your heart as well.