A Christmas Letter to the folks at 1st Trinity. And anyone else:
Fear no longer! I announce to you good news of great joy for all people. Today in the city of David a savior was born for you. He is Lord Messiah. -Luke 2:10-11
To God's Family at First Trinity:
"Jesus Christ is Lord" reads a small wooden placard on top of the bookshelf in my office. It was given as a gift to me by a close friend when I finished college and went on to seminary in Chicago who was quite happy that I was to become a minister. To be honest, I secretly rolled my eyes when I opened it. The placard, at the time, really wasn't my taste. I thought my friend knew me better than that. Anyway, where would I display such a thing? It didn't really match my rooms décor of rock posters and post-it notes. Little did I know how much that little phrase would shape my life.
Okay, so the word Lord is somewhat archaic. It sounds quite odd in the United States, with all our talk of freedom and democracy. The closest we perhaps come to using such a term outside of the Church is at the first of each month when we come face to face, or check to mailbox, with our landlords. In addition, the title Lord has come under some passionate critique from folks who argue that it is inappropriate to apply such a title to God.
Well, for the record, I like it. In Jesus' time, the title Lord was generally reserved for God, and then the emperor. It was Lord Caesar Augustus who summoned Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem to register for the census in Luke's account of the Christmas story (Luke 2:1). It was one's lord who required a pledge of complete and total allegiance and dedication—often unto death. As lords, the Caesars of Rome often proudly took on the title "son of the gods."
The Lord whom Angels announce and people of faith exalt at Christmastime stands in stark contrast to those competing for our allegiance day in and day out, and those the world would call lords. It's a story of the Son of God born in a less-than-hygienic, mold-encrusted barn, among the poor, the outcast, largely unnoticed by the neighbors going on their merry ways near by.
It is those who confess Christ to be Lord who are called out of everyday busy-ness, to slow down, to see the stars, and to spend time in the mangers, at the edges of society, and with those quite different from themselves. This is where the Lord of the Christian faith is born--not behind the insulation and among the central air of castle walls--but among the vulnerable congregations who gather in unlikely conglomerations, trusting in the promise of the birth of God's Love.
To seek to make this Christ child--or the Christ of the Cross--the Lord of one's life is to radically change how one relates to the universe, to God's good creation and all who are in it. It's a faith that shapes landscapes (Luke 3:5-6), and, in the words of Mary, radically alters our sense of what is important, taking the powerful from their thrones and exulting the lowly (Luke 1:50-53). This child, whose life would be grounded in love and service, and dedicated to the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, ultimately ending in his torture and execution because he attributed Lordship to God and God's Kingdom alone, is a child who, with the disciples, the shepherds, and the magi, I am happy to call Lord.
Each week when we sing the Kyrie in worship, "Lord Have Mercy," or greet one another "The Lord is with you," we, in the words of scripture, confess Christ as Lord (Rom 10:9), and we confess Christ our Lord as present, in and among us, while congregations all over the world are doing the same thing at similar times. This is a radical confession, and if taken to heart, is one of the most transformative and life-altering confessions a person might make.
So, I kept the placard. And I display it, if nothing else, as a reminder of what my priories ought to be. If Christ is Lord, love of God and love of neighbor are always the most important and pressing things on my "to-do" list. Hmmm... If only I always remembered such things...
Today in the city of David a savior was born for you. He is Lord Messiah.May we rejoice in the Good News of great joy sung by the lips of Mary and the mouths of angels.
Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth.
Pastor Tom Gaulke