Friday, December 28, 2012


(From a story by Louis Lamour, with my apologies to the Lamour family for this abridged version)
Their fire was small and they huddled close. "We must go now," said the Boy, "There is no more wood for burning. Our crops were thin and when the snows come, the wild ones will come again and will kill us." "Where will we go?" the Small Sister asked, for drought was everywhere and with no better place they knew of, would it not be better to stay here and die?
The Old One stirred and mumbled, "In my sleep I saw them, strange men sitting on beasts." "He is old and his mind wanders," said the Mother. "Strange men with robes that shine," continued Old One. "How many men?" Boy asked, wondering if they would be dangerous. "Three, no more," Old One said, "sitting on beasts." Ramblings of an old man, they all thought.
They soon must leave or die, and it was better to die while doing than sitting. There was no more food - even the rats had gone. "When light comes, we shall go," said Boy. "What of the Old One? He is weak." said Small Sister. "They followed the path, where there was no path, a path of light," said Old One. "He will come with us," said Boy.
On the third day walking they ran out of water, so Boy dug for water in the sand. They ate of the corn they carried, but not all, for some would be seed for planting if they found a new home. Snow in the night gave them more water and the next day they kept walking. 
Here and there seeds could be found to eat. "Where do we go?" Small Sister asked. Boy did not know where and he was afraid. On the ninth day they ate the last of the corn except the seed. Boy snared a squirrel and a lizard, and Mother dug roots by a spring. They had left their home forever, the last of their kind who would later be called Anasazzi.
They plodded on and the cold grew. It snowed and did not melt, and Old One lagged farther behind, taking longer each day to reach the evening fire. Boy hardly looked at their eyes now, for he had nothing to promise them. "They followed a path of light," Old One muttered as he drew his worn blanket about his thin shoulders. "It is the moon of the trees on the snow."
"We have seen no path, Old One" "The path was light because they heard and they believed." said Old One. "Heard what? Believed what?" asked Boy. "I do not know, only that they believed," said Old one. "I believe we are lost," said Small Sister. Mother looked at the boy. He was now the man, but only a small man, and alone. "In the morning we will go on," Boy said.
Old One arose. "Come," he said and Boy followed. "There!" he pointed, "There lies the path." "I see no path," said Boy, "only a star." "The star is the path if you believe," said Old One. He went back to the fire and left Boy alone in the dark. The others had trusted him, but he had found nothing. They had faith and he had none. He had led them into a wilderness, and for what? There was no place for planting, little food and water, no fuel.
Old One said they followed a star, thought Boy, so he would follow a star, one still bright in the morning light. When morning came, they made ready to leave, but Old One would not move. "It is enough. I can go no farther," he said. "But you will come," said Boy, "You taught me to have faith, and now you must have it." And so they moved on, day following day and night following night and Boy following a star.
Soon Small Sister and Mother said, "We can go no farther," so Boy put them in a place of cottonwood trees where there was a water seep and branches for fuel. He snared a small animal and cooked it for them. When light came he shouldered his pack and left them, but out of their sight he sat down and put his head in his hands. He had failed them. Old One's medicine had failed. Where would they go?
As he walked on, his head was filled with dark thoughts and soon he tripped and fell. And there before him on the ground were the tracks of a deer and a raccoon. Deer would give them food and clothing. Raccoon liked water. Not in two moons had he seen animal tracks! He followed the tracks into a small valley and found a pool of water. He drank deeply and went quickly back to the others. He brought them to the place and said, "This is our home. We will stop here." 
Boy killed a deer and as they ate, he asked, "Old One, the men who sat upon the beasts in your dream, what did they find following the star?" "A cave that smelled of animals where a baby lay on dry grass. The father and mother were there and other men wearing skins." "And the shining ones who sat on the beasts? What of them?" asked Boy."They knelt before the baby and gave it gifts."
            "It is a strange dream," said Boy. "At another time I will listen to it again."

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


My WEEKLY MESSAGE is late this week. It's Christmas night and nearly bedtime and I realize I've forgotten to write this week's edition. We've had such fun the past few days with our loved ones, including my son Chuck and his wife Debbie and our three sweet grandchildren from Phoenix, Debbie's mother from Tucson, and "Uncle Brian" visiting from Denver. All the Christmas activities and special worship services changed our routine and clouded my memory.
So I will share a few thoughts from my sermon for this coming weekend here at Trinity Lutheran Church, Casa Grande. 

Have you ever had a "morning after" experience? Most of us have, at some time or other, and it's usually not something we're proud of. The morning after a passionate affair can bring guilt and regret. The morning after an auto accident brings shock and sadness. The morning after a bad decision can cloud life over for weeks. When life has severely and suddenly changed, we need hope to go on living. 

In the days following the baby Jesus' birth, life was very different for Mary and Joseph. Their travels to Bethlehem and Egypt would have been enough to change any couple's lives. But the child Mary bore into the world changed the entire world. He wasn't just a wondrous arrival, He was the promised Savior! Nothing was the same after the Christ child came into the world.

The child Jesus is God's greatest gift to mankind. Because of Him, we have that hope for life now, and hope for the future. We have hope because Mary and Joseph believed God and obeyed the angel. We have hope because the baby grew up and atoned for the sins of the world, my sins and your sins. We have this hope because on the morning after God was there with them. 

On our mornings after, God is always there with us, showing His mercy and love, offering forgiveness to the repentant, and showing a new path of life for the foolhardy, with strength for all travelers along the way. 

Psalm 25:4 says, "Show me Your ways, O Lord, and teach me Your paths." May this short prayer of David go with you every day and every morning after in the New Year.

Merry Christmas to you all! 

Sunday, December 16, 2012


No words can express the anguish of those who have lost a child. When death comes to many children at once as it did last week, we visibly see evidence of evil and wickedness in the world. There is no answer to evil except our Lord Jesus Christ alone and His victory over sin, death and Satan. 
Watching the news coverage, I recalled a conversation some thirty years ago with my church choir director who excitedly told me of a "new song" she had heard for the first time. It was called "The Coventry Carol," written sometime in the 16th Century England. It's first words are, "Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child, Bye, bye, lully, lullay." She said it had such a wonderful melody. 

When I explained to her those words came from a song lamenting the killing of children, her face dropped and she quietly said, "Oh, my goodness!" Needless to say, the church choir didn't sing the song that Christmas. It is a song few want to hear. Its haunting words and melody came to mind while contemplating the tragic deaths of twenty first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Here is what happened according to Matthew 2:16-18: 

"Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah (31:15): 'A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more'."

We can see that Newtown, Connecticut, is a modern  "Ramah," and "Rachel" the grief-torn parent. Yet the child Jesus was preserved from this ancient destruction, an act which benefitted all people of the coming ages. God could have destroyed that old tormentor king and his soldiers with a stroke. He chose rather to provide a hiding place for His people, then and for all ages. Still today, God preserves us from being swept away, even when a demented enemy comes in with weapons of death.

December 26th is the day the Church calls "Holy Innocents," a remembrance of the little boys killed by an evil man in his quest to destroy helpless children. My heart goes out to the grieving fathers and mothers, and also to the father of the young man. His family was also destroyed that day, together with the innocence of the living and dead school children. 

May the Lord have mercy upon the souls of the slain and slayer, and may He bring all survivors hope in the Gospel of our Lord. May the Lord Jesus give the pastors and all Christians in the area great wisdom and compassion in bringing hope and love to those affected.

The risen Jesus Christ alone is our hope and answer to all sorrows. 

Monday, December 10, 2012


Thank you for the many responses I received to last week's WEEKLY MESSAGE. It featured a YouTube video on a song written about a small boy in a Santa line who asked his mother, "Where's the line for Jesus?" 
I would like to share another website with you this week. It is an original video completed last year at my son and daughter-in-law's Lutheran School in Phoenix, and is set to the music of Handel's "For Unto Us A Child Is Born." I think you will enjoy watching and hearing it.

Every student and staff person at Christ Lutheran School is featured in this video holding up words from the song as they are sung. Not only is it done well, the message of the song is encouraging to us all during the year.

No matter how uncertain or fearful life may be for us, Christmas provides a respite as it focuses our attention away from ourselves to the birth of the Christ child who became the Savior of the world. 

I always enjoy remembering the "Christmas Truce" that occurred during World War One in 1914. It began during a momentary quiet period on Christmas Eve when some German soldiers sang Christmas carols and held up candles from their trenches. Although distrustful of the "barbarian" Germans, British soldiers  joined in, a few even approaching enemy soldiers in "no man's land", sharing cigarettes, personal photographs and handshakes. 

The High Command on both sides was livid, issuing stern orders against fraternization with the enemy. Despite the official orders, some officers relaxed the rules, seeing the truce as a chance to improve morale and re-supply their trenches. The 1914 "Christmas Truce" lasted through Christmas Day, after which hostilities and brutal killing quickly resumed.

Our annual observance of the birth of Jesus usually comes amid hostilities in the world, our own nation and in many peoples' hearts. May the child born in Bethlehem's manger lead people of all nations to seek, "Peace on earth, good will towards all people" this year and every Christmas.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and His name shall be called... Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Monday, December 3, 2012


Last Friday night Carol and I entered our mini-float of a simple nativity in the Parade of Lights here in the retirement park where we live during the winter. Of all the entries, ours was the only one that reminded folks this time of year was about Jesus' birth, not Santa Claus, elves, decorated trees or silly costumes. It reminded me how far removed we've come from the true story of Christmas, Jesus' birth at Bethlehem.
Then today a friend sent me a story about singer Becky Kelley. While at the mall a couple of years ago with her four year old nephew, Kelley, the boy and his Mom watched as children lined up to see Santa Claus. Having been taught that Christmas is the time Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, the boy asked, "Where's the line to see Jesus?" The boy's innocent question stayed with the two women until they came home.

They mentioned this to their song-writer father, who quickly jotted down some lines, wrote music to the words, and did a recording of the song at his home studio. His friends loved the song, so he sent the recording off to Nashville where a Christian song writer suggested some changes. Becky's Dad then asked her to record the song, and the new demo tape was sent again to Nashville.

But there was no response until two weeks before Christmas when Becky's cousins decided to do a YouTube video of it. It went, as they say, "VIRAL!" The first day their new YouTube had 3000 hits and it soared from there, bringing them e-mails, phone calls and Facebook messages, all asking for the music, CD's, iTunes, anything.

If you haven't yet heard this fine song, you can hear it here:

With all the commercialism at this time of year, it's easy to forget why it all started. "Where's the line to see Jesus?" is a question we all should ask. We actually can answer it by going to church during midweek Advent services, or attending Sunday morning services, Christmas and New Year's services. That's where we all can get in line to see Jesus. 
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given...And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6-7)

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