“So the Christmas message for all people runs: You are accepted, God has not despised you, but He bears in His body all your flesh and blood. In the body of the little child, all your distress, anxiety, temptation, indeed all your sin, is borne, forgiven, and healed.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This quote, from one of my favorite theologians, sums up the meaning of the manger perfectly for us. On that night, as Mary gave birth to our savior, it was not simply purity and holiness that was born into Jesus. The Christ-child also carried with him into birth and infancy our every struggle, weakness, failure and sin. This does not diminish the miracle, but indeed adds to it. For Jesus did not simply adopt our sin on that fateful day at Golgotha, but rather knew it all along. And while that thought may cause great pain or consternation to us, it nonetheless had to be this way for him to truly overcome human failure and frailty.

As a result of this miraculous birth, God now knows us in the most intimate of ways. God knows our hearts, with all their fears and hatred. God knows our souls, with all their doubts and temptations. God knows our minds, with all their logic and rationality. God knows our spirit, even as it is broken. Yet, God still accepts and loves us all the same! Jesus carries all this and still shines the Light of Holiness through it. This is the true beauty of Christmas!

On that star-filled night, in a stable amidst all God’s wild creatures – broken humanity and holy righteousness were born into one child! And finally, the angels could truly sing to the world, “Peace on Earth and Good Will to all God’s Children!” Amen.
-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska

Let Us Adore Him

A child lays on a carpeted floor under an artificial Christmas tree, staring up through soft lights at the glow of red, yellow, and green on the ceiling. Next to him is an old Nativity Scene, which once belonged to his grandparents. He spends hours listening to a Christmas album from the 1960’s, while studying the characters in the manger and admiring each ornament dangling just above his head. A sense of warmth, anticipation, and joy wells up deep within his soul.

Tonight, this same boy, now 45 years older, lays under literally the same old tree and looks into that same old Nativity Scene. Decades have passed, and these items now carry memories of my parents and grandparents who have long since made their heavenly journey home. On this night I see light shining across darkness and branches that somehow still hold ornaments, a symbol of everlasting life perhaps. I lay there, so much older and yet still a child at heart, as I once again admire the shades of color softly reflected on the ceiling. I desperately pray this momentary feeling might never end, even as I feel the muscles in my back tightening. Maturity has long since taught me that I am a part of that old Nativity Scene just as the figures I so carefully study are, and this brings a remarkable sense of wonder to my heart. On this night, I am a shepherd who has come to adore the Lord. On this night, I am a King who has come bearing gifts for those who are vulnerable. On this night, I am Joseph or Mary, watching with a joyful and even overwhelmed soul. On this night, I am a voice crying out into the wilderness of this broken world.

I understand so much deeper, and yet cannot comprehend the gift at all. And in one last moment, I glance above to an angel, shining brightly atop the old tree. It is as if she calls out my name, beckoning me to share this moment of Grace and Hope with everyone I know. Then my phone interrupts the magic, to inform me a parishioner is ill this night. With a sigh, I arise, but with full knowledge I shall return again, as I have so many thousands of times before. For the manger calls out to each of us, and there simply is no resistance to the miracle of its Peace. Tonight, a child lays under a Christmas tree…Amen.

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)

An Angel’s Perspective

An angel gazed into our world, and stared into chaos. Fires burned out of control. Storms fiercely pounded islands and cities. Brothers and sisters refused to speak for their disagreements. Prejudice ran rampant. Violence became the norm. Wars were waged by tyrants hungry to prove their power. Hatred was celebrated as “the good old days.” The angel watched in disbelief, tears of sorrow forming within her eyes.

An angel gazed into our world, and spotted peace. People of different religions sat at a table together breaking bread. Children planted trees in a forest. Small groups were formed so that brothers and sisters could support one another in their struggles. People flocked to disaster sites to assist the neighbor they have never known. Love became the rally cry of communities everywhere. The angel watched with pride, tears of joy forming within her eyes.

An angel cried out along the countryside for all to hear, “Peace on Earth, and Good Will to All of God’s Creation!” Shepherds heard the cry and shared it with others. History recorded the cry for generations to come. It is a voice that reverberates through all time and space. It is a voice that heralds the advent of God’s Love into our broken and beautiful world. The angel cried out, in hopes they we will hear…

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)

Glowing Light and Love

I find myself drawn to the warm glow of the Christmas lights on my tree. Their colors serve as a backdrop to many ornaments which each carry a story. One such ornament was given to me when I was in the 5th grade by my parents, both of whom will once again celebrate this Christmas around God’s throne. Another ornament carries a picture of my cousins and I as toddlers! Still another was given to my parents years ago by dear friends. We even have ornaments displayed that were hand-tatted by my wife’s grandmother. There is so much history and love in these ornaments, and such a beautiful warm glow of light surrounding them. In so many ways, they serve as a reminder of the beautiful warm glow that surrounds us daily as we walk in the Love of God.

This glowing Love that surrounds me highlights my story just as the lights do for the ornaments on my tree. I, too, have been worn and damaged by time to some extent. If one look closely, the dents and fragility of our lives is always on full display. We cannot look as fully pristine as we once did. We cannot be as innocent as we once were. I find myself often teetering between emotional exhaustion and spiritual joy from day to day. I have known in this life what it is to be hated and what it is to be loved. The love fills my heart, and the hate unsuccessfully attempts to poke at my soul. But regardless of what deep darkness or shining joy my spirit dwells within on any given day, one thing is true in every moment: The warm glow of the Love of God shines around me as a backdrop, ever allowing some semblance of glory to be seen through this Child of God. There is not one of us walking this earth that has not had such Light as this shine around us. For God looks upon us with the same deep wonder and warm reverence as I experience while gazing into a tree filled with a lifetime of stories about those I love so dearly. Indeed, God’s reverence of us is so much farther beyond anything we can comprehend!

And so, on this day in Advent, I know that a beauty and glory that is born of Grace alone makes the light of my soul shine just a little into this world. Darkness is broken, and Light perpetually prevails until once more, as I return home this evening, I sit down with my wife and calmly smile while we quietly enjoy the glow of Christmas lights – and God’s Love – gently lighting the room in which we sit. Thanks be to God! Amen.

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)