Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Living Nativity

At this time of year some Christian churches will have "living nativities" with live animals and actors portraying the setting of Christ's birth; or they will have big musical stage productions telling the Christmas story. And of course, there's nothing necessarily wrong with those things.

But there's one thing I've noticed. The churches that tend to really go all out on such things also tend to de-emphasize or not to believe at all in the literal presence of Christ's body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. The pretend portrayal is preferred over the real thing. The vacuum that is created in pushing aside the Scriptural teaching of the Lord's Supper is inevitably filled with our own creations. The works of man always appear to be more impressive than the works of God. I recall even one Lutheran pastor who would kneel before a plastic Jesus as part of a school Christmas program, but who thought it wrong to genuflect at the altar during the consecration!

Let us never forget, then, where the real living nativity is: It's on the altar and in the pastor's hand and in your mouth, the living body and blood of Christ wrapped in the swaddling cloths of bread and wine. To go to Bethlehem is to go to the Sacrament; for Bethlehem means "house of bread." And the Bread of Life, the Word made flesh, is here in God's house for you, as Jesus said, "I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." Let us not only keep Christ in Christmas, let us also keep the mass, Holy Communion, in Christmass.

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