March 2016 Newsletter
What is your favorite holiday? And as this is a newsletter article from your dear pastor please try to relegate that holiday to a religious one. This is meaning no disrespect to secular and political holidays like the 4th of July, or Veteran's, President's or Memorial Days. These days serve important purposes in our society, our communities, and in our lives and histories, but they speak less for most to the thrust of this month's article. So to restate, and rephrase: what is your favorite church holiday? And, why?
Your favorite holiday and why, says a lot about each one of us. Favored holidays are a part of our own personal tradition, whether we realize it or not. And the best thing about a favorite holiday is there is no wrong answer. Certainly we will not all have the same favorite church holiday, but we can definitely value why those around us hold one holiday as more special or more meaningful.
I write this because my favorite holiday is fast approaching: Good Friday. It may be an odd choice in the minds of some but it is my favorite nonetheless. Sam jokes that I would have made a good Catholic with the way I value the guilt I feel during Confession and Absolution, the favor I have for a crucifix over an empty cross (though I don't begrudge those who prefer the latter), and my love of Good Friday. As a simple man - called to serve as pastor, but still just an ordinary man - I know and feel my sin the same as anyone else. But maybe because I'm a pastor and have read more?, know more?, know better, or am held to a higher standard; I therefore look at myself and my sins in a slightly different way and value in great measure the sacrifice of my Lord on Good Friday. I love reading the words of Christ from the cross. I love singing the songs depicting His suffering, pain, and torment for me. I love the reminder of His death, His payment, His atoning sacrifice for my sins. On Good Friday it is almost as though I seek to own what I could never own, or feel what He felt for me; not that I take anything for myself or own in any way the great work of Christ for me, but that through it I find greater appreciation for what Christ did on my behalf. Call it piety, call it edification, call it an over-reach of emotion or feeling, I don't care. I love Good Friday, it is by far my favorite holiday. And I believe my reasons are theologically sound.
Now that is not to say I don't value the other two big favorites of Christmas and Easter. Without Christmas there would be no Christ born to die on Good Friday, and without Easter: "If Christ had not been raised from death our faith would be in vain (LSB486)." For you one of these or another may be your favored holiday: love the Reformation, really enjoy the picture of the Transfigured Lord, or enjoy the Athanasian Creed on Trinity Sunday. I donít begrudge you to hold the same favored holiday as me, but I do urge you to define your reason why. The "why" is almost more important than which one. The "why" is what gives importance and what works to create tradition. Your children and grandchildren know you love Christmas and remember singing Christmas carols as a family at home or at the nursing home. Maybe you have a particularly German meal to celebrate the Reformation. Or make a cross cake or cross candies emphasizing the fact that He has risen on Easter morn.
These are just examples and I know your own traditions, reasons, and love for your favored holiday will come out in a much more passionate way, as my love for Good Friday did above. The point is sharing that joy and excitement with those around us to build up their faith and form lasting memories around these important days. In this way both the importance and meaning of the holiday as well as the joy and excitement continue in the lives of our children and grandchildren.
God's Blessings on your Holy Week Celebration,