The hearse drove to the front entrance of Our Savior Lutheran Church.
The Worship Center was empty, waiting for a funeral.
The Education Wing was full—of Mother’s Day Out children waiting for Santa Claus’ annual visit.
It was twelve days before Christmas, and a funeral was out of sync with the season of celebration … almost as out of sync as the phrase “Christmas casket.” But that day of grief was the day those improbable words came together. Manger. Stable. Shepherds. Those are Christmas words. But not casket. Cradle, yes. Casket, no.
The casket needed to be moved from hearse to church. The two funeral directors needed help. I immediately volunteered. “Not enough,” they said, “we’ll need at least four.”
Just then a car pulled up in the parking lot, and out jumped the Mother’s Day Out Santa. “Santa,” I called, almost in jest, “we need a hand.” Always willing to oblige a request, Santa walked up to the hearse.
“You want me to do what,” Santa responded incredulously?
Before any of us could fully process such a paradoxical sight, Santa Claus, in full regalia, was carrying the casket into the church. The casket was put in its appointed place, and Santa left for his appointed task with the Mother’s Day Out kids.
We stood dumbfounded, reflecting on what we had just seen. A white-bearded, red-and-white-trimmed jolly old St. Nicholas had exchanged his bulging bags of joyful toys to lift the ultimate container of death—a Christmas casket.
We turned to gallows humor to absorb what had just transpired. Try as we might, it didn’t make sense. We couldn’t put these opposing concepts together: a Christmas casket. The casket reminds us that some weights are more than any mortal can bear. Death chooses its own time. Even Christmas. Death yields its power to no one.
Not even Santa.
So God sent a baby to carry our casket. That is the absurdly wonderful story of Christmas.
At the very moment that Mary carried a baby to his birth, that baby was already carrying, on his shoulders, our death. From the moment of his birth, Jesus was destined to carry a casket.
The Christmas baby doesn’t stay a baby any more than Christmas stays in a manger. The charm of the Christmas story soon gives way to the cruelty of the cross. The shadow of that cross covers every moment of Jesus’ life … even his birth. In a sense, Jesus is born in a casket.
It took the farcical image of Santa carrying a casket to remind me that Christmas speaks to death as well as birth. This Christmas I’ll sing of the incongruous image of a Christmas casket through these mysterious words:
“What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping? …
Nails, spear shall pierce him through, The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the babe, the son of Mary.”
This Christmas, I will ponder the imponderable: the cross was borne for me, for you … that, on his shoulders, Jesus carried my casket … in the full regalia of God’s love.
-Pastor John Schelter
Join Us Sundays
8:30am & 11:00am
Bet You Thought Our
Reformation Party Was Over!
Join us “Where Luther Walked” to meet the faces and places in the very traces of Martin Luther’s footsteps! “Where Luther Walked” combines the sights and sounds that shaped Luther’s life and the Church’s Reformation. Sign up in the centrum and volunteer to be one of the 10 main Reformation characters. Our mixture of Reformation players and places lifts up the key events that bring the Reformation story to life. Let’s keep the Reformation story going in 2018! We’ll have potluck finger foods and snacks and maybe even “the Diet of Worms!”
It all happens January 14 AT 5:30 pm.
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