Dear Pastor: You may not like this, but I'll just come right out with it: You won't see me at church tomorrow.
I've stopped going to church. (Did you notice? Or did you think I was attending elsewhere?)
So you won't see me in any Christmas services. I'm busy, but it's more than that. I just don't feel like going anymore. You'd have to agree that I can pray to God anywhere. At times I feel guilty about my decision, but mostly I'm OK.
Do I miss church? I rarely think about it. Not going to church doesn't seem to have made too much of a difference in my life. That's another reason I can't see myself going back any time soon.
Merry Christmas, still. -- Anonymous
Merry Christmas to you, too. Grace and peace to you from God the Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ.
I'm glad you mentioned Christmas. One word, Christmas is -- but it implies three reasons God invites you back to church.
1. "Christ," in turn, means "Anointed One." God's Son took flesh in a virgin's womb and was born, as promised, in Bethlehem. Thirty years later God poured out his Spirit on his Son publicly, at Jesus' baptism in a river. "This is my Son, whom I love," God said as he anointed Jesus, "with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17).
Jesus is the only person who has ever walked this earth who has earned that verdict. The rest of us, from the mildest to mass murderers, are all by nature objects of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).
That truth gets less popular daily, but it's the first reason to come back to church. Admitting our guilt to God and trusting in Christ makes eternal difference. Jesus said, "If you do not trust that I am the one I claim to be, you will die in your sins" (John 8:24).
2. The "Mass," some call Holy Communion, or the Lord's Supper. What you call it doesn't matter. You need it.
You can't get it at home. You can't get it from a TV, or the internet. It's not just bread and wine.
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?" (1 Corinthians 10:16). Jesus said it is to forgive sins (Matthew 26:28).
"Christmas" comes from "Christ's Mass."
3. And it is more. When you come to the Lord's Supper, or any service, you help others. If you stay home, you discourage. If you come, you encourage.
"Let us not give up meeting together," Scripture says, "as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -- and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25).
The more you come,the more you'll be blessed and be ready for Judgment Day, and the more you'll make me and others very merry.
The Rev. Daniel A. Witte, pastor of Risen Savior Lutheran Church, can be reached at 941-747-5564. For more information, see www.rsavior.com.