Sunday, January 24, 2021

What I missed at Christmas. . .

Although we love to hate the folks who seem to show up only at Christmas or Easter (the so-called Chreasters), I missed them this year.  As with most, our total attendance was lower than usual.  We had about 340 in 5 services -- down from about 550 in a typical year.  We had a few guests but we missed most of those who come only on the high and holy days.  Some pastors might be relieved because they have become bitter about these folks and angry that they come so seldom.  I sometimes feel that way.  But even the Mongrel hoardes need to hear the Gospel.  Lord knows, they did not make it to Easter last  year and they may not even make it to Easter this year so for more than a year these folks have gone without hearing of the good news the cried out into the night sky in Bethlehem or the Gospel that was revealed in a body hanging on a tree of a cross or the surprise of victory hidden in an empty cave.  I worry about that.  I an anxious that the times and events of the last year or more have conspired to bring even more distance between the occasional church goer and the eternal Gospel.  If we really believe that the Spirit works through the Word to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify Christ's Church, we all ought to be concerned about this.

What happened this last year is symptomatic of a growing gulf between those who attend regularly and those who don't.  It is certainly true of the fearful who have decided that until the church is safe they will stay at home.  It is also true of those who will outgrow the habit of even occasional attendance.  What this means is that a certain segment of the population is in danger of never darkening the door of God's House.  Yes, I know, you do not have to fire up your keyboard to comment.  The Gospel needs to be brought to them.  But this was a group that could have been counted upon to hear at least part of the story of God's love and now they will not even hear that.  Add to this how hard it is to get into the homes and lives of people hidden behind screens and locked doors and we all ought to be thinking more about this.

The folks who did not come are not exactly strangers to the Church.  Nearly all of them were baptized and most of their confirmed in the faith.  While some are quick to number them with the tares, that is the Lord's domain and not mine.  But if they came at Easter or at Christmas or both, it was one more profound opportunity to speak to them and address them with the Law and Gospel.  Without their presence at either, there is nothing left to recall them back from their detour away from the Church and the place where God's Word is preached, His absolution is spoken, and His body and blood given to be our true food of eternal life.  There may be a little of the Old Testament and its remnant theology at work in my mind here but even in Israel the people of God were the people of God at least on the high and holy days.  The keepers of the temple may resent the extra work from these less than regular folk but I doubt whether God is bothered.  Perhaps He is happy to see them -- maybe happier than His under-shepherds!

Our nation has enough divisions without expanding the gulf between those who attend and those who don't.  Christmas was one opportunity to bridge the gap.  So what will it mean for the future?  I wish I knew.  But if some of them decide to visit again, even for a brief stay, I will be happy to welcome them home.

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