Category Archives: Holidays

Give thanks

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
[Psalm 136:1-3]

And don’t just give thanks today, but rather every single day of the year.

Why?

for his steadfast love endures forever and ever and ever and ever…

Have a Happy Thanksgiving :)

edh -|—

CHRISTMAS tree…a pastor’s rant

The pastor needs to rant a little bit today so I hope this is worth your time to read:

I saw a post on Facebook today that said the White House, for the first time this year, has referred to the Christmas tree as a “Holiday tree”.

Here we go again…

This bugs me to no end.  Our country’s leadership is trying to be politically correct by saying “holiday tree” when all the awhile they are being oppressive to Christians.  They are trying to be inclusive of all faiths all the while they are excluding Christians.  Our leadership is doing everything possible to respect and honor other religions but refuse to honor Christianity.  Apparently it is O.K. to recognize other faiths but heaven forbid we recognize Christians. I understand the separation of Church and state, but there is a point where that is taken too far.

Now…I totally understand that Christmas trees are not biblical but this renaming of the Christmas tree is just one more reminder of how our government is doing everything they can to do away with anything Christian related.  You see…the Christmas tree tradition was created to celebrate Christmas, not New Years or Hanukkah or any other holiday.  This brightly lit and beautifully decorated pine tree is meant to help us celebrate Christmas, so don’t call it what it is not meant to be called.

Be proud and bold in your Christmas traditions and let’s not let those in power try to take those traditions away.  Say “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” and not “Happy holidays”.  Be full of Christmas cheer and remember the reason we celebrate this time of the year.  Be sure your actions reflect the love that God first showed the world through the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.

It’s Christmas…plain and simple.

There…rant done :)

Have a great day and a blessed Thanksgiving weekend.  Be safe.

edh -|—

New Year’s Eve 2009

Well…2009 is coming to a close and part of me feels this slight, little tug to write something profound to wrap up 2009; a kind of year-in-review with some final words of wisdom before the onslaught on 2010…

["Profound"...what in the world is this part of me thinking..."profound"?]

In any case…here is my last post of 2009 (profound or not):

As I write this I am sitting in my most favorite chair in the world (a chair my wife despises…but that story is for another time).  During this time of the year I am on vacation…recovering from a busy Christmas season.  My wife is still working so we generally do not go anywhere, but that is fine…sleeping in and doing absolutely nothing is still good for my soul as I refuel for the drive towards Lent and Easter…after which I will take another vacation (this time getting out of town with my wife).

So as I sit here (refueling in my favorite chair drinking coffee) I find myself reflecting on the past year (funny how that happens when a year or anything comes to an end).  So listed below are my top ten highlights from the past year (in no particular order):

(10)Washington vacation – After Easter my wife and I enjoy heading out to the state of Washington (where I did my internship) and hanging out with friends and seeing the sights.  This year we did a lot of hiking and exploring new things.

(9) Losing 65 pounds – This took place from March through October in an effort to get into better running shape for 2010.  I have maintained my weight since then and am enjoying my new, healthier lifestyle.

(8) “The vote” – This is of course referring to the ELCA Churchwide assembly vote about homosexuality in August.  This is not a “highlight” but it sure is memorable.  It created a lot of discussion and soul-searching to say the least.

(7) Three weddings – Two of these were people from Salem and one couple is a friend of mine and Connie’s.  They were a lot of fun to do and be a part of.

(6) Release Time and confirmation classes – I have some really fun students this year.  They are active and willing to learn.  A highlight within this one is one of my Release Time students reading scripture at the Christmas Eve worship service.  It has been fun watching her grow up over the last few years.

(5) Christmas snow storm (“Winter Storm Eric”) – This was a little annoying but once again memorable.  I think this snow storm will be talked about for a long time.  The highlight here is that this snow storm caused us to slow down and therefore we got a chance to spend more quality time with family; celebrating.

(4) New patio and new bathroom – This was a long time in coming but we barely got these done before the church’s big 125th anniversary celebration (more on that coming later).

(3) Running – This is directly related to my weight lose.  I am training for 2 marathons in 2010, but the highlight here is breaking a 20 minute 5K and breaking 42 minutes for 6 miles…both very exciting for me.

(2) Salem’s 125th anniversary celebration – This was a fun weekend.  A lot of planning went into this and lots of people came out.  Many memories were shared.

(1) Five year anniversary – 2009 was the 5 year anniversary of my ordination and wedding.  The congregation planned a special recognition for me during worship (which I knew was happening but did not know details).  It was a very special time of affirmation for Connie and me.  After worship there was a reception and then after that Connie and I hosted a party for our wedding anniversary with our family; having a renewal of vows for all the couples.  A very fun and memorable day.

2009 was indeed an eventful year.  I made healthy changes in my life; had my call here affirmed; celebrated ministry milestones; and continued to enjoy people growing in their faith.  Many other items could have been added to this list…Praise be to God!

So as we close out 2009…blessings to you as you finish off the year and dive into a brand new year.  God has been and always will be faithful.  Hold on to that and enjoy the promises we have from God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Let’s see what God will do in 2010…

Happy New Year!

-edh-

It WILL happen

This has been a very unusual week for me.

It has not been unusual because it is Christmas but because my thoughts have also included the “storm of the quarter century” (according to the NWS).  The weather experts are talking about 12 to 18 inches of snow for us with 20 inches plus not out of the question.  But to make matters worse we are getting freezing drizzle right now with a possible 1/4 inch of ice before the snow hits.  And then…as to rub salt in the wound…the wind picks up later in the week.  This will be a Christmas to remember in more ways than one.

Now I am left to contemplate how to do Christmas.  My family has already moved our Christmas celebration to New Year’s Eve and I am not sure yet about my wife’s side.  Christmas Eve worship at Salem will be on (since we are in town and I live next door) but Christmas Day out at Belmont might not happen (we might move it to Saturday or Sunday).  I normally get really excited about storms like this; waiting anxiously for it to arrive, but this one is going to be a little annoying.  I feel conflicted…worried…concerned a little…but…

It WILL happen!!!

What WILL happen?  The birth of Jesus will be celebrated…and no winter storm can stop that.

I am sure that Mary and Joseph didn’t plan to celebrate the birth of their son in a barn.
I am sure that the shepherds didn’t plan to leave their flocks to search for a baby that night.
I am sure the magi didn’t plan on making a long, long journey; following a star to find a baby.

But in the end…I bet all these people would say that they had the best day of their lives…celebrating the birth of Jesus in their own way.  Plans were made and plans were changed but worship still happened.

I am not sure what will happen here, but worship will happen, whether I am sitting in the sanctuary of Salem or Belmont Lutheran Church or whether I am sitting in the sanctuary of my own home…worship WILL happen; the birth of Jesus WILL be celebrated.

If you are in the path of this storm: (1) Be careful and be safe and (2) Don’t let the weather dampen your worship and celebration of Jesus birth…no matter if your plans have been changed or not.  Christmas is about God’s love for you and for me and as we hear from the Apostle Paul there is nothing in all of creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord…not even the “storm of the quarter century“.

Have a safe and Merry Christmas!

God bless!

-edh-

Christmas Eve

The hustle and bustle of another busy Christmas season is coming to an end shortly.  And I know I probably say this every year but it seems this Christmas season was busier than others.  For pastors this is indeed a busy time, especially for those who have mid-week Advent worship service (I don’t have those).  And as I look back on the past month I get more and more tired.  But no need to worry…as it happens during Holy Week…on Christmas Eve I get a boost of adrenaline that takes me through Christmas Day worship.  But can you say “Eric will be napping on the way to Iowa tomorrow”.

Today is Christmas Eve and I am preparing for a 5pm worship service at Salem and a 9am Christmas Day service at Belmont.  My sermon is written…I just need to review, practice and tweak it some.  The worship service is set…I just need to run through things and make sure all my “props” are there and ready.  The music will be coming (Connie’s family is providing the brass accompaniment tonight).  And all the worship participants are set to go.  My biggest task I have left to do today is to make some bread in the bread maker for supper tonight (Italian Herb bread is on the menu).  All in all…not too bad of a day coming up (maybe that is the adrenaline).

But before I go and continue my preparations I want to leave you with a couple things:

(1) MERRY CHRISTMAS to you all and thanks for a great year.  I will be posting a year-in-review later on but I just want to say now that I am thankful for the many friends I met through this blog.  I am also thankful for the many commenters and others who stop by.  This blog is for you and that is my motivation for writing this; knowing that God is using me to preach his Word to people all over the world.  What a blessing this has been.  May you experience the love of God through your many gatherings and may you have safe travels and joyous homecomings.

(2) I want to share a story with you I heard on the news this morning.  Check out this Star Tribune link for the complete story.  Basically…there was an apartment fire in Burnsville, MN recently where nearly 200 residents lost everything.  Yesterday a person donated about 1 million dollars to the victims (nearly $17,500 per person…today the people can pick up their checks).  Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville is serving as a collection site to provide for the basic needs of these families.  This story touched my heart as it is an example of the Spirit of Christmas at work.  Praise be to God.

Once again…have a very blessed Christmas and be safe…all the while praising God, always and forever.  Amen!

-edh-

The Spirit of Christmas

img_f0517412aa1Don’t freak out…I know it’s not Thanksgiving yet, but I wanted to share with you my thoughts on the Advent sermon series I am pondering.  Sometimes it is hard to believe, but Advent is right around the corner and of course Christmas is close behind.  And since that is our reality, Advent planning needs to begin (if it hasn’t already).

I haven’t done an Advent sermon series since 2005 when I preached a series on 1 Peter (something I came across in some publication).  This year…my series is a little different.  The title of the series is “The Spirit of Christmas” with the following sermons topics:  “The Spirit of Hope”, “The Spirit of Life”, “The Spirit of Peace”, “The Spirit of Sharing” and ending on Christmas Eve with “The Spirit of Love”.  This idea came from a Hanging of the Greens worship service we are doing on Nov. 30; a service I found in a Hanging of the Greens book.

Each Christmas season, one of the things that really gets me going is seeing people totally miss the true spirit of Christmas.  It seems that with each passing year, Christmas becomes more and more commercialized (if that is even possible).  Each year I feel moved to submit a letter to the editor in our local newspaper to remind people of the true meaning of Christmas.  Each year I hear stories of how businesses and retail stores tell their employees that they can’t say “Merry Christmas” to the customers.  Heaven forbid if we offend anyone with those words.  So this sermon series really speaks to me and hopefully it will speak to others as well.

I haven’t totally thought out the scripture references for each theme (maybe you have some ideas for me), but hopefully I will have that done within the next week.  I am thinking a one day retreat away from my office might be in order.

In any case…I wanted to through this out to you and see what you think.  Is anyone else doing a Advent/Christmas sermon series?  Have you ever done one before?

God’s blessings to you as you prepare for the Christmas season.

-edh-

Monday morning check in – 3/17/08

HAPPY ST. PATTY’S DAY!!!  Oops, I don’t think we are supposed to be celebrating saints during Holy Week…

…well…let’s try this…

…HAPPY MONDAY OF HOLY WEEK (Hmmm…doesn’t quite roll of the tongue…does it?).  Oh well…

…It’s Monday of Holy Week and I feel a sense of…well…I am not sure if I have the right words here.  Last week I wrote that I was Tired and Excited.  This week it feels like I have more energy and drive within me.  I don’t feel as mentally, physically, emotionally or spiritually tired as I was last week.  I guess that is not too surprising since Holy Week and Easter is one of my favorite times of the year (Christmas being the other).  But one thing that does make me a little nervous is that my secretary has been sick since Wednesday night.  That meant on Thursday (bulletin day) I was playing "pastor" and "secretary".  And let me tell you…I have a whole new appreciation for what Vicki does.  I have always known that she is an incredible person and does valuable ministry here, but when I was thrust into her position for a while I got to see (and feel) some of the pressure she has to deal with.  All I can say is this:  "Vicki…you are a very important and valuable person to the ministry of Salem Lutheran Church.  And if no one else says it, let me say it here for all the world to hear:  I appreciate you so much!  But don’t feel you need to hurry back.  Take care of yourself, get some rest and take it easy.  I look forward to seeing you across the hallway very soon."

Quick side bar
Even though, "technically", we are not supposed to celebrate saints during Holy Week can I still wear green and not get into "trouble"?

Palm Sunday
Yesterday I continued my tradition of beginning worship with a Palm Sunday celebration and ending it with the reading of the Passion Story.  It is always a powerful time for me (and from what I hear, for others as well).  But one thing I noticed (and my wife and I talked about this afterward) is that there were a lot of kids getting a little restless during the long Passion reading.  After worship, Connie and I brainstormed the idea that next year we take the kids out before the Passion Story (on Palm Sunday) and Connie would read a children’s version of the story downstairs while the parents/adults stayed with me for the Passion reading.  The thought is that as the kids processed in with palm branches they would recess out with their palm branches.  I have never been a big advocate of removing children from worship, but I think I would make an exception here.  Does any else have thoughts on this?

God blessings to you this St. Patty’s Day (oops…I mean Monday of Holy Week) and I wish for you a week full of love as we hear about the Passion of our Lord and the gift of eternal life for each of us.

Take care!
-edh-