Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Dear 3 followers,

It has been 10 years since I joined the blogusphere and I think it is time for a new approach.

Smoky Mountain Reflections is not going away it is moving.

in the past 7 years I have had here over 8000 page views from over 10 countries but I would like to make these articles a little easier to find because that was the original reason for doing this.

Many of these articles are designed to address specific concerns

I will continue to work on the Pastor what is the difference question

That all being said my next post will have a link to a web site with all these articles arranged by topic.

Blessings to you all and have a blessed day   
In Christ Pastor Portier

195, 196, 197


Smoky Mountain Reflections #195

            Every 3 years our church body holds a convention to conduct its business. This will take place next year in Tampa Florida when around 1200 pastors and laymen representing our 600 circuits will gather for that purpose. In preparation for that event a theme is chosen, and much important parliamentary correspondence will flow between our congregations and the Synod offices. In the year preceding the convention all 35 districts conduct their conventions for the same purpose. The office our synod president produced a report for those conventions to held everyone prepare for next years convention. This is a 45-page document with a lot of very valuable information so I am going to try to give you a reader’s digest version of this report over the coming months. Here is the first installment.      

            The theme of our Synod convention in 2019 is “Joy:Fully Lutheran” 1 Thess 5:16-24. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

“Rejoice always.” St. Paul wrote these words to the Thessalonians, who had “received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6).1 In the face of a world that moves from one tragedy to the next, and in a church body full of saints who happen every one to be sinners too, being “Joy:fully Lutheran” might seem a pipe dream. Not so. In what follows president Harrison makes the case for the beautiful nexus of being “Joyfully” and “Fully” Lutheran. The Gospel is a joyful message that takes sin away and produces joyful saints. This blessed Gospel of Christ’s free forgiveness enlivens every teaching, every aspect of being Lutheran. “Joy:- fully Lutheran” is not a program but a divinely wrought attitude, born of the Word of God, which brings repentance. A portion of this report takes up the demographic challenge of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The facts are elucidating. If we don’t know the facts — that is, why we face what we face — our response will not only miss the target, but we may also be led into unhealthy, unbiblical and negative attitudes that will only exacerbate the challenges, weaken our biblical Lutheran convictions and rob us of joy in Christ and each other. After describing the statistical material, I offer some “answers” along the way. We must focus on being biblical, on knowing the Scriptures and acting in accord with the Word of God. We must focus on being Lutheran, on knowing our own confessing documents and the fabulous strength and joy they afford us. Being Lutheran Christians is our gift, our witness and our vocation in this world — for the sake of the Gospel in the world! We have blessings aplenty. Seminaries, The Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) and the International Lutheran Laymen’s League (Int’l LLL) are vibrant, The Lutheran Church Extension Fund, The Lutheran Federal Credit Union, The LCMS Foundation, Concordia Plan Services, Lutheran Schools, universities, Concordia Publishing House (CPH), We have some 15,000 people Synod-wide trained in disaster response. Our church is known far and wide for the excellence of its relief work. World Relief and Human Care continues to provide mercy far and wide. Much more could be noted. A multitude of congregations, church workers, mission societies and institutions of mercy serve millions in the name of Jesus. Our Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty (LCRL), under the direction of the Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, is up and running in Washington, D.C.

However, in the coming months we will look at a number of challenging matters, presented by the office of the president. It is my prayer that these articles derived from that report will encourage and strengthen you as a spiritual priest. I pray, that as we face challenges with the Word of God, we will continue to grow together in unity, ever more “diligently joined in unity of doctrine, faith, sacraments, prayer, works of love and such” (SA II IV, 9).2 And all of this so that “our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:4).
Pastor Matthew C. Harrison Palm Sunday 2018
Edited and reduced by
Pastor Porter Saint Paul Lutheran Church Sevierville TN

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

#193


Smoky Mountain Reflections #193

            Another busy summer. As I write this the next 6 weeks carry a lot of busyness for us here at St. Paul Lutheran Church in the beautiful Smoky mountains.

-        Tomorrow begins our Community Service Rummage Sale. This is growing into a large event that serves a lot of people.
-        Next week I will be in Memphis to serve as chair of our District Missions Floor Committees.
-        The following week: VBS! “Splash Canyon”.
-        The following week: Robin Brown and I will represent our congregation in Memphis at the Mid-South District convention.
-        July 1st is our Red, White & Blue Sunday.
-        July 4th at Patriot Park in Pigeon Forge we will be selling lots of Shave Ice to Support the Woman’s Care Center.
-        The following week I join our Youth at Camp Linn Haven.
-        After that Science Camp.

Just as we need to take one in seven days to rest (not to mention it is a commandment) you should
Also take some time during the busy summer to rest. Take a vacation. The list of busy things we have going on here is not unique; band camps, music camps, science camps, sports camps and many other things compete for the family’s summer time.

            Do not let the busy-ness of the summer take your eye off of what is important. Make sure you have regular time in worship wherever you are. The LCMS has a great app that can help you find a church on vacation. Make sure you have time or make time to keep your family relationships healthy. Spend regular time around a table, sharing a meal (without any electronic glowing screens in view). Take time to enjoy the blessings of God in worship in family in community.

Have a safe and not so busy summer 😊
In Christ,
Pastor Portier 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

#192 Gender Madness


Smoky Mountain Reflections #192

            I sadly had to write this email response to a Boy Scout Troop that has used our facilities in the past but sadly things have changed much in the BSA since then. I wrote Mr. Moore, It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you we have decided not to host your troop. This is not reflection on what good guest you all were on your last visit. Because you were very good guest. This is not in any way a condemnation of you or your troop. We have every reason to believe you all to be fine upstanding individuals. However, It is a sad reality that our church cannot associate itself with a national organization that publicly calls sin a lifestyle choice by its policy’s. Because by such an association we would indirectly affirm what God condemns. This is not a God pleasing option for the bride of Christ. If in the future you are able to affect changes in your association with or the policies of the Scouting BSA organization. we would then be able to reconsider your request. My regards and prayers for you and your troop to have a safe and blessed summer, In Christ Pastor Portier

During the same week also wanted to communicate to the world via Facebook that I will not be participating in the Gender Madness that our society is currently engaged in. I used a piece of art work showing colorful gender options with the word NO scribbled over it. as an attention grabber. It did get some attention and as of this writing about 30 people have made over 60 comments in the current thread. Unfortunately, in a world of identity politics speaking for the truth makes us a bad guy. I have these online conversations because it helps others see that we can speak the truth in love especially since Scripture and Science is on our side.

            One of the commenters said that calling Gender Madness and using that art work was not Christian way to speak the truth in love and said I was attacking others. I disagree and here is how I responded. “Note my comment is not on the individuals it is against our societies affirming confused behaviors. So my critique is of our SOCIETIES GENDER MADNESS. not poor confused individuals who we should encourage, helped and prayed for as we help them to carry their cross, while carrying next to them our own.”

I was asked how any of this harmed me and I pointed out that this is an issue is harmful to our society. “I further said “  Do you not see how anything that harms the family harms us all? I am a Pastor but my call to witness is no greater or less than yours. I must carry myself in all public and private forums in a way that reflects well on my lord and savior. It is not really my Job to lead people to Christ that is the Holy Spirits work. It is my call as it is the call of every Christian to speak the truth in love. this is part of the witnessing conversation. today at least a dozen if not dozens of people I would not have otherwise today had the opportunity to share the gospel with have at least at some level been exposed to it. There is no sinful desire or activity that Christ did not die for (He loves and forgives ALL) but If the Church or Christians tell people that their desires which are clearly called sin in God’s word are OK, (of course being confused is not sinful but having sinful desires is) (affirming sinful behavior is also sin) then they will think they do not need God or His forgiveness and that is a much worse fate than being offended by a post that might get their attention long enough for the Holy Spirit to work repentance and faith, Lord let it be so.

There was also a comment but an old ship mate of mine from National Geographic that was a propaganda piece for Gender Fluidity. Here was my response to that. “There is no science in this anecdotal propaganda piece. Science is based on evidence (what someone feels them self to be is not evidence) on that Logic if I choose to feel like a book can I really be a book? of course not. Gender is a non-biological construct connected to behaviors. The science of Biology teaches that Homo-sapiens are Binary. Male and Female, no other genetic category exists. Anomalies and mistakes in the genetic code can and do produce defects such as hermaphrodite but those who have such a condition are to be loved and cared for and until just a few years ago encouraged to choose to function as male or female for their psychical and mental health and hormone treatment was used to help with a defect. Now our society says if you an athlete you will be fined and excluded from participation if you take hormones to boost your performance because it is harmful to your health this is good because it is good for the health of all. in the same way it is madness to say it is good to give a little boy estrogen if he thinks he is a girl.....MADNESSS! Those who have any confusion about their biology should not be butchered and medicated to shorten their lives. THAT IS EVIL MADNESS! They should be loved and cared for by being told how to live in a healthy affirmation of their biology.”

I know this is a little long, but I want to help others see by my example we can speak the truth in love, by calling a thing what it is but at the same time being as winsome and kind as possible. There is one last part of the conversation I would like to share with you. I asked one of the detractors how I might better get peoples attention to speak this truth and he said start with scripture and how it speaks to the issue. That is not a bad idea in one on one conversation but in open conversations when people of many view are reading or listening I responded in this way. “I find when speaking or writing in a public forum. people who do not believe in scripture see citing it for authority as annoying and unproductive so starting with scripture will not start a conversation with them. And People who do know scripture fall in two categories people who agree with Gods word which on this topic is very clear God created them male and female….and every aspect of human existence is couched in the context of a binary male / female reality and anything that violates it is sin. (So that group does not need scripture for any convincing) And those who know what it says but play a game of words, obfuscating and equivocating to try to say Gods word dose not condemn anything associated with a gender fluidity view. So, they are either dishonest or ignorant and serving their agenda. So, starting with scripture is actually counterproductive them. Especially when all of Biology & any and all medical and psychological science is on our side. (excluding of course some aspects of that have been highjacked and are not ignoring scientific fact to join in the Lie Parade). So, I will continue to point out the fact that Biology is clear, and I will continue to be called a bigot by bigots.” OK enough on Identify politics already I hope some of this has been helpful. Hopefully I can find something a little more pleasant to reflect on next month until then have a blessed summer

In Christ
Pastor Portier



       

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Smoky Mountain Reflections #191

            Last month we discussed identity politics from a perspective of marriage and the 6th commandment. This month I would like to continue that theme but focus on our role as members of the world we live in. In 1 John chapter 2 we are admonished to remember that we are to be in but not of the world. This can be a difficult proposition in the face of intense persecution, as has been common to Christians around the world throughout history and in the present. Today we find ourselves in a society which used to view Christians as virtuous and trustworthy, but increasingly paints us as mean, bigoted, “homophobes”. Unfortunately, it is difficult to discuss this topic without being accused of lobbying for some “rights group”, “victim group”, or the evil “status quo group”. So, let me make clear that this pastor believes and teaches that God’s word is clear from front to back that there is one human race. ALL are created in God’s image and as such, are priceless beloved members of God’s created human race. Differences in size, shape, ability, color, height, width, disability, intelligence, etc., are all differences that God designed either to show his great creativity or to give us multiple opportunities to love and care for each other while experiencing His love in all the relationships he blesses us with. All are of EQUAL value to God. He bled and died to redeem all!

            A large “machine” of sin exists in this world, and it divides us from peaceful, harmonious God pleasing relationships. It does so by isolating us from God and each other; divorce, loneliness, depression, greed, envy, and revenge are just some of the cogs in this machine that our sinful world and flesh, it has as its fuel and oil our sinful nature. That being said, I set before you one example of information that sinners on all sides of the discussion will continue to use to divide instead of to point out that we are all the same as sinners loved by God. (Or, as I used to say in my Navy days, we are all in the same boat, and infighting only endangers our peace and safety.) We must speak the truth in love; that is what those called to be in but not of the world do.

            Back in March, I posted on Facebook a 13-minute video of Tucker Carlson revealing some interesting facts about the supposed “patriarchal privileged male” in America. Let me touch on a few highlights (or lowlights). The average male lifespan is 5 years shorter than females’, men are twice as likely to be addicts, the majority of overdose deaths are males, and 77% of all suicides are committed by men. Between 1997 and 2014, there was a 43% rise in suicide deaths among middle aged American men. The rates are highest among American Indian and white men, who kill themselves at about ten times the rate of Hispanic and black women. Over 90% of inmates are male. More girls than boys graduate high school, women outnumber men in graduate school, earn the majority of doctoral degrees, and are the majority of new enrollees in both law and medical schools. There are now seven million working age American men who are no longer in the labor force. They’ve dropped out. Nearly half of them take pain medication on any given day; that’s the highest rate in the world. 20% of American children grow up in fatherless homes, and 70% of prison inmates grow up in those homes. Single women buy their own homes at more than twice the rate of single men. Tucker Carlson also cited many other mental, financial and physical realities for American men that show how they are as a group failing, in body, mind and spirit.

He claims that this a crisis, but our leaders pretend it’s not happening. While there may be some truth to that statement, what ails American men is what ails us all; we are suffering collectively and individually from our sins and the sins of others, life in a cursed and broken world. While he may have cited some things that are a cause for concern and action by those in positions of power, influence, and responsibility, establishing another victim group is not the answer. We need to do away with the concept that our society can gather around to right the wrongs of the past by getting our pound of flesh from the hide of the oppressor. “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.” We are called to love God and our neighbors as best we can with his help, and that includes being forgiving towards those who have offended or harmed us or our “group identity”. Christ bled and died for all those offenses; we need not carry the burden of fixing a world that cannot and will not be fixed. Jesus said that the poor will always be with us. Let us cast aside the ideas of identity politics and “us versus them”. Let us act like the baptized children of God that we are and treat the whole human race created in God’s image with the love, dignity, and kindness that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ would have us treat them with.

Your neighbor in Christ,
Pastor Portier

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

#190


Smoky Mountain Reflections #190
            “Consent” has become the new golden standard for our society. If you can establish “consent” between two or any number of adults, then anything they choose to do is thought of as being their business alone, as long as their activities do not negatively affect anyone else. However, this is a very subjective standard for a society. It becomes nearly impossible for anyone to keep themselves clear of the danger of “negatively affecting” others, because the terms are subjective. There are many who like this because it means they can make their own rules to suit their desires, even twisting reality (like attempting to argue that the words “male”, “female”, or “marriage” mean something other than what they always have as defined by scripture, science and common sense). “Consent” can become coercion, derision or some other form of manipulation depending on who defines the word. “Adulthood” is a biological concept which the medical community generally agrees is not reached mentally until the mid-20s or even 30 years old, but even now, there are pedophiles arguing that children can be considered adults, and that as consenting adults, they too can do anything they want.
            When we try to establish behavioral norms without God’s word and guidance, we resign ourselves to a whole sea of often contradictory information and to the whims of our sinful desires. God’s word on the other hand, is objective and inerrant, and provides clear guidance for all. If we follow his word, we will never be in danger of offending God or even our neighbor, unless our neighbor seeks to act counter the word (in which case we should side with God and let the chips fall where they may).
            Parents, grandparents, and Christian communities have as part of their vocations training up their children in the way they should go. If they are doing that, the children will be taken care of no matter their needs, and whether their brains are fully developed or not. If a child is brought up in God’s word, then the confusion of the opening paragraph is avoided by simply following the 6th commandment. Marriage is the only fitting form of consent. When consent is defined as marriage, then rather than there being ambiguity there is an objective reality which binds two individuals together for life. If they are blessed with children, those children have parents who are legally bound to them, and the whole community has a framework to help that union and family succeed. Without these simple pillars holding up the family, history teaches us that society will collapse.
            Many things in the adult world can be compared to fire. When used properly, as fire in the fireplace, they provide warmth and comfort for all. When taken out of their proper contexts though, they can be incredibly damaging, like fire climbing up the wall. Heterosexual monogamous marriage is the fireplace God has made for sexual activity. When a different standard is applied, the fire is removed from the fireplace and the house burns down.
            Sexual activity in any context, whether it produces children or not, has physical (think oxytocin & STDs) and mental effects on both the individuals involved and the entire community. When it is in one-man, one-woman marriage, consent is solidified with a ring and a verbal and/or written contract to provide support, protection, mutual love, and encouragement. This provides for the needs and concerns of all in the community by supporting what communities are made of: people belonging to families. When “consent” becomes the only standard, our sinful emotions and desires remove the fire from the fire place, and everyone has to endure the pain and suffering that that brings, like depression, loneliness, STDs, abandoned children, poverty, and abuse. The community carries the emotional and financial cost of these things, and in our day we see it perpetuated and sanctioned to support the whims of a society that affirms things which scripture condemns.
            Let’s keep the fire in the fireplace so we can all be warmed and comforted by the results of God’s design for intimacy and our families. Let’s acknowledge the biological reality of the clear binary sexual system which God created. Let’s seek to love and serve those who suffer from dysphoric anomalies that are a part of the crosses they bear but do not define who they are. Politics based on race, color, gender, or sexual preference only divide and harm our society. We are all children of the all-powerful and loving God who gave his son to suffer and die for the whole human race (one race). No matter what we struggle with, he invites us to leave it at the foot of the cross and trust in him for eternal salvation.
In Christ,
Pastor Portier

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

#189


Smoky Mountain Reflections #189

            As we enter the month of March, we do so with the mantle of the Lenten season draped over all of our thoughts and activities. In this time of worship and reflection I often feel a personal need for a deeper understanding of what we believe teach and confess; to dig deeper into the meaning of all the things we say and do to teach the faith, learning to apply all the great gifts God gives us in and through his word and sacraments. It can be helpful to start with a broad overview, such as orienting yourself on a map. Start with the big picture, then slowly work your way down to the place where you are, and you may gain a fuller understanding both of where you fit in the grand scheme of things and how this functions in your immediate surroundings. That being said, let’s take a little deeper look at why we do what we do in worship.

            First, our church year is arranged according to the insights of thousands of years of Christian worship practices, holding on to and treasuring the best and most edifying ways of teaching the faith. This framework teaches two things very clearly: Jesus’ life and his teachings. The first half (or feast half) of the year teaches the life of Christ; anticipating his birth (Advent), celebrating that birth (Christmas), revealing who he is and what he came to do (Epiphany), anticipating his fulfillment of God’s promises with 40 days of reflection on his journey to the cross (Lent), and celebrating his resurrection (Easter). At the end of the Easter season we kick off the second half of the church year with the celebration of Pentecost. In this half of the church year, we methodically go through the teachings of Christ, seeking the fullest coverage of all that he taught. This pattern of textual rotation is used to direct and focus the liturgy and hymns of our worship. And on top of all that we have special days with feasts and festivals that celebrate heroes of the faith (historic saints) who we hold up as examples of a Christ-centered life as well as other key events in Christ life. These feast and festivals fall on specific calendar dates such as the traditional date of a saint’s martyrdom for confessing the faith.    

            We get a similar focus on Christ life and teachings in every worship service hitting all the high points of that are mentioned above in the feast half of the year while also singing, speaking, confessing and hearing His teaching.  

            When we teach about the faith as Lutherans, we use Luther’s small catechism. When we begin or transfer membership in the church we publicly confess our faith in accord with this catechism. In every part of our Divine Service we are focusing on the six chief parts of the faith, as outlined in the catechism.

            The Ten Commandments: Every time any part of the liturgy, preaching, singing or praying in the service convicts you of your sinful nature or any particular sin, this is the commandments at work in the service.

            The Historic Creeds: After the proclamation of the Gospel whether through reading or preaching, we confess our faith together using the Apostles’, Nicaean, or Athanasian Creeds. Any part of the service that sings, says or proclaims the triune name of God is also a confession of his triune nature.

            The Lord’s Prayer: After we have prepared ourselves in the liturgy to receive the Lord’s Supper and before hearing his words spoken over the elements, we pray together the prayer he taught us.

            Baptism: This is the only thing that we do not do every time we worship, and because it is a once in a lifetime event, we celebrate it greatly when we do. Many people, however, remember their baptism at numerous places in the service by crossing themselves, remembering they were baptized into God’s triune name. The rubrics (red words in the hymnal) suggest the times in the service this can be done.

            Confession and Absolution: We do this at the beginning of every service, because we daily sin much and need to confess that truth to hear God’s sweet words so absolution spoken to us. This gives us great comfort as we enter into the Divine Service, washed clean.

            The Lord’s Supper: Almost every time we worship here at Saint Paul we receive our Lord’s precious body and blood, in, with, and under the elements of bread and wine, given and shed for us to eat and drink for our forgiveness.

            Every time we participate in the Divine Service, we are participating in a short one-hour catechism class as well, and are having our bodies and souls fed and nurtured for this life and the next. God created us with five senses and uses all five of them to assure us of his love and forgiveness for us, in and through the word and sacraments.

Have a blessed Lenten season,
In Christ,
Pastor Portier             

Thursday, February 8, 2018

#188

Smoky Mountain Reflections #188

            Sometimes things line up in very unique ways, and you find yourself scratching your head, saying, “Isn’t that interesting?”. We have such an occurrence this year, and it will reveal where people’s priorities lay, when the differing calendars of the world and the church clash.

            It begins this month on the day that we celebrate romantic love. February 14th (which many know as Valentine’s day) is a day filled with heart-shaped with red boxes full of fancy chocolate, not to mention the flowers, balloons, cupids, and other pink and red reflections associated with romantic love. The traditions now associated with Valentine's day were first written of in Geoffrey Chaucer's “Parlement of Foules” published in the late 1300s. They were set in the fictional context of an old tradition, and did not really even exist before Chaucer! Prior to that, the church simply celebrated him as a martyr for the faith. We as Lutherans (and for that matter, most Christians) who celebrate saints do not even consider this a feast day, but simply a day of commemoration in which we remember his sacrifice for the gospel as a reminder for us to be strong witnesses for the faith. That being said, Ash Wednesday is a much more important day in the church’s calendar, and this year, it falls on February 14th! Ash Wednesday is almost certainly one of the top five most important days in the year for most Christians, even though many American Christians do not even know what it is. So while most of our society will be swimming in pink hearts and chocolates, the faithful will be attending church to have ashes applied to their foreheads and being reminded that they are created from dust, and to dust they shall return. I am not saying, however, that this is an “either/or” proposition; you can celebrate both on February 14th this year, just not at the same time.

            Next, the very highest day on the church’s calendar, Easter, will fall on the day that many Christians joke is the holiday for atheism, April 1st. That is right, April Fool’s Day and Easter come together this year. But don’t worry, I do not think atheists will stop hiding eggs or petting bunnies on Easter (which of course we know is what Easter is all about…wink, wink, nod, nod). No! Easter is about Jesus and his resurrection from the dead, in which he proved his victory over sin, death and the devil, and there’s nothing foolish about that.

            Finally, if I told you that many protestant Christians would be canceling their worship services on a Sunday this year you might accuse me of being ridiculous. However, it is true; thousands of churches will close their doors this year on a Sunday in December, canceling their services so their members can stay home and celebrate our national day of materialism. You guessed it, Christmas day falls on a Sunday. We here at Saint Paul will have our regular 8:30 & 11 AM services on that day, but sadly, many churches will be closed entirely. In fact, many churches do not have Christmas day services even in other years, because it is regarded as “a day for family” (as if gathering to celebrate the holy family and the birth of our savior precluded that).

            Worry not, however; 2018 will not be good or bad based on calendar conundrums. The Lord is faithful; he will be with you always, and He will continue to care for and nurture God’s people whenever they gather around His gifts of word and sacrament. So have a worry-free, blessed 2018.

In Christ,

Pastor Portier

#187 sorry for the late post

Smoky Mountain Reflections
December 2017 #187
            (Warning: German contained in the following sentence:) Advent, Advent, ein Lichtlein brennt. Erst eins, dann zwei, dann drei, dann vier. dann steht das Christkind vor der Tür.  Translation: Advent, Advent, one candle burns. First one, then two, then three, then four. Then stands the Christ child before the door.  Translation is not one of my better skills, so I will claim poetic license in my translation.  This is a poem that is often heard about this time of year in Bavaria.  It really is quite a nice poem and harkens back to the region’s strong Christian heritage.  Bavarian children do not see the Christmas tree in their home until Christmas Eve.  The ringing of a small bell signifies that the Christ kindl or engel (Christ child or angel) has delivered the tree, the decorations and all the presents.  Their living room has been transformed into a small haven where the family gathers around the solemn occasion commemorating the birth of the Christ child.  These are wonderful cultural traditions that bring Christ to the center of the Christmas experience.  All the candles on the Advent wreath are lit. The warm glow of candle light fills the room as children read the Bethlehem account, and Christmas hymns round out the experience.  The sights, smells and sounds of Christmas and its importance fill the hearts and minds of all who gather for this grand family event. 

            The retailors bypassed Halloween & Thanksgiving this year and kicked off the Christmas shopping  before fall even arrived.  The full commercialization of Christmas on an American scale has never taken a complete foothold in the European culture.  But there is a sad reality in the backdrop of this beautiful cultural story.  Europe with its rich Christian heritage is referred to by most experts today as a post Christian society.  By some estimates, less than 5% of Europe’s population attends church on a regular basis.  Why do I share this sad truth with you at such a joyous time of anticipation?  As we prepare for Christmas during this Advent season, we should keep all of God’s creation in our prayers.  There are some scary similarities between the America of today and the Europe of only 20 or 30 years ago.  If you look at Europe’s church attendance numbers from the 1950’s, you will find over 50% attended church regularly.  Currently a little over 50% of Americans claim to attend church somewhat regularly if you include the CME's (Christmas, Mother's Day & Easter). The actual numbers float under less than 20% of Americans attend church on any given Sunday.  But we, like Europe, are on the decline and reasons for the decline are many and various.  However, we need not fret over these sad truths—just be aware and pray about them. And remember that God is in charge.

            Advent is a time of preparation, and prepare we will this year.  We will enjoy an Advent series produced by Pastor Dettmer Beginning November the 29th @ 7 PM with the theme of Hope and Colossians 1:3-14, Then Dec the 6th Peace and Isiah 66: 1-14, Then Dec 13th Joy and Isaiah 55: 1-11, and Finally Dec 20th Love and Micah 6:6-8. Make time in your busy schedule to attend this year. As we venture back in time to celebrate the birth of our Lord and savior.         

            So, as you prepare your hearts during this blessed Advent season, make use of some form of daily devotion.  It will enrich your Advent experience.  During your daily devotion, pray that your family, your friends, your neighbors, our fellow citizens, and people of all nations, who don’t know and who linger in darkness, that the scales which block faith would fall from their eyes and they would be blessed with the promise that the Christ child came to fulfill, and be filled with the assurance of eternal salvation that only faith in the promised Christ Child can provide.

            For anyone who reads this reflection outside of a certain understanding of your eternal existence, I invite you specially to receive this Christmas, the gift that the Christ child came to give you.                         

In Christ, Pastor Portier