Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Pastor's Reflections

I haven’t seen any yet this year, but I’m sure before long there will be yard signs around that say “Keep Christ in Christmas!” In part I think such signs are a response to the Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays thing, a response to schools and businesses having Holiday parties rather than Christmas parties, in some places a response to those who want to remove manger scenes from public places. “Keep Christ in Christmas” is also a reminder that Christmas is about more than shopping and presents and Santa. Those who post such signs certainly have good intentions.

A while ago though, I came across an article written by Fr. Mark Sietsema a Greek Orthodox priest from Lansing who has a different spin on this. (Come to find out he also comes up here to lead worship at the Orthodox church in Marquette!) He suggests that keeping manger scenes in public places and saying Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays isn’t going to change the commercialization of the season; it’s been going on for a long time, long before anyone decided there was a war on Christmas. Remember that back in 1939 President Roosevelt changed the date of Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday in November to ensure a longer Christmas shopping season. Now, of course, the Christmas shopping season begins before Halloween so the date of Thanksgiving doesn’t really matter! In any case, the ship of Christmas commercialization has sailed and it’s not coming back.

Fr. Mark also wonders which Christ people want to keep in Christmas, fearing that what most people want is the cute and cuddly baby Jesus, a Christ who really asks nothing of you. But what about the Jesus who we encounter the rest of the year, the Jesus who asks a lot of us saying things like one’s life is not about an abundance of possessions or you can’t be my disciple unless you give up all your possessions? That Christ might put an unwelcome damper on Christmas shopping and gift giving.

Fr. Mark’s suggestion is that rather than worrying about keeping Christ in Christmas we should focus on keeping the Mass in Christmas. Rather than slogans and token gestures that don’t amount to much or change anything, each of us should focus on what we can control and on what can change us, that is making sure that the Mass, worship, is at the center of our Christmas. The word Christmas, after all, is derived from the Old English “Cristes Maesse” or Christ’s Mass.

I like what Fr. Mark has to say. Without worship, without the Mass, something is being celebrated at this time of year, but it isn’t Christmas. That’s not to say that we can’t enjoy parties and concerts and meals and being with family and friends. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy opening presents around the tree and observing whatever other traditions we have. But don’t neglect worship not just on Christmas but during the weeks of Advent and through the 12 days of Christmas, ending with Epiphany.

As always, here at Bethany there will be a full schedule of worship opportunities during Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. The schedule is included elsewhere in the Outlook. For all of us it is a busy season on many fronts, but make worship a priority.

Keep the Mass in Christmas!

Pastor Geier


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
sent me.”


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