First Christmas Memories at age 5 & 6


When I was 5, in 1946 I was seated in the front row with future classmates Russell Wangzong and Vernon Strenke for the Christmas program at Happy Corners school.  Following the program there arose bellowing, “ho, ho, ho,” from the back of the room.  There, walking right toward us was a black booted, black belted monster dressed in red and white. I dove to the floor and crawled among the over-shoed feet of school district parents until I was safely in Dad’s lap in the opposite corner of the room.  I don’t remember ever believing in Santa Claus.

“All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth,” was a popular song in 1947, the year of my first grade.  Since I had lost my two front teeth that autumn, Mrs. Anderson, chose that song as my first solo.  She must have heard me singing as we listened to the Wisconsin School of the Air. However, by December, my permanent front teeth had grown in.  I sang my solo, though I had to fake lisping “thithle and “Chrithmath.  I didn’t have to fake not being able to whistle.  Never have been able to whistle.  I did discover the joy of performing in public.

That year I also discovered the perils of public performance at the Christ Eve program at our Pipe Lake Church.  As I launched into reciting my piece about peace on earth and good brought by Jesus’ birth, my older brother Laurin whispered for me to come sit down.  I was confused.  What was wrong? When I was seated Laurin informed me that I was reciting my piece about Santa Claus from the program at Happy Corners.  In the balcony, mom, who played the old pump organ, nearly leaped over the railing.  Pastor Walter Braem seated in a little partitioned area to the side of the chancel took it in with good humor.  This was probably the first excitement at a Christmas program for many a year.  Eventually, I went back up and told the folk the good news of Jesus come to earth to save us all from our sins.  I was glad when I was confirmed at age 13 and no longer had to worry about reciting the wrong piece.

60 years later I was visiting Dad in the nursing home, when Bob Berglund came to visit his brother.  “Oh yes, you said the wrong piece at the church Christmas program.”


O Dayspring


December 21, O Dayspring, splendor of light everlasting: Come enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

The antiphon is fitting for this shortest day of the year, when we look forward to the lengthening of days.  Think of being in Barrow, Alaska where the sun set in late November and won’t rise until well into next year.

Today’s name for Jesus, is “Dayspring,” a poetic word for Dawn.  However, its not a biblical term.  That impelled me search out my Latin dictionary.

This is my own unpoetic literal translation.

Come, come, O East!

Come, sun, drive out the night’s shade

And burst asunder our darkness.


Centuries prior to the writing of the O Antiphons, Clement of Alexandria penned fitting comments:

“As the sun illuminates not only the heaven and the whole world, shining on both land and sea, but also sends rays through windows and small chinks into the furthest recesses of a house, so the Word, poured out everywhere, beholds the small actions of our life.”

Jeremiah Ingalls wrote in the 18th century:

“How long, dear Savior, O how long

Shall this bright hour delay? Fly swifter round the

Wheel of time,

And bring the welcome day.”

O Key of David


O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel, You open and no one can close, You close and no one can open.  Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and the shadow of death.

Isaiah 22:22, “And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David.  He shall open, and none shall shut, and none shall open.” In the time of the prophet Isaiah, Shebna, the manager of the king’s affairs, commissioned for himself an ornate tomb carved out of the rock.  However, Isaiah says, the Lord will “whirl you around and around and throw you like a ball.” Shebna will eventually die in exile.  Instead, Eliakim, the Lord’s servant will become the king’s steward, deciding who sees the king.

Jesus, King and son of David, will also bear the responsibility of the stewardship of God’s grace.  One’s attitude toward him determines whether a person enters into the presence of the ruler of the universe.  Jesus doesn’t come to lift – up those who are already in lofty and secure positions. He comes, as Zechariah sings in Luke 1:79, “To give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

LSB 357 St. 5

O come, Thou Key of David, come, and open wide our heav’nly home; make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery.  Rejoice!  Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.


O Root of Jesse


December 19, O Root of Jesse, standing as an ensign before all peoples, before whom all kings are mute, to whom the nations will do homage: Come quickly to deliver us.

Jesse’s family tree reached it highest growth in King David and then it became sick and eventually was totally cut off in 586 BC.  Isaiah 11:10 promises, “In that day,” a fruit bearing branch shall appear having, “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding…counsel and might…knowledge and fear of the Lord,” resting on it.   This will be a signal that the Lord is coming to gather his people from the ends of the earth.

The coming of the Messiah in Jesus is that signal.  At his coming at the end of time, all people proclaiming their own power and might will be silenced.  Along with the poor and the meek they will bow their knee and do homage to the King of Kings.

The prayer which concludes the Bible, Rev. 22:20, is as needed today as ever, “Come Lord Jesus!” Come quickly!

St. 4 of LSB 357 offers a variation on the antiphon:

O come, thou Branch of Jesse’s tree, Free them from Satan’s tyranny that trust Thy mighty pow’r to save, And give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

O Adonai


The “O Antiphon” for December 18 is, O Adonai (sacred Lord) and Ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the Law on Sinai: Come with an outstretched arm and redeem us.

On cold winter days in northern Wisconsin we would work in the woods.  The woods provided protection from the wind and seemed warmer.  Dad would set a big brush pile on fire to provide warmth.  I’m not sure what we would have done, if God had spoken from the pile burning brush.

When God called to Moses out of a burning bush, he answered, “Here I am.”  However, the conversation quickly degenerated as Moses offered excuses for making him the choice to deliver Israel “out of the hand of the Egyptians.”  “Send someone else,” he pleaded.

Wouldn’t you have willingly and faithfully obeyed the Lord’s command?  Well then, why don’t we obey him now?  After all, we have been delivered from slavery to sin through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The Lord did send someone else.  He sent Jesus, who stretched out his arm on the cross and bought us back from slavery to sin and death.

O Wisdom


December 17 has long marked the beginning of the “Great O” antiphons that have been used from perhaps as early as the seventh century.  Wisdom is the subject of the first antiphon.

O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth

Of the Most high, pervading and

Permeating all creation, mightily

Ordering all things:

Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Wisdom is the gift of wise practical living in uprightness, justice and fairness.   In wisdom, God created the world, “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens (Proverbs 3:19-20).”  For us, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Only “fools despise wisdom and instruction (Prv. 1:7).”

Jesus, the son of God, knew wisdom, “He became strong, filled with wisdom (Luke 2:40).”  Therefore, it ought not to surprise us that God would create our salvation with wisdom also.  He used wisdom which confounded human wisdom.  He sent his Son to be crucified for us and for our salvation.  He did this so that no one could boast in God’s presence that he did it himself.  We point to the cross and say, “There is God’s wisdom.”








On a day when the weather is moody; the news from D.C. is gloomy; and John the Baptist’s disciples ask Jesus, “Are you the one or do we look elsewhere.” comes Gaudete Sunday – Rejoice Sunday.  The third Sunday in Advent.  The Sunday of the pink candle.

“Rejoice,” St. Paul writes to the Philippians.  And in case they didn’t get it the first time, “Again, I say rejoice.”  “Sing aloud! Shout!” the Prophet Zephaniah calls to us across the ages, “Rejoice and exult with all your heart.”

Why all this rejoicing, shouting and exulting?  Because, in the words of Psalm 85, it’s the time when “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss.”  While “faithfulness springs up from the ground, righteousness looks down from the sky.”  And wherever you go, righteousness will lead the way breaking a path for you on your walk-through life.

The One for whom you look, the Pathbreaker is nearly here, and it is to him we pray,

Lord Jesus Christ we beseech you to hear our prayers and to lighten the darkness in our heart by your grace-filled visit.  For it you who live and reign with the Father and Holy Spirit, one united God, now and forever.

Gaudete – Rejoice

Jesus is born

I had an idea yesterday that led to looking up hymn phrases in the hymnal concordance which led to this, a work still in progress.
Jesus is Born
Born in a stall in David’s City
Born of God and Virgin Mary
Born from heaven for earth below
Born to renew a world askew
Born Immanuel, Messiah
Born to set his people free
Born with endless grace and mercy
Born to die, that we might live
Born to bear our sins, not his
Born to raise the children of earth
Born to reign in us now, forever.

Wonders of Wandering the Library


“Did you find what you were looking for?” asked the seminary student at the check- out desk.  “I found something I wasn’t looking for.” I answered.  While downstairs browsing in the stacks I spotted a book at the end of a row entitled, “Christians at the Border.”  I have been thinking for some time that many of the people seeking entry into our country have been baptized into the same body of Christ into which I was baptized.  Being in Christ’s body and having received his resurrection life, changes how I look at the world and my fellow members of Christ’s body.  I am called to see through the eyes of Jesus Christ, through whom and for whom all things were created and saved in his dying and resurrection.  For followers of Christ, that is part of the discussion.

However, the wonders of wandering had started at the entry way.  When pastors disperse their library, they can bring them to the Sem and those books are made available for free.  I had been searching for a particular translation of the bible, and there it was, not that I need more translations, but I use this one on line for my daily readings.  And it was just the right price.

But back downstairs among the stacks having just found the book I wasn’t looking for, Bob Kolb appeared.  Bob is a classmate, long time professor, and he and his wife Pauline spend most of their time in Germany, where he studies Reformation history.  They had just returned.  It is always good to talk with Bob.

But there is more, back upstairs and checking out the latest periodicals I discovered that Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly had devoted one whole issue to my alma mater, Concordia University in St. Paul.

I’m not much of a daring-do guy, but such wonders to be found while library wandering makes for a satisfying and exciting day, and it was time to go home and savor my treasures.

Advent Reading


How silently, How Silently

This story comes out of Uruguay some forty years ago.  It’s a favorite of mine.

The political prisoners may not talk without permission, or whistle, smile, sing, walk, or greet other prisoners; nor may they make or receive drawings of pregnant women, couples, butterflies, stars or birds.

One Sunday, Didasko Perez, school teacher, tortured and jailed “for having ideological ideas,” is visited by his daughter Milay, aged five.  She brings him a drawing of birds, which is destroyed by the guards at the jail entrance.

The next Sunday, Milay brings him a drawing of trees, which are not forbidden.  Didasko praises her work and asks about the colored-circles scattered among the treetops, many small circles half-hidden among the branches: “Are they oranges?  What fruit is it?”

The child puts her finger to her mouth: “Sssshhh.” And she whispers in his ear: “Silly.  Don’t you see they’re eyes?  They’re the eyes of the birds that I’ve smuggled in for you.”