For the last few years during the three weeks between Thanksgiving break and Christmas break, the students at Mount Hope have made Christmas cards for the shut-ins of Mount Hope and Trinity. It started Christmas of 2020 when the upper level students had learned a calligraphy script and wrote out “Merry Christmas” for practice. We weren’t able to get into the nursing homes and assisted living facilities for our annual caroling that year (or since), and so we decided to make Christmas cards to let the shut-ins know that we were still thinking of them. The students used their calligraphy skills and then added Christmas hymn stanzas and Bible verses inside, along with “Merry Christmas from the students at Mount Hope Lutheran School.”
Last year and this, Mrs. Peggy Beyer, a member at Mount Hope who is very skilled in arts and crafts, took the Merry Christmases that the students had written in calligraphy and put them on the front of homemade cards. Last year to some extent and this year in full force, the students in the other classrooms made artwork to accompany the cards, so that now the whole school is involved in making these cards for the shut-ins. This year we sent out 38 cards, two each to the 9 shut-ins of Mount Hope and the 10 shut-ins of Trinity.
As Christians, “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5), and we look for opportunities to exercise that love, especially toward our fellow Christians. The children heard in chapel recently that one of their greatest duties is to honor their father and mother (the 4th Commandment). They should exercise love by honoring their parents, and that should be their chief focus when they set out to do good works for their neighbor that are pleasing to their Father in heaven. It is also important for them to realize that they have dear brethren in Christ whom they do not see regularly, if at all. But the same pastor who cares for the souls of our children cares for the souls of these shut-ins, and the same pastor whom the children see presiding at the altar on Sunday also presides at living room tables and bedsides during the week. Indeed, the same Lord who has baptized the young members of His Church has baptized the old members as well and knit us all together.
“God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Cor. 12:24-26)
It has already been the case that students have written cards to a shut-in one year and sung at his funeral the next. It is good for all of us to consider the fleeting nature of this world so that as the world flees from us our hearts flee from it and seek eternal treasures. Some might think it’s strange to put children in mind of the end of life, especially when it seems that they have so much life left in them. But as they love the elderly members of Christ’s Church, which they are bound to do, they can’t help but see the trajectory of their own lives. Perhaps I’ll be a shut-in some day, unable to take care of myself, unable to get out to church, and I’ll need my pastor and congregation to come to me. I’ll realize that all my wealth is nothing and all my strength is nothing and indeed my very life is not my own. So much the better if I realize that now, and so much the better for our children if they realize that now!
While writing out Christmas cards this year, we had to take a member off the list of recipients. She had departed to be with Jesus. Pastor Preus visited her not long before, and Miss Engwall was singing to her a matter of minutes before she fell asleep in Christ. She would not be getting a Christmas card from us this year, but Jesus had given her something far better. I related this to the upper level students and said that while I felt a certain sense of joy that she died in the faith, and at the same time a certain sadness since she was dear to the congregation, I mostly felt a sort of pious jealousy that she got to see Jesus in His flesh that Christmas and I still had to wait. What a way to celebrate the Incarnation of our Lord: to see the God-man, to behold the body that bore the sin of the world, to look at His nail-pierced hands and feet, to gaze upon Him who became like us to redeem us! Our hope is not in this world, but, whether we’re 9 or 90, our hope is in Jesus, as the children have sung at many funerals:
Lord, Thee I love with all my heart;
I pray Thee, ne’er from me depart,
With tender mercy cheer me.
Earth has no pleasure I would share.
Yea, heav’n itself were void and bare
If Thou, Lord, wert not near me.
And should my heart for sorrow break,
My trust in Thee can nothing shake.
Thou art the portion I have sought;
Thy precious blood my soul has bought.
Lord Jesus Christ, my God and Lord, my God and Lord,
Forsake me not! I trust Thy Word.
Here are some more pictures of the Christmas cards: