I wrote this last Christmas, and post it here for your enjoyment.
In a sense, you could call me a bit compulsive, or neurotic, or if you wanted to be kind, just a bit bored.
We have Lutheran Service Book in our congregation. And we purchased it PRR (pre-ribbon removal by CPH.) So that means that we have both the blessing and the curse of having ribbons in the hymnal.
It is a blessing because the ribbons are handy for marking pages. It is a curse, at least on my part, because some people do not use the ribbons, so they open the hymnal, take the ribbons and pull them out of the pages and let them hang so they are not a bother to them during the service.
And this is where the compulsive, neurotic and bored part comes in. These people place the hymnals back in the racks in the pews with the ribbons hanging loose; which, when I am later walking through the empty church, drive me insane! So I stop, go over and randomly open the hymnal and place the ribbons back in at some random page so that the ribbons are not hanging out.
Now when I say some random page, I mean some random page. It could be the Psalms at the beginning, or the liturgy section in the middle or anywhere in the massive hymn section which encompasses some 2/3 of the book. Wherever they go, I know one thing, they are not hanging out and bothering me anymore.
Now normally I don’t think much of the page that I stick the ribbon in, just as long as the ribbon is in. Sometimes I recognize the hymn, and other times I do not.
Today though, I did recognize the hymn, it was ‘Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted’. What is odd is not that I recognized a popular hymn from Holy Week, but that today was Christmas Day. Today, on a day when we gather to celebrate the entrance of the Christ Child into the world; today when we exchange gifts and eat large dinners with families and friends; today when the hymns are sung at their loudest; I was momentarily thrown into the bowls of Lent.
How fitting a reminder. Jesus did not enter the world to kick off a gift giving sensation, nor did He come to institute family meals (other then the Lord’s Supper), nor did He come to inspire some popular music in the church. Jesus came into the world to suffer and die, to be stricken, smitten, and afflicted. When we lose sight of the cross, we lose sight of the one who is hanging on the cross.
The cross is with us always. It is there on Christmas Day when we would like to think of anything but our sinfulness. The cross is there during the week when we are with friends and family. The cross is there whether we want it to be or not. The cross is even there when ribbons are hanging out of hymnals driving me insane.
Let us celebrate the birth of the Christ child in the manger this day; but let us not lose sight of the cross which hovers nearby. For long after the decorations are put away and the manger is put in storage for another year; the cross will forever remain.