Pastor Hogenson Pure love and grace. That is what I think of when I think about Christmas. God loves us so much that God came into the world for us in the form of a tiny baby, simple to understand and a most powerful gift! This year, I reflect on some of my favorite Christmas memories, like how it took me 18 years to realize I liked Lutefisk (which was my family’s tradition on Christmas Eve while I was growing up.) Last year, it was my first Christmas at Mount Olivet and I loved everything about it, especially the people. There’s nothing quite like it! And of course, each year, I love to retell the story of my sister-in-law who was going to make me a nativity set, but only gave me Jesus. At first, I was a bit perplexed wondering where the rest of the set was, until I realized Jesus was all I needed.

Pastor Johnson It would be easy to pick out a memory from childhood when every Christmas is magic and presents were under the tree and Santa Claus had been there. One year, Santa came through our door (our chimney was too small) and had messed up the rug. How was that for proof?! And Dad soaking Lutefisk in lye for a week before Christmas, leaving an indelible smell in the house, and Mom and my aunt making potato sausage, and at church during wartime where we had a Sunday School program with an apple and a small bag of candy given to each child. I could go on. However, my most outstanding memory has to do with pastoral ministry and presiding over the candlelight service. At the end, we held lighted candles and sang “Silent Night.” When we came to the third verse, “Son of God, love’s pure light, radiant beams from Thy holy face ...” At this point, everyone lifted up their candles. The light reflected off their faces and I, the pastor, may have been the only one who could see all the faces as light danced away the shadows. The faces were beautiful. I look forward to looking out at your face on Christmas Eve, and, while we won’t all be holding candles, I will behold the light of Christ in each face and give thanks for another memory of a Christmas Eve.

Pastor Kalland I love the traditions of Christmas ... being in the same room with family, watching them, looking at their smiles, hearing their laughter ... celebrating life. At church, I love the smell of the sanctuary after the guys have put up the trees, the people I see throughout the month at our 51 Advent and Christmas services and at our Christmas Music Weekend concerts. I love the homecoming of people who come back to church for Christmas Eve services, some I haven’t seen since last year or years before. I love the gratitude and sense of giving that is present. I am grateful for the gift of sobriety, my family, and the honor of working at Mount Olivet where I help bring the message of love and new life to others. I love the meaning of Christmas – the little child makes all the difference in the world. The fact that God would choose to be so vulnerable to take on human form, expressing God’s love for us is overwhelming … and at times even incomprehensible. The relationship and love that makes all things new. What a gift!

Pastor Cornils I enjoy savoring family traditions, especially now seeing the delight in my grandchildren’s eyes. And I never tire of the wonderful privilege in serving as a Mount Olivet pastor during the splendid Christmas season. However, what came to mind in considering a contribution to this article, is a Christmas Eve 20 years ago when I was not actively serving as a pastor. All day I had wondered, how can I purposefully mark the occasion of Christ’s coming with no family members nearby, and attending only one service? As darkness set in I felt a nudge in my mind to venture by the gas station / repair shop where I took my car for service. Arriving at Palmer’s Service Station I noticed but one light illuminating a lone mechanic in the service bay working on the underside of Chevy Tahoe. Though startled to see me, he willingly paused from his work so we could share some hot chocolate and cookies I had packed along. Venturing out that night I didn’t know what to expect, but Jesus was right there in the midst of us: Jim the mechanic, Jesus, and me.

Pastor Youngdahl One of my favorite Christmas traditions involves gift giving. Ever since the tender age of 10, my parents have given my two brothers and me the same gift each year – a ski trip to Colorado. Initially, it began when we were given the choice to receive Christmas presents from my parents, or to go skiing. We jumped on the latter offer and have not looked back since. We continue to hold my parents to the deal that they made with us over 30 years ago, and it has blossomed into a priceless experience as we have added spouses and kids into the mix. Our annual ski trip is certainly a reminder to us all of the importance of family. However, it also gives my family a chance to pause in mid- February and remember the ultimate gift of Jesus breaking into the world as an expression of God’s love for us.

Pastor Bakken One of my favorite Christmas traditions is making lefse with my brother and family. We laugh and have a good times making our grandmother’s recipe and watching the kids take the lefse off the hot pan, placing it under the towels. We make 5 dozen rounds and ship it to family members in Minnesota, Texas, and Oregon. In addition to time with my family, I love Christmas at Mount Olivet. There is a sense of welcome that we have, it is as if we are welcoming people over to our house, not as strangers, but as family. God’s family. Together we hear the message of hope and see the hope that God has in us and for us. We celebrate God’s gift, sending his only Son to live amongst us to shine the Light of love, grace, and forgiveness in the darkness in our world.

Pastor MacLean Our four children are all living away from home, three out of state. So I love occasions like Christmas that will bring our family together. However, one tradition that has great meaning to me is going out to dinner with high school friends and their wives. After dinner, we watch every year as we first did by accident in high school, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” And every year at the part when Linus shares “the true meaning of Christmas,” from Luke 2, the story touches a deep chord within me and brings tears to my eyes. It always reminds me that I need to allow time amidst the chaos and busyness of the season to be grateful, to remember the “reason for the season.”

“Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of
great joy for all the people; to you is born this day in the city of
David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Luke 2:10-11

My favorite gifts received have been those ones which came wrapped haphazardly with lots of extra tape. They contained something special like a piece of artwork or painted plaster of Paris hand print. I’ve loved these because I know the depth of the love with which they were given. I still have them all. I love Christmas Eve at Mount Olivet. I love the worship – the Christmas story read from Scripture, the message and the beautiful music. But I also love the fellowship – seeing old friends and new friends, families and friends reunited. Advent and Christmas are a time for me to reflect on my need for a Savior. I struggle with myself, as we all do, trying to make the best, most faithful decisions I can make. To remember the coming of Jesus helps me focus on the Christ who lives in me, strengthening me to make the right decisions and forgiving me when I make the wrong ones. I also need the time to reflect on the greatest gift we’ve all received – Emmanuel, God with us in Jesus Christ!

Pastor Enoch Christmas has always been a great time to remember what’s important in life, like my mom’s cheesy corn casserole and the family tradition of gathering to be nourished through plentiful food and loud laughter. As I was growing up, my family wasn’t always active in church, but at an early age I was given the gift of reading the Christmas story aloud, by my Missouri Synod Lutheran grandmother. I recall being struck by the awe and wonder of the story; and since we waited to open our gifts until after the story, I quickly associated the feeling of anticipation with hearing those familiar words from the Gospel of St. Luke. Now, I understand the anticipation a bit differently and think with wonder as we prepare and anticipate in Advent for the ultimate Gift, Jesus Christ, the newborn babe. For me, Christmas at Mount Olivet encompasses that celebration and awe, wonder and anticipation. Even when I am away from my family in Indiana, the joy of seeing so many people gather at Mount Olivet brings me great happiness to be a part of this faith community. I love the enthusiasm of being a part of connecting with others with Christ at the center. Most of all I love the reminder that we are never alone as we trust the promise of God through Jesus Christ, that God is with us always, no matter what.