Dear Gulf Coast Leaders,

December 24/25 – NATIVITY OF OUR LORD (three choices)

Set I
Isaiah 9:2-7 – The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For unto us a child is born, a son is given.
Psalm 96 – Sing to the Lord a new song, all the earth.
Luke 2:1-14, (15-20)  – In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus… Shepherds watching their flocks by night… And angel of the Lord appeared, then a host: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace…”

Set II
 Isaiah 62:6-12 – Say to Zion, “Behold, your salvation comes; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” 
Psalm 97– The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! 
Titus 3:4-7 – When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of our works, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 
Luke 2:(1-7), 8-20 – Shepherds watching their flocks by night… And angel of the Lord appeared, then a host: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace…” 

Set III 
Isaiah 52:7-10 – How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Psalm 98 – Sing to the Lord a new song… Let the earth sing, for he is coming to judge the world with justice.
Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12) – Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son
John 1:1-14– In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

December 27 – Christmas  1C
1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26Elkanah and Hannah give birth to Samuel, who grows is stature and favor of the Lord.
Psalm 148 – Everyone and everything praise the Lord just about everywhere.
Colossians 3:12-17 –  Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, and above all else: love.
Luke 2:41-52 – The boy Jesus in the Temple increases in stature and divine favor.

December 27 – St. John Apostle – This rarely falls on a Sunday. A great day to lift up John’s high Christology, and vision of God’s love.
Genesis 1:1-5, 26-31
Psalm 116
1 John 1:1 – 2:2
John 21:20-25 – The last verses of John. Peter’s jealousy of the disciple Jesus loved. This text appears nowhere else in the three-year lectionary but here.

Theological Conference is January 25-27 on the Riverwalk in San Antonio. Registration deadline is January 5. Theme: La Vida de Fe.

Interfaith Forum on Immigration for Rostered Leaders – January 11

“The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you,
and you shall love them as yourself” (Leviticus 19:33-34)

This January 11 event (8:30-1:30), hosted by religious leaders, is called a clergy convocation, but all rostered leaders are welcome. We will cover your cost if you wish to participate. Held at St. Paul’s Methodist in Houston, the event includes a prayer service, a press conference, a panel discussion and lunch. Registration Form and Invitation are attached. Deadline for sign up is January 5 (just like Theological Conference deadline.

Houston Lutheran-Methodist Full Communion Celebration
The Houston celebration of the Lutheran-Methodist Full Communion will be Sunday, January 17, 2010, 4 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Methodist, Houston. Bishop Janice Huie and Mike Rinehart presiding. This takes place on the first day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This will be a great time to celebrate our unity in Christ.

Christmas Message

Last week I opined on a stanza of O Holy Night:

Truly he taught us to love one another
His love is love and his gospel is peace
Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother
And in his name all oppression shall cease

From O Holy Night (Free MP3 by Mark Harris)

This week, as we approach the Feast of the Nativity, I recall another carol:

In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.

Good King Wenceslas is a carol about a wealthy king who reaches out to a poor man on the Feast of Stephen (December 26). The story is based on St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia (907-935). Stories of his legendary, lavish generosity exist to this day.

Of course, so do stories of St. Nicholas (270-346), bishop of Myra (in modern day Turkey). When we were in Russia for the adoption we saw icons of St. Nick in nearly every Orthodox church we visited. Nicholas was wealthy due to a family inheritance. When people in Myra would receive anonymous gifts, it was believed they had come from this wealthy, but anonymous giver. Legends hold that he would put coins in the shoes of children. One story says he threw three bags of gold coins into a home at night, where three daughters of a pauper were worried they would never marry, with no dowry.

Of course Saint Nicholas becomes Santa Claus (from his Dutch name Sinterklaas, see picture, right). And the tradition of gift-giving continues in the Christian world. Generosity is a hallmark of the Christian faith, traditionally. This appears in the very early accounts.

33With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:35-37)

The telling and retelling of the Infancy Narrative was considered more than a biography of Jesus. It was a divine drama in which Jesus, like many a divine visitor, is shut out. “No room in the inn,” was a dramatic story for the early Christian communities (and for us), juxtaposing the realities of the way things are in the world, with the way God wishes them to be. More than just a morality play about welcoming immigrants and sojourners, more than a spirituality play about finding room in our hearts for Jesus, this story invites us to leave the tight-fisted, zero-sum economy of the world, and enjoy the prodigal, unearthly economy of God, in wealth and in poverty, in inflation and in recession.

These traditional carols and Scriptures convey a soulful spirituality devoid of mean-spirited self-righteousness. They are an invitation into a different way of being in the world.

This Christmas, may this ancient worldview emerge from the ages, from decades of commercialization, and come into clearer focus in your life.

שלומ     سلام    Peace,

Mike Rinehart

Michael Rinehart, bishop
The Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
12707 I-45 North Frwy, Suite 580
Houston, TX 77060-1239               


And the Word became flesh…

January 3 – Christmas  2C

Wednesday, January 6 – Epiphany

Time after Epiphany – Year C

January 10, 2010 – Baptism of Christ C

Monday, January 11 – Interfaith Clergy Convocation on Immigration Reform
8:30 AM to 1:30 PM  (8:30-9:00 AM- Registration & Coffee)
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 5501 Main Street

January 17, 2010 – Epiphany 2C

January 17, 2010 – Houston Lutheran-Methodist Full Communion Celebration
4:00 p.m. St. Paul’s United Methodist, Houston, 5400 Fannin Street, Houston, TX 77004
Rostered leaders are invited to robe and process. Green stoles. Reception following.


January 24, 2010 – Epiphany 3C
January 25-27 – Theological Conference, San Antonio, TX

January 31, 2010 – Epiphany 4C

February 7, 2010 – Epiphany 5C

February 14, 2010 – Transfiguration


February 14, 2010 – Love Sees No Borders
An opportunity to share the Biblical message of welcoming the alien and sojourner

February 17, 2010 – Ash Wednesday

Really Good Stuff
Sticky Church (Leadership Network Innovation Series)  This book connects natural, organic evangelism with spiritual growth, through small groups that deepen relationships and conversation.
Living Together As Lutherans: Unity Within Divesity  This book, written by the three presiding bishops of the ELCA outlines the vision and history of Lutheran unity.
Beyond Cheap Grace: A Call to Radical Discipleship, Incarnation and Justice by Eldin Villafañe. This book bemoans cheap grace and an armchair version of Christianity, showing why faith and social justice cannot be separated.
Luther and the Hungry Poor  – This book highlights many of Luther’s not-so-often-read works on the economy. Torvend discusses the economic implications of the Reformation and the church’s bilking of the poor through indulgences.
The Cost of Discipleship ($5) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer warns that the Achilles’ heel of the Lutheran movement is “cheap grace.” Grace without cost. Grace without discipleship.
Capon on Cooking Robert Farrar Capon
The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon

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