It is Saturday evening and we are at the Latvian church where service will be conducted mostly in Latvian but the sermon in English. As years tick off I understand the Latvian language less but I’m certain that The Word works the same on any soul. What do you think? If Macitājs pronounces the forgiveness of sins in Latvian, does it work on me, my wife and son? Does it work on the infant certain to be raised in the Latvian culture but is incapable of comprehending what is being said? Of course. Regardless of the language, the spoken Word has the same grace and power across the board of tongues. The pastor speaks in the stead of Jesus and because we are dead in our sins only The Lord is able to forgive sins. It is how infant baptism is justified. We also received the benefit of the blessing in Latvian at the end of the service. And had we broken bread and passed the cup together this evening, in any language, we surely would have received the same welfare as the believer who understood what was said.
The hymns we sang were Glory to God in the Highest; O, Little Town of Bethlehem; Joy to the World; and a candlelight version of Silent Night. We sang them in Latvian, which is fairly easy to do, it being a phonetic language, so while your tongue belted out ‘Līksmi lai skan: tas Kungs ir klāt!’ the back of your brain sang ‘Joy to the world, the Lord is come!’. The Christmas story, from Luke 2, was read clearly, crisply and effortlessly in English as though recited many times. Thank you, Baiba.
Macitājs Lazdins’s sermon centered on the three main aspects of the joy of Christmas. Joy is different from simply being happy. Happy is opening your gift and finding your father bought you the new The Rolling Stones album. Happy is the University of California – Irvine Anteaters winning the male basketball tournament. Happy is a good cup of coffee. All these are nice but only temporary. After the Anteaters cut down the nets you’ll go out for a beer and celebrate but the next day finds you with a headache and the same ol’ same ol’ staring at you in the mirror. Joy, on the other hand, is a ‘forever’ confidence that you will walk hand in hand with Jesus and the saints in Heaven serving each other after you die. Yes, during joy, there will be ‘yay!’ moments as well as ‘aw rats!’ times, or in other words, life.
The first part was knowing “Jesus”. Obviously, there is no Christmas without Jesus. There is no salvation without the gift of grace offered freely by Him. There is no need to do anything to be standing side-by-side with Jesus. He is always ‘knocking on your door’ waiting patiently for you to stop the nonsense of ignoring Him. The second part of the sermon dealt with “Others”. By helping others you feel the contentment of following His desire to help them the same way He helped you. Being a Christian is a group project. We are not meant to be hermits as individuals or living apart from others as a group. It can be easy, it can be hard, it can be perplexing, and it can be dangerous in some cases. Trust Jesus to know what you are capable of doing for Him. The third section of the sermon was about “You”. To serve Jesus and others well, it is necessary to take care of your self. Live a healthy lifestyle. Read the Bible on a regular basis. Read books by Christians who can interpret what the Bible means. Pray, pray, pray for wisdom and compassion. Pray for others. Pray for strength. The more you know about what Jesus wants the better you will serve Him.
Any worship to The Lord, be it Christmas, Easter or the second Sunday after the Epiphany, administered seriously will affect all hearts to the good. Don’t be ashamed, don’t be frightened to enter any Christian church. The Spirit of The Lord will guide you to His promise.