Fri, Jan 2, 2015

Germany, News

This piece was originally published in German for the Die Brücke website and Facebook page. It was written and translated by Rev. Hugo Gevers and details Christmas Eve events in Leipzig at St. Trinitatisgemeinde (Holy Trinity Lutheran Church), as well as at the Meeting House, Die Brücke. Both are a part of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK), the German partner church body to The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. The LCMS works with this partner church through financial support and the sending of missionaries.

–By Rev. Hugo Gevers, SELK Missionary to Migrants and Children in Volkmarsdorf, Leipzig

Some of the wish lists from "Brücke" children.

Some of the wish lists from “Brücke” children.

Dreams, wishes and plans for the future can all be included in a a single letter to Father Christmas. (See the Christmas wish lists in the photo above). It seems to be one of the many paradoxes of Christmas that grown-ups and kids alike are overwhelmed by the flood of ever increasing possibilities that are available to them as choices for Christmas. This situation has the end result that many people end up not really knowing what their needs and wishes are. Nevertheless our children could address their wishes to Father Christmas in their own letters. In this case there was not just one Father Christmas. In fact there were three in all. One is a doctor who has been co-operating with us in our social work in “Brücke.” Furthermore another Father Christmas, or shall I rather say Mother Christmas, is from Frankfurt and has offered us some gifts in response to the children’s wish lists. Lastly yet another Mother Christmas from Munich sent a box of sweets and other children’s games for Christmas.

When we attempted to put the children’s wishes on paper and send them to these three kind people, we soon found that the kids were not really able to say what they wanted. This is symptomatic for the situation they are in. Overwhelmed by possibilities but not really getting their emotional needs satisfied, they often only follow the media and other people who seem to be in a happier situation.

In the Gospel narrative, we are introduced to some people who really seemed to know what they wanted. The shepherds, the wise men and even the angels from heaven really came a very long way from their respective locations. Normally one does not go to such great efforts if one would not know what to expect. In our nativity play, the congregation members of St. Trinity Lutheran Church showed us how these people all had their wishes and expectations fulfilled in one little Child in a manger. The Christmas play in Leipzig portrayed this very well. In Leipzig the Christmas play has always been a very unique one. This is because so many different people from various backgrounds took part. This year was no exception! This year we had the American lad (Thomas Ahlman the son of LCMS Missionaries Dr. Chris and Elizabeth Ahlman) play the role of Joseph.

Thomas Ahlman as Joseph.

Thomas Ahlman as Joseph. (Photo by Elizabeth Ahlman)

In the play Thomas Ahlman was about half the size of Mary. His solo rendition was so well done that many visitors had to search their bags for a tissue. But all the other role players also filled their respective parts very well. “Atze” from Volkmarsdorf (the vicinity of “Brücke) read her part from the prophet Isaiah so well that many a church elder could learn something from her.

Atze as an angel holding American missionary child Matthias Ahlman (a sheep). Atze read the Angels' announcement to the shepherds and is a child who attends events at Die Brücke. (Photo by Pam Meckler)

Atze as an angel holding American missionary child Matthias Ahlman (a sheep). Atze read the angels’ announcement to the shepherds and is a child who attends events at Die Brücke. (Photo by Pam Meckler)

And then there was also our Persian choir who gave us a superb rendition of an ancient Persian song. Furthermore, we were surprised by some other guests from far and wide. The members of a home for disabled were there and were moved to tears in much the same way as many an old congregation member. How fitting that so many different people gathered around the nativity scene. This is also how the very first Christmas was celebrated. Some of the congregants knew all the hymns and the nativity play almost off by heart. One lady (around 50 years old) was in church for the first time in her life. She could not have chosen a better day because the message portrayed in the play and in the entire service was so relevant for all!

After the Christmas Eve service, we invited as many people who wanted to join us to a Christmas Eve party in “Brücke”. Getting around 30 adults and 15 kids under one roof and seeing to their spiritual and physical well being was no easy feat. For one, we could not even get enough chairs to have everyone seated for a meal. So we asked the kids to have their meal first. This was a clever move because the kids had a clear view of the stack of Christmas gifts waiting for them! Needless to say we did not wait long for the kids to finish their meal.

Sheep made by the Die Brücke children. (Photo by Rev. Hugo Gevers).

Sheep made by the Die Brücke children. (Photo by Rev. Hugo Gevers).

Then we asked the kids to gather around the nativity scene. Before Christmas the kids made the beautiful sheep, which can be seen in the picture on the left. In our Christmas prayer we focused on the lost sheep that God has come to seek out by Himself becoming one of them. In our prayer we prayed for all the people who are lost in a spiritual sense, as well as in our physical world. Many of the kids know all too well what it feels like to be abandoned by loved ones. Soon after the prayer the kids were eager to open their presents and so the grow-ups had their peace and quiet.

Later the eight people from the home for the disabled also gathered around our nativity scene. Each one had a chance to feel the sheep and to cuddle one of them. Then I explained to them that one could cuddle a lost sheep or one could hurt or trample on it. There one of the listeners piped up: “You may not do this! This is dangerous for the sheep!”   When I carried on to explain what God did to save us and our broken lives, this small group was totally impressed and open to the wonderful message of the Gospel and of Christ’s birth. I had the idea that they all heard this message for the first time in their lives

And in this vein our Christmas Eve time drew to a close. All our visitors received a candle which was made by our kids in the weeks before. The idea was that our visitors should light the candle and thus remember what they had seen or heard. Yes, the message of Christmas will radiate in their lives later on again. I am sure! And so Christ will once again bring those people together who do not normally belong together. And what is on our wish list for the future? For this I would like to quote from our Christmas play. At one stage a shepherd asked: “What is a Savior?” “Well, He saves and heals us from all our brokenness!” was the answer.

Oh Savior! That is our wish and hope for the future. Heal all our brokenness! You must do this for us. This is our inmost wish!

A very happy and blessed Christmas from all our co-workers in “Brücke”!

  • Learn more about work with children at Die Brücke.
  • Learn more about Persian ministry in Leipzig.
  • Pray for those who heard the Gospel for the first time, and for those who have heard it numerous times, but are not yet Baptized, that they would be brought to faith by the Holy Spirit and drowned in the waters of Baptism.

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