You may have heard the rumor that Lutherans are strong and silent types. None of this gushing about Jesus to people — no, we’re more comfortable dishing up a good casserole or barbecuing some tasty brisket with a smile that shows the love of Jesus.
But recently I visited a store that spoke volumes about our true Lutheran evangelistic legacy. It’s called Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, located in Frankenmuth, Mich. — one of the epicenters of our LCMS beginnings. To give you another hint about the focus of Bronner’s, let me share the address of this 320,000 square-foot store: 25 Christmas Lane.
Yes, Bronner’s is a Christmas extravaganza palooza. Not only is it filled with twinkling lights, glittery ornaments of every kind, a forest of Christmas trees, a small nation’s population of Christmas figurines and every other Christmas item imaginable, but it is thoroughly and unashamedly CHRIST-proclaiming.
Back in the late 1940s to early 50s, devoted LCMS Lutheran and Walther Leaguer Wally Bronner started the shop. By the 70s onward, Bronner’s had reached millions of customers, influenced presidents and Hollywood stars and was recognized around the world — while boldly and loudly proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Savior, life’s ultimate answer.
As my wife and I strolled through the Christmas wonder, something new stood out to me. Please understand, we had been there many times. My wife’s father was a fellow Walther Leaguer and good friend of the Bronners. Our children have pictures of themselves as young kiddos posing with Wally and his dear wife, Irene. But on this visit, I saw the beautiful, courageous and joyful spirit of our beloved Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. We not only confess Christ crucified, we foster relationships in which we can proclaim Him boldly and joyfully. That is who we really are.
Back in the early 1900s, LCMS leaders rejoiced in nearly 200,000 new adults confessing faith for the first time at our altars. In the 50s, LCMS President Rev. John Behnken forecast 500,000 new adult LCMS members. How did this happen? Through people like Wally Bronner and the many heroic LCMS Lutherans who loved people and blessed others with their Sharing the Good News hope in Jesus, the incarnate, crucified and risen Savior. Back in the late 50s, Time magazine called the LCMS “traditionally aggressive.” We never budged from the truth of God’s Word, but we broadcast the Gospel as brightly as the Christmas displays in Wally Bronner’s parking lot.
This Christmas, let’s remember who God made us to be and what the gift of grace in Jesus brings to a broken, confused and despairing world. Along with Wally, let’s join the angel chorus as we enter the lives of people and share the “Good News of great joy” for all. How will you start?
Questions for reflection:
Read Luke 2:1-14
What obstacles and discouragement might have quenched the hope and joy of the people in these opening verses of Luke 2?
What difficulties are trying to silence your sharing of the Good News of Jesus?
Wally Bronner’s Christmas store was one way he shined Jesus’ light. In what new way might God use your church and your life to shine His light of hope and salvation?
Read Isaiah 9:2-6 and let God know why you appreciate His presence in your life. Ask for His strength to share one of His gifts with someone in your life.
By Rev. Michael Newman