Archives For Advent and Christmas

Lux Venit by Michael W. Smith

An appropriate song for the day after Epiphany:

“Lux venit lux venit [the light has come]
Lux venit sursum corda [lift up your hearts]
Lux venit lux venit arise
Shine for your light has come

By sword by flame
In death solemn ages passed
And voices young
Grow old weary
Holding fast
Hope for the dawning

Lux venit lux venit
Lux venit sursum corda
Lux venit lux venit arise
Shine for your light has come

In grace in might
The babe lay in stable stark
Redemptions’s light
Pierces through the shadows dark
Alleluia

Lux venit lux venit
Sursum corda
Lux venit lux venit arise
Shine for your light has come

Lux venit lux venit
Lux venit sursum corda
Lux venit lux venit arise
Shine for your light has come
Alleluia”

“Jesus did not shun our world and it’s poverty and conflict. He embraced it. And he desires to embrace us today, in this day. Right where we are. Right where we are feeling most distant. Right where we are feeling least “religious” or “ready”.”
Creighton University Advent

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“God’s gift at Christmas is relationship, not just another human relationship but relation to God the Father by standing where Jesus stands, standing in the full torrent of his love and creativity, giving and receiving.

“To come into that place and to be rooted and grounded there means letting go of our fear of dependence and opening our hearts to be fed and enlarged and transformed. And that in turn means looking at how we handle dependence in ourselves and others, how we accept the positive dependence involved in lifelong learning and growing, and help one another deal with it positively.

So the important thing is not that everyone gets to stand on their own two feet and turns into a reliable “independent” consumer and contributor to the GNP. What we expect from each other in a generous and grown-up society is much more to do with all of us learning how to ask from each other, how to receive from each other, how to depend on the generosity of those who love us and stand alongside us.”
Rowan Williams
[HT Alan Jacobs]

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

This is a standard Christmas hymn, but I am usually focused on singing it rather than focusing on the words. As we head into a new year, it’s worth praying this sermon/hymn.

“O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Refrain
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
Refrain

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.
Refrain

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Refrain

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Refrain

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Refrain

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.
Refrain

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.
Refrain

When the dawn is dark

December 28, 2016 — 1 Comment

I know we are in the midst of celebrating Christmas with tidings of comfort and joy, with treasured family visits, with the warm feeling of gifts and holiday glow. But while we live on this broken earth, there is always a ‘but.’

And today the ‘but’ is the commemoration of the Feast of the Holy Innocents [to say we are celebrating the feast doesn’t seem quite right]. The Holy Innocents were the children murdered by Herod after the Magi failed to return to him with news about Jesus.
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.” {Jeremiah 31:15}

So three days after we celebrate our savior’s birth, we pause and remember those defenseless children who died shortly after, and the grieving parents they left behind.

As LaVonne Neff says about Christmas,
“And they all live happily ever after …except for those Bethlehem babies that Herod murdered, of course; and Jesus’s family, who were so afraid of the new king that they hid from him in Egypt; and Jesus himself, who was executed by a Roman puppet too timid to stand up to the mob; and most of Jesus’s best friends, who within a few years were dead, and not of natural causes…”

We hold on to the hope of Christmas that a light has come to shine in the darkness. But we also acknowledge the truth that sometimes the new day dawns dark. Sometimes thick clouds obscure the light. Sometimes joy is followed by great pain and agony.
dark 002

But– all is changed.
The ‘but’ has turned to ‘and’.

Now Immanuel has come.
And God is with us.
Christmas means we have received something even better than God’s power. We have received God’s presence. He is with us in the darkest dawn and in the longest night. He is with us in joy and gladness, and with us in suffering and sorrow. We are no longer alone.

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They will call Him Immanuel” (which means, “God with us”). Matthew 1:23

You came down

One of my favorite new Christmas songs:

“Oh Saviour of our fallen race,
Oh brightness of the Father’s face
Oh Son Who shared the Father’s mind
Before the world knew day or night
Oh Jesus very light of light
Our constant star in sin’s deep night
Now hear the prayers Your people pray
Throughout the world this holy day
You came down
You came down
To a stable and manger
Not a kingdom or a crown

Remember Lord of life and grace
How once to save our fallen race
You put our human vesture on
And came to us as Mary’s son
You came down
You came down
To a stable and manger
Not a kingdom or a crown

For from the Father’s throne You came
His banished children to reclaim
And earth and sea and sky revered
The love of Him who sent You here
Oh Christ redeemer, virgin born
Let songs of praise your name adore
And with the Father be adored
And Holy Spirit evermore
You came down
You came down
You came down
You came down
To a stable and manger
Not a kingdom or a crown”

From Jill Phillips and Andy Gullahorn’s album: Christmas

“…the most necessary conversion for those who have already followed Christ and have lived at his service in the Church…does not consist in abandoning what is evil, but, in a certain sense, in abandoning what is good! Namely, in detaching oneself from everything that one has done…

“This emptying of one’s hands and pockets of every pretension, in a spirit of poverty and humility, is the best way to prepare for Christmas. We are reminded of it by a delightful Christmas legend that I would like to mention again. It narrates that among the shepherds that ran on Christmas night to adore the Child there was one who was so poor that he had nothing to offer and was very ashamed. Reaching the grotto, all competed to offer their gifts.

Mary did not know what to do to receive them all, having to hold the Child in her arms. Then, seeing the shepherd with his hands free, she entrusted Jesus to him. To have empty hands was his fortune and, on another plane, will also be ours.”
Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa

[number five in our sparkling constellation of grandchildren

In the Bleak Midwinter, sung by King’s College

In the Bleak Midwinter

The last line of this hymn says “give him my heart”–because the singer is so poor he or she has nothing else to give. But the reality of my heart is not always a worthy gift. Sometimes it feels like the bleak midwinter: frosty, hard and stony. Other times, it is poor, devastated, weak and broken.

And yet the truth remains that this is what my heavenly Father wants most from me: my heart. He wants to be with me face to face. He wants me to bring the truth of who I am: my thoughts, my feelings, what I have done, what I hope to do, what I hope not to do. This is who He wants to love. And this the gift of my incarnation: bringing myself to God as He has brought Himself to me.

In the Bleak Midwinter
“In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
For the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
but his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
worshiped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him: give my heart.”

Preparing to prepare

November 28, 2016 — Leave a comment

Advent is a time of waiting and preparing. I tend to plunge into it thoughtlessly, in the post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas rush. So I found a reflection on preparing for Advent at Creighton University’s Online Ministries very helpful.

I’d encourage you to read the whole piece. Here’s a taste of it:

There is “a time of emotional complexity that is part of this holiday season – with all of the expectations and challenges of family and relationships:  who we want to be with and who we struggle to be with. So, our hearts are a bit tender, if not completely defended from experiencing anything deeply.”

♦◊♦

“We will re-enter the ancient tradition of a people longing for the coming of a Savior…we have to ask ourselves: “What is it I long for now?”  The answer won’t come easily.  The more we walk around with that question, and let it penetrate through the layers of distraction and self-protection, the more powerfully we will experience Advent.”

♦◊♦

“These are very precious days to come into intimate contact with our own need for salvation.  It is a time to make friends with our tears, our darkness, our hunger and thirst. 
What is missing? 
What eludes my grasp? 
What name can I give to the “restlessness” in my heart? 
What is the emptiness I keep trying to “feed” with food, with fantasy, with excitement, with busyness? 
What is the conflict that is “eating at me”? 
What is the sinful, unloving, self-centered pattern for which I haven’t asked for forgiveness and healing? 
Where do I need a peace that the world cannot give?

Coming to know where I need a Savior is how I can prepare for Advent”

from “Preparing for Advent” Creighton University’s Online Ministries

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Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

Isaiah 35:5-7