Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Christmastide!

The Star Marks the Place

I took this photograph on a tour of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. This is the spot that marks the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

Fitted into the paving, shines a 14 pointed silver star marking the exact spot surrounded by the Latin inscription: HICDE VIRGINE MARIA JESUS CHRISTUS NATUS EST. 1717. (Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary). Of the 15 lamps burning around the recess, six belong to the Greeks, fiveto the Armenians and four to the Latins." [Description from]

UPDATE: I just ran across this beautiful carol by G. K. Chesterton:

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,

His hair was like a light.

(O weary, weary were the world,

But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast,

His hair was like a star.

(O stern and cunning are the kings,

But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,

His hair was like a fire.

(O weary, weary is the world,

But here the world’s desire.)

The Christ-child stood at Mary’s knee,

His hair was like a crown.

And all the flowers looked up at Him,

And all the stars looked down.

– Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

O Immanuel

O Immanuel,
our Sovereign and Lawgiver,
desire of the nations and Savior of all:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Come, Lord Jesus.

The final O Antiphon is a straightforward plea for salvation. For saving. Saving from what? The news relentlessly portrays a world out of alignment. There is a pervasive sense that something isn't right. We try to cover that feeling up with shopping, endless marketing carols, and blinding displays of decoration, anything that can aid the process of distraction from the real problem.


Sin separates us from God. Sin causes broken hearts, broken families, abuses of self and others, mind-blowing narcissism and idolatry. All of this can be traced to that first fall, that brokenness which we inherit by virtue of our humanity. This is the thing from which we need saving. And God has given us a Savior, even though we did not and do not deserve him. But because God created us, He loves us. So much so, in fact, that He offers us the only true gift that has ever been devised.

You see, the gifts that we give always invoke a need to reciprocate. You may surprised to receive a gift you did not expect. How do many people respond to such a gift? "You really shouldn't have," is the common reply. And right away the seed is planted to respond in kind at a later date.

Our so-called gift giving should be referred to as an exchange, because that is what it is.

The only true gift is one that isn't deserved. The only true gift is the one for which there is no possibility of reciprocation. And that is precisely the gift we receive in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, a little infant born in a manger.

Are you weary and tired? Are you stuck in some kind of sin that you think is insurmountable? Do you wonder if there could possibly be a way out of the trap of putting on the painted smile every day to evade notice that something inside is deeply out of sorts? Jesus Christ came for people just like you. That is the Good News. And as you read these words, it is my hope that the Holy Spirit will move upon you and open your heart to Jesus Christ, that you may be adopted into the new family of love and forgiveness by submitting to his Word in a baptism of water and of Spirit. It is my prayer that you will receive the true gift of eternal life with Him. Amen.

Monday, December 22, 2008

O Ruler of the Nations

O Ruler of the nations,
Monarch for whom the people long,
you are the Cornerstone uniting all humanity:
Come, save us all,
whom you formed out of clay.

Come, Lord, Jesus.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Phil 2:9-13 NRSV)
That baby born in a manger? Him? He is, in fact, the universal Lord of all that is. How can this be? Because God's power is made perfect in weakness. By using what has been formed from clay to accomplish mighty acts, God ensures that there will be no confusion over who the real Saver is.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

O Radient Dawn

O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light,
Sun of justice:
Come, shine on those who live in darkness
and in the shadow of death.

Come, Lord Jesus.

As I write this, the sun is shining brightly outside. We so often fool ourselves into thinking the light is something easy to grasp. We need only capture it and use it for our own purposes. Alas, such light is, in fact, the darkness of a lost humanity. What we really need is a Light that cuts us to the heart, so that the illusion of light, the light that we think we control and use to our own ends, might be revealed as the falsehood that separates us from God. And once that falsehood is revealed, let it be put to death, that we might receive the grace of the eternal true light of Jesus Christ. And may we, by our obedience, reflect the the true Light into the world.