Blessed Christmas Eve 2015

snow & trees

Christmas Eve is the last day of Advent.  Tomorrow, we celebrate the coming of Jesus as a baby.  Jesus is fully God and fully man.  He is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made …” but who also “was made man.”  (Nicene Creed).

The complete divinity and complete humanity of Jesus Christ cannot be overemphasized especially in this world of ignorance where so many think that Christians and Mohammedans worship the same God, and that all religions are “basically the same.”  No one is like Christ, and no god can compare.

What happened at the Incarnation (March 25) and at Christmas (December 25) testifies to the true nature of God, the Trinity.  The Incarnation is beautiful and mysterious, and evinces a glory deeper than the greatest show of glory.  It is a hidden glory of weakness and love.  Almighty God became a real human baby.

Creator of the stars of night,
Thy people’s everlasting Light:
O Christ, Redeemer, save us all
And hear Thy servants when they call.

To God the Father and the Son
And Holy Spirit, Three in One,
Praise, honor, might, and glory be
From age to age eternally.

— “Creator of the Stars of Night,” LSB 351:1, 6.

Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas!

Blessed Christmas Eve 2014

snow & trees

Christmas Eve is the last day of Advent.  Tomorrow, we celebrate the arrival of Jesus as a baby.  This baby is fully God and fully man: “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made …” but who also “was made man.”  (Nicene Creed).

He is a wonder too marvelous to comprehend.

The colors of Advent are purple and blue symbolizing repentance and expectation.  Many Christians keep a midnight vigil on Christmas Eve, as they await the coming of the Lord.

The above picture is cold and beautiful.  I believe those concepts are appropriate for Advent because while we await the return of the Lord, this world can be a cold place, but in the hope and promise of Christ His life here is also beautiful.

Blessed Advent 2012

IMG_6531

The picture above is of a miniature Christmas light.  Christmas is the celebration of the first coming of Christ when God Almighty became incarnate, was born of a virgin, and lived as a baby in Bethlehem.

Advent is the season of holy days before Christmas, in other words the holidays before Christmas.  It is the time when Christians prepare for the coming of Christ.  Preparations commonly include repentance and times of quiet reflection and prayer.

Many people also put up lights during Advent in preparation for the coming of Christ.  May God bless your Advent preparations, and fill your heart with light and truth.

Rejoice, rejoice, believers,
And let your lights appear;
The evening is advancing,
And darker night is near.
The Bridegroom is arising
And soon is drawing nigh.
Up, pray and watch and wrestle;
At midnight comes the cry.

— “Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers,” Lutheran Service Book, 515:1.

Veni, Veni, Emmanuel

there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.  In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.

— Isaiah 9:1-2 NIV-1984.

As they once waited in darkness for Christ, so we too wait.

Oh come, Oh God with us.

“Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers”

Advent is a time of solemn reflection, prayer, and repentance.

Advent banner, 5911-5916

“Rejoice, rejoice, believers,
And let your lights appear;
The evening is advancing,
And darker night is near.
The Bridegroom is arising
And soon is drawing nigh.
Up, pray and watch and wrestle;
At midnight comes the cry.”

Christ will come.

“The watchers on the mountain
Proclaim the Bridegroom near;
Go forth, as he approaches,
With alleluias clear.
The marriage feast is waiting;
The gates wide open stand.
Arise, O heirs of glory;
The Bridegroom is at hand.”

Christ has come.

“You saints, who here in patience
Your cross and suff’rings bore,
Shall live and reign forever
When sorrow is no more.
Around the throne of glory
The Lamb you shall behold;
In triumph lay before him
Your shining crowns of gold.”

Come, Lord Jesus.

“Arise, Desire of nations;
O Jesus, now appear,
The Hope and Expectation
Of ev’ry Christian here.
With hearts and hands uplifted
We plead, O Lord, to see
The day of earth’s redemption
That sets your people free.”

— “Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers”
Christian Worship, 7:1-4.

May you have a blessed Advent.

Blessed Advent

Advent wreath

Here a maid was found with child,
Yet remained a virgin mild.
In her womb this was shown:
God was there upon His throne.

For You are the Father’s Son
Who in flesh the vict’ry won…

Glory to the Father sing,
Glory to the Son, our king,
Glory to the Spirit be
Now and through eternity.

— “Savior of the Nations, Come,” verses 3, 6, & 8
Lutheran Service Book, 332.

May you have a blessed Advent.

“Where Shepherds Lately Knelt”

Where shepherds lately knelt and kept the angel’s word,
I come in half-belief, a pilgrim strangely stirred;
But there is room and welcome there for me,
But there is room and welcome there for me.

In that unlikely place I find him as they said:
Sweet newborn Babe, how frail!  And in a manger bed:
A still, small voice to cry one day for me,
A still, small voice to cry one day for me.

How should I not have known Isaiah would be there,
His prophecies fulfilled?  With pounding heart I stare:
A child, a son, the Prince of Peace for me,
A child, a son, the Prince of Peace for me.

Can I, will I forget how Love was born, and burned
It’s way into my heart—unasked, unforced, unearned,
To die, to live, and not alone for me,
To die, to live, and not alone for me?

— “Where Shepherds Lately Knelt,”
Lutheran Service Book, 369.

HT: Pastoral Meanderings.

The “Catalog of Testimonies” and Advent

The “Catalog of Testimonies” was appended to the Book of Concord to show that the Lutheran doctrine was not invented in the 1500s.

A person will easily recognize that when these doctrines are taught in the Book of Concord nothing new has been introduced, either in the doctrinal issues themselves, or in phrases and ways of speaking.  We have spoken and taught about these mysteries, first of all, just as Holy Scripture does, and also as the ancient, pure Church did.  [Catalog of Testimonies: To the Christian Reader].

Because these testimonies of “the ancient, pure Church” relate primarily to the natures of Christ they make excellent Advent meditations.  They also help to explain why Christians view the Lord’s Supper as an integral part of the Christmas celebration:

Christ always received worship and adoration from the angels, for He always was God.  Now they are adoring Him also as man.  [Theodoret, 632].

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In regard to the flesh the Father has commanded, “Let all God’s angels worship Him.”  [Chrysostom, 631].

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The Word did not become flesh in order to add to divinity.  In order that flesh might rise up, He came forth from Mary, not that the Word might become better.  There was a great addition to the human body from communion and union with the Word.  [Athanasius, 628].

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The Word that became man did not confer a partial grace on the received [human] nature; rather, it pleased God that the whole fullness of Deity dwelt in it.  [Theodoret, 639].

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… the divinity which is not seen is worshiped through the nature which is seen—this surpasses every miracle.  [Theodoret, 629].

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Because the Savior’s flesh was joined to the Word of God, who is by nature Life, it was made life-giving.  [Cyril, 640].

The Word became one of us, and said, “This is my body given for you,” and thereby he puts his word, his body, his blood: his very life into us.  (John 1:14, Luke 22:19).

May you have a blessed Advent and Christmas.

Notes:  All page citations and translations are from Concordia, the Lutheran Confessions: A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord.

“The Advent of Our King”

The advent of our King
Our prayers must now employ,
And we must hymns of welcome sing
In strains of holy joy.

The everlasting Son
Incarnate deigns to be
Himself a servant’s form puts on
To set His servants free.

O Zion’s Daughter, rise
To meet thy lowly King,
Nor let thy faithless heart despise
The peace He comes to bring.

As Judge, on clouds of light,
He soon will come again
And His true members all unite
With Him in heaven to reign.

Before the dawning day
Let sin’s dark deeds be gone,
The old man all be put away,
The new man all put on.

All glory to the Son,
Who comes to set us free,
With Father, Spirit, ever One,
Through all eternity.

— “The Advent of Our King,” The Lutheran Hymnal, 68.

May God bless you and your family this Advent & Christmas Eve.

WLC 2009 Christmas Concert

The above picture is of the stage at Wisconsin Lutheran College right before the concert began.

The program opened with “A New Magnificat” by Carolyn Jennings.  This was one of my favorite songs of the evening.

After that was the Christmas Address entitled “Magnifying God in Person,” by the Rev. Dr. Gregory Schulz, Professor of Philosophy.  This address was about how Christians sing together throughout time: on earth, in heaven, in the past, in the present, and for all eternity.  As each generation adds its voices, the melodic arpeggios of the historic Church become more complete.

When Mary sang her Magnificat, she was expressing the culmination of all the Old Testament voices in anticipation of the Messiah.  Christians today and until the end of time will continue to add their voices harmoniously to the eternal chorus until it reaches its final culmination at Christ’s return.  This is a beautiful thought.

There were many other songs, some traditional and some experimental.  I prefer the traditional carols with the full chorus and a full accompaniment of ringing bells and vibrating strings, with everyone singing as loudly and joyfully as possible.  The final carol of the evening, “Angels We Have Heard On High,” did just that.  It was a foreshadowing of that heavenly culminating chorus.

May we add our voices to the joyful chorus of the historic Church in heaven and on earth along with all the angels and the full heavenly host singing to the glory of our King, who even as a tiny baby was worthy to receive honor and power and glory and praise forever.