Far as the curse is found

16 12 2010

Do you ever tire of constant bad news, or news about potential catastrophes that that could impact your life?  Yesterday on the radio they were saying western nations are once again potential targets for Christmas-time terrorist attacks.  If in the grip of greed, mega-corporations pursue profit at any cost, whether environmental or human destruction.  Millions of average Jane- or Joe- citizens would cheat on their taxes if they could get away with it (the IRS has stepped up audits 11% and is recovering huge amounts of money), or we squirrel away money in offshore tax havens: no one is righteous, we all act out of self-interest.  The curse of sin has corrupted everything.

Any yet, while we were still sinners, angels announced God was sending the Rescuer to make his blessing flow everywhere: far as the curse is found!

Joy to the world! the Lord is come:
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth! the Saviour reigns:
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love.


bringing good cheer

14 12 2010

The song I shared yesterday, “All My Heart This Night Rejoices” gives the reason behind the season: the incarnation and its impact in our lives.  This is nothing less than the beginning of the new creation through the birth of a little baby.

Today’s song is also about newness, heralding bounty and fullness.  Originally, the Ukrainian lyrics to Shchedryk were a New Year’s carol telling of swallow announcing to a family the bounty that the would receive throughout the coming year.  However, the 1936 English lyrics for the Carol of the Bells were not a translation of the Ukrainian, but a new Christmas song.  They’ve remained popular for good reason: “Christmas is hear, bringing good cheer!

Hark how the bells,
sweet silver bells,
all seem to say,
throw cares away

Christmas is here,
bringing good cheer,
to young and old,
meek and the bold,

Ding dong ding dong
that is their song
with joyful ring
all caroling

One seems to hear
words of good cheer
from everywhere
filling the air

Oh how they pound,
raising the sound,
o’er hill and dale,
telling their tale,

Gaily they ring
while people sing
songs of good cheer,
Christmas is here,

Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
On on they send,
on without end,
their joyful tone
to every home

Ding dong ding… dong!

I’m on lunch-break in Starbuck, listening to “Angels we have heard on high” played over their radio.  The “Carol of the Bell” is true: Christmas still is a time when words of good cheer fill the air everywhere.  When else do you hear Jesus’ birth proclaimed in so many public places in our modern, pluralistic liberal democracies?  Though many many not know the real Christmas story or its significance today, we still experience residual blessings from the widespread belief in the good news about Jesus Christ that many in western nations have held.  With the birth of Jesus, God became human, forever establishing the individual dignity of every person.  His life made clear that women and men have equal value–laying the theological groundwork for much of our western understanding of human rights today.  Now the radio singer is proclaiming tidings of comfort and joy, with the verses telling the tale of Jesus’ birth announced by angels to shepherds.

Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!

Christ our God to earth descendeth

5 12 2010

We sang this ancient song from the St. James Liturgy during communion this morning:

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

This one could be a Chrismas carol, or an Advent hymn, but really its a Eucharistic hymn celebrating the good gift of God himself given for us.  Jesus the Christ–the Messiah–given for us!  This really is incredible, when you think about it: we are sustained by Jesus’ body broken for us, and his blood shed for us.  This is where the Nativity ends up, where the Christmas story concludes, in the risen Christ feeding his people on himself from his throne in heaven.

What’s up with the six winged seraphs in the final verse, the cherubim?  When our church small group was studying Revelation this past summer, the best we could come up with was that God is so incredibly glorious that he surrounds himself with these magnificent, incredible, mind-boggling creatures, whose apparent purpose is to accentuate the glory of God.  Revelation 4:6-8 describes the scene:

And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”

Jesus is God.  He was and is and is to come, and this is what we recall and anticipate in celebrating Advent.  Come, Lord Jesus, come!