Blogmas Day 15: “Joy to the World!”

Yesterday, on the third Sunday in Advent, we lit the pink candle for JOY. (Because, of course pink is synonymous with joy).

So, in accordance with this theme, let’s talk about “Joy to the World.” We’re going back to the Glory to God hymnal, #134. (I linked the Whitney Houston version because I like it better).

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

2 Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let all their songs employ,
while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

3 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,
far as the curse is found,
far as, far as the curse is found.

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


Unfortunately, I missed posting on Saturday because my wifi was acting up. I’m also pretty burned out, and at this point, I’m only writing to honour a commitment I made to myself. However, instead of playing catch-up in this post, I’m honoring this Sunday’s theme. I’ll probably post days 14 and 16 later today.

“Joy to the World” was originally written by Isaac Watts in 1719. The music was written by none other than George Frederick Handel (I feel like I wrote about him already) in 1742 and Lowell Mason in 1836.

This song has four verses and, to me, it looks like there’s a pattern. Verses 1 and 2 tell us to have joy, and verses 3 and 4 tell us why.

Verse 1: World! Have joy! The Lord has come! Receive your king! Prepare the way of the Lord! Sing for joy!

Verse 2: Earth! Have joy! The Savior reigns! If the rocks can cry out, so can you!

Verse 3: No more sins and sorrows! The Lord has come to bless you and wash away your curse (?)

Verse 4: The Lord rules the world with truth and grace! His righteousness is glorious and his love is wondrous!

(Okay; this one is pretty hard. Let’s see the scripture that inspired it).

Verses 1 and 2 are inspired by Psalm 96:10-13, which describes the kingship of the Lord. All creation rejoices, from the heavens to the earth, and the seas to the fields. The Lord is described as a righteous and true judge. Psalm 98:4-9 echoes a similar theme: rejoicing in song.

And, of course “prepare Him room” refers to the prophecies of the “voice crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.'”

Verse 3 seems to refer to Genesis 3:17-18, in which God punishes Adam (the first man and the first human being) for disobeying God’s command not to eat from a particular tree (the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil). Adam’s punishment was that he was cursed to do hard labor and till ground that was not arable. Instead of healthy soil, it was a ground filled with thistles and thorns.

Verse 4 contains an allusion to Revelation 11.15: ” ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever’ ” (NRSV). (It also reminds me of Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus, which I will definitely write about in a later post).

What I can glean from this song is that Jesus’s (the Lord’s) coming will be joyful. It will be joyful because He is the fulfillment of the prophecies of a King and Saviour who will finally come to restore the world and rule with righteousness. All of creation will sing and shout for joy. He will wipe away all tears and there will no longer be reason for sadness. He will rule in love.

After a while, a lot of this becomes redundant, but it’s such a great reminder of the hope that we have in Christ. We have so many songs to sing through which we can learn about our faith. I have sung many of the songs I have posted so far without thinking about their content, but now that I’m doing this project, I’ve realized that they hold such deep, important messages.

lighted candles

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Blogmas Day 13: “Alpha and Omega” – Worship Pt. 2

I’ve read blog posts where writers tend to get super personal and vulnerable, and I’m usually reading them like, “Wow. So brave. 4 for you, Glen Coco. You go, Glen Coco!” in the most unironic, genuine way, of course. Yet today, I must join the ranks and transparently admit that I do not have the Christmas spirit, Sam-I-Am.

I actually don’t remember getting excited about Christmas since I lived with my mother’s family when I was between five and seven years old. Now that I’m an adult, and I work in a church, I have a very different relationship with Christmas, but I’m still not excited. Part of that could be because I experienced many unfortunate events over the past couple of years during the holidays, but even before those took place, I was still “Meh,” about the whole thing. I do get excited about the “churchy” things–the sermon series, the Christmas pageant, everything that integrates theology and the story of Jesus’s birth and life–but it’s the other things that are “Meh.” Outside of the church, I have no Christmas spirit. There is nothing magical in the air. It’s just winter. I’m cold.

Yet, I love worship music. (I was going to write “Christmas music,” but for the next few days, some of the songs I will be writing about are very clearly not about Christmas). Worship music reminds us of the person that this season is all about. It doesn’t matter whether or not I get a white Christmas–in fact, I would very much prefer if I didn’t–or if Santa Claus squeezes his way down the chimney with an iPhone 11 Pro. (Though if you’re listening, a professional camera would be pretty nice).

What matters is glorifying God–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit–in recognition of God’s purpose in Christmas.

Today’s song, “Alpha and Omega,” comes from Revelation 1.8: ” ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (NRSV).

You are Alpha and Omega. We worship You, our Lord. You are worthy to be praised. We give You all the glory. You are worthy to be praised.

Yep. That’s it. A simple chorus of worship.

You are Alpha–the first letter of the Greek alphabet. You are the first, coexisting in one with God and God’s Spirit, before anything else was.

You are Omega–the final letter of the Greek alphabet. You are the last. No one will come after you. You are the victor, the last left standing. You have the final word. You are the final Word.

I believe that this is part of the revelation that the wise men received–the three kings from the east who, at least according to legend, came to bring gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh and to worship the newborn King of Israel and of the universe. This baby was different from all other babies. This baby was special. This baby would change the world. And a group of wise men–possibly pagan astrologers, but again, I’m hesitant to speculate without hard proof–who were not Jews and did not share the religion of Mary and Joseph (or Miriam and Yosef, as they were called by their people) received a divine revelation from God that this baby is indeed the Alpha and Omega, the One who is worthy of glory, honor, and praise. After all, the men say:

“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage” (Matt. 2:2, NRSV).

This reminds me of the exchange between Jesus and Peter, where Jesus asks His disciples who they say He is, and Peter says, “You are the Christ. The Son of the Living God.” (Or some variation on that theme.) Then, Jesus essentially says, “You didn’t come to that knowledge on your own but by revelation from God.” I think this is what happened to the wise men. They were acting in response to a revelation that they received from God.

And now this is revelation that we all have through scripture. Jesus’s own words affirm what those wise men were shown by God.

three kings figurines

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Blogmas Day 12: “Agnus Dei”: Worship Pt. 1

What’s up, readers?

I kind of want to slow things down a bit and dwell with the shepherds and the wise men who came to worship Jesus at His birth. We’ll probably stick with the theme of Worship over the next few days. These are the lyrics to “Agnus Dei,” made popular by Michael W. Smith.

Alleluia Alleluia
For the Lord God Almighty reigns
Alleluia
Holy Holy
Are You Lord God Almighty?
Worthy is the Lamb
Worthy is the Lamb
You are Holy
Holy

_______________________

Worship is perennial. It isn’t limited to the moment of Jesus’s birth, but it’s also suitable. I choose to include worship songs in my Christmas playlists because no matter what time of year it is, they are still true.

Jesus is the Lord God Almighty, and He reigns over an everlasting kingdom. This kingdom will be actualized when He returns.

I want to bring us back to Colossians, this time to chapter 1. Verses 15-20 state:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in[h] him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in[i] him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (NRSV).

For Christians, Jesus is worthy of our worship because He is the incarnation/visible image of God. God in human flesh. He is holy because He is divine. He is Lord because, not only did He create dominions and powers, but He Himself has dominion and power over all things.

Jesus is also referred to as a lamb because of the extension of Old Testament theology/Jewish theology. Lambs were one of the animals that were sacrificed as sin offerings. When a person came to the temple to present their sin offering, the offering would be consumed by fire as a sign of God’s acceptance of both the sacrifice and their act of repentance. In the New Testament, the apostle John calls Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, NRSV). Jesus’s crucifixion was similar to the sacrifice of a lamb, except instead of having to repeatedly present a sacrifice every time we sin, we can depend on that one act as the sin offering that lasts for all time.

In Revelation 5:12, all of the elders and the angels sing “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

When we sing “Hallelujah” and “Worthy is the Lamb,” we are giving Jesus the same glorification as the angels, the elders, the shepherds, and all created beings. By recognizing Him as the Lamb, we are recognizing His crucifixion as the fulfillment of the practice of sin offerings and sacrifices. The difference, I believe, is in Jesus’s resurrection. Normally, when people sacrificed their lambs, turtledoves, and other animals, those animals never came back to life. But Jesus did. And His resurrection symbolizes victory. Even though our eyes can see sin and evil in the world, what’s happening spiritually/supernaturally is another story.  To sound like a cliche, we already know how the story ends. Jesus says so Himself: “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33, NRSV)

I could try to speculate as to exactly how Jesus conquered the world and exactly what that entails, but, to be honest, I really don’t know. It requires wrestling with the really big question of theodicy, i.e. “Why are there bad things in the world if Jesus already won the battle against evil?” or “Why do bad things happen to good people?” etc. And I don’t have the answers to those questions. But maybe that’s a good thing. After all, the thing about God is that God is so vast that God is unsearchable and unknowable. Even based off of what God chose to reveal to us, we’ll never be able to understand God completely, at least not in this life.

This is why–especially if you listen to the linked recording–there is such a sense of wonder and awe when we are confronted by the presence of God. Could it be that this slaughtered lamb, this paschal (related to Easter and Passover) sacrifice is really the Lord God Almighty? That this God, this Lord, who reigns in power and might, would stoop so low as to DIE? Yesterday, we talked about the significance of His birth to poor, young parents in a filthy stable because there was no room in any of the inns in town. Today, we are reminded that His birth was the first in a chain of events that led to His glorification.

Do you remember those trade school commercials from the 2000s? There was one with a young man who wanted to go back to school, but he didn’t have any money. He didn’t have any money because he couldn’t get a job. He couldn’t get a job because he didn’t have any skills. He didn’t have any skills because he didn’t go to school. (See his problem?)

This is how I view Jesus and the Gospel. I can’t talk about Advent without talking about the Crucifixion, because the Crucifixion was the whole purpose of the advent of Christ. I can’t talk about the Crucifixion without talking about the Resurrection, because there would be no victory without the resurrection of Christ. Even Pentecost fits in here somewhere, because if Jesus hadn’t died, He wouldn’t have left us with His Spirit. And all of these are essential elements to the gospel. They are all essential to the narrative.

So I don’t think it’s weird to sing regular worship songs for Advent, because all they do–especially this one–is remind us of the reason why Jesus came in the first place. It’s how we honor Him for what He has done.

shallow focus photography of white sheep on green grass

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Blogmas Day 11: “O Holy Night”

Tonight’s hymn is “O Holy Night.” Another classic Christmas carol, it was written by John S. Dwight. The music was composed by Adolphe Adam, who lived between 1803 and 1856.

Lyrics:

1 O holy night! the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope – the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

2 Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the Wise Men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend.
He knows our need — to our weakness is no stranger.
Behold your King, before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, before Him lowly bend!

3 Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!


I don’t think I’ve ever thought about the theology in “O Holy Night” before, but it is rich.

Verse 1 describes the birth of Jesus Christ and the era of hope that He represents. Jesus was born for the purpose of saving the world, like a super(natural)hero. When humans were deeply entrenched in and affected by sin, Jesus came to set us free from that influence. Our souls felt worth because we no longer needed to feel guilt and shame for the bad things we had done. Jesus’s arrival meant an outpouring of grace, rather than of condemnation. Even today, if (or, really, when) we do sin, this means that Jesus will never make us feel like failures, but His Spirit will speak to us and remind us that we are good–that we are righteous–because His Spirit is within us and because we have faith in Him. His grace is meant for us to freely approach Him for forgiveness, instead of hiding in fear and shame.

Verse 2 describes the “lowly” conditions of Jesus’s birth. Jesus, the child both fully human and fully divine, born to be a king and savior, was born in a smelly old manger–a barn with cows and sheeps and goats and–I wonder if there were also pigs there. (Seriously, imagine a practicing Jewish couple in the first century forced to give birth in a barn where there was manure and unclean animals. And then this baby is destined to rule the world?) It’s like a preview of Philippians 2:6-8: “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross” (NRSV). 

According to these lyrics, among all of His other titles, Jesus was born to be our friend–someone who can empathize with our weaknesses, especially because He was born just like us (Hebrews 4:15, NRSV). He was born into poverty. He experienced all human limitations–including death and the descent into hell. (Yet, through His resurrection, He conquered it all on our behalf).

Finally, verse 3 looks ahead to the future. This is one aspect of the messianic vision. Because of the conditions of Jesus’s birth, He is able to empathize with and to deliver the enslaved and the oppressed. For us to live according to Jesus’s law of love means seeing everyone as a sibling. Hopefully, we don’t hate or detest our siblings. Even if our relationships may be challenging, we still strive to overcome those challenges because we value the relationship that we have. Similarly, all of the siblings of Christ (Jesus) all around the world, of different colors, ethnicities, and cultures, face many challenges, either from their position in society or because of history. Reconciliation–or just conciliation, for that matter–is difficult and costly, especially when we don’t trust each other. But the law of love requires that we love each other as family. If our example is someone who would later on in life sacrifice His own life and give up His own divine privileges for our sake, maybe we could contribute to the eradication of oppression by using our own privileges wisely for the sake of others.

Star of Bethlehem Nativity

Blogmas Day 10: “Soon and Very Soon”

Oh yeah, eschatology!

Day 10’s hymn is “Soon and Very Soon” by Andrae Crouch, which is a little modern to be considered a hymn hymn, but it has been around for so long and for so many generations that it’s kind of a pseudo-hymn. It was copyrighted by ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) in 1976. These are the lyrics:

1 Soon and very soon we are goin’ to see the King,
Soon and very soon we are goin’ to see the King,
Soon and very soon we are goin’ to see the King,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
we’re goin’ to see the King!

2 No more cryin’ there we are goin’ to see the King,
No more cryin’ there we are goin’ to see the King,
No more cryin’ there we are goin’ to see the King,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
we’re goin’ to see the King!

3 No more dying there we are goin’ to see the King,
No more dying there we are goin’ to see the King,
No more dying there we are goin’ to see the King,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
we’re goin’ to see the King!

4 Soon and very soon we are goin’ to see the King,
Soon and very soon we are goin’ to see the King,
Soon and very soon we are goin’ to see the King,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
we’re are goin’ to see the King!

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.


I referred to something called eschatology earlier. Eschatology is literally “the study of last things” or “the study of the end.” It refers to the apocalyptic end of days.

What is a discussion of eschatology doing in a blog post about Advent? Well, this is all part of the second coming of Christ. When Jesus Christ was born, His birth fulfilled prophecies of a coming divine King and Savior. However, there wasn’t much He could do as a child until it was time for His ministry to begin. Many of the prophecies about rebuilding a more peaceful and righteous world will be fully fulfilled when Jesus returns the second time.

Soon and very soon we are goin’ to see the King.

We don’t know when this Second Coming is going to take place. We just know that Jesus promised that He will return. The only person who knows when is God the Father, not even Jesus, so we live and look forward to that time as if it could happen during our lifetime. (Matt. 24:36, Mk. 13:32, NRSV)

No more cryin’ there (No more dyin’ there) we are goin’ to see the King.

Isaiah 25:8 states: “he will swallow up death forever. Then the LORD God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.” (NRSV)

Death, grief, mourning, and sadness are the byproducts of a broken world. When Jesus comes to renew the world, there will be no more death or tears from mourning. Instead, there will be a celebration, maybe that of the wedding feast that symbolizes the reconciliation of God to humanity (Rev. 19:7-9).

wedding reception

 

Blogmas Day 9: “While We Are Waiting, Come”

Good news! I’m posting song #9 on day #9! No catch-up!

Today’s song is “While We Are Waiting, Come.” For the time being, we have transitioned out of the Glory to God Presbyterian Hymnal and into the African-American Heritage Hymnal, hymn #190. “While We Are Waiting, Come” is a song that has been adopted by the African-American Church and is now considered a classic in the tradition. This song was written by Claire Cloninger and copyrighted by Word Music in 1986. The music was composed by Don Cason. The lyrics say:

While we are waiting, come

While we are waiting, come

Jesus our Lord, Emmanuel,

While we are waiting, come

 

With pow’r and glory, come

With pow’r and glory, come

Jesus our Lord Emmanuel

While we are waiting, come

 

Come, Savior, quickly come

Come, Savior, quickly come

Jesus our Lord Emmanuel

While we are waiting, come


This is another one of those hymns/pieces that I love simply because of its arrangement. This is completely irrelevant to this discussion as far as Advent is concerned, but if you listen to the recording I linked to, you will hopefully hear a beautiful, rich bass section that just captures your attention. (In my amateur opinion, I don’t believe any choir or a capella group is complete without a bass section. They contribute to a much fuller and richer sound overall).

Now, back to theology:

This hymn is perfect for Advent. The lyrics allow us to imagine the expectation leading up to Jesus’s birth, as well as to express our longing for His return. It’s so simple, yet quite profound. It alludes to Revelation 22:20, which states: “The one who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

The Book of Revelation, the 66th and final book of the Christian Bible, is a prophecy or revelation given from Jesus to the apostle John, who is also referred to as the “Beloved Disciple” in the Gospel of John. After giving His revelation, Jesus essentially says, I myself am the person who is telling you all these things, and I myself am coming soon.

While we wait, we wait with holy reverence and anticipation. Jesus Messiah will come with all the power and glory that is fitting of a divine king. He will come to set the world aright, which is why many would like Him to come quickly.

(But while we’re waiting, and while we want Him to come quickly, we should still #stayready and #staywoke — Matt. 24:42-44)

While we are waiting, come with power and glory! Savior, come quickly!

grayscale photography of sitting man

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Blogmas Day 8: PEACE

I titled this post “Peace” because today is the second Sunday in Advent and as some churches lit the second candle on their advent wreaths, they meditated on the theme of peace.

Today we will be looking at songs #7 and #8.

First, “Jesus, Jesus, O What A Wonderful Child,” #126 in the Glory to God hymnal. The music for this song was arranged by Horace Clarence Boyer in 2000 and harmonized by Jeffrey Radford. It is likely that this song is a remix of an existing Christmas carol. The version of the lyrics I provided is the full length song made popular by Mariah Carey.

Lyrics:

Jesus, Jesus, Oh What a wonderful child
Jesus, Jesus, So lowly, meek and mild
New life, new hope, New joy He brings
Won’t you listen To the angels sing
Glory, glory, glory To the new born King

He was heral’d By the angels
Born In a lowly manger
The virgin Mary Was His mother
And Joseph Was his earthly father
Three wise men Came from afar
They were guided By a shining star
To see King Jesus Where He lay
In a manger Filled with hay

This song reminds me of a gospel version of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. I wrote about that hymn on Day 6, so I won’t go into much theology here. In fact, as storytelling goes, this song is actually pretty simple. The only lyrics I excluded were Mariah’s ad libs, where the choir basically sings “Jesus, Jesus” over and over.

The next song I would like to share with you all is “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” This hymn is GTG #133. It was written by John Francis Wade around 1743 and Frederick Oakeley translated it from Latin in 1841.

1 O come, all ye faithful,
joyful and triumphant;
O come ye; O come ye to Bethlehem!
Come, and behold him, born the King of angels!

Refrain:
O come, let us adore him;
O come, let us adore him;
O come, let us adore him,
Christ, the Lord!

3 Sing, choirs of angels;
sing in exultation;
sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God, all glory in the highest! [Refrain]

4 Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be all glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing! [Refrain]

I honestly don’t have much to write today. A lot of my deep thinking comes when I see songs with explicit theological themes. Here, I just think we should join with the angels in both of these songs, singing songs that glorify our Savior. Songs of adoration, glory, worship, and honour, of which only Jesus is worthy.

close up photography of candels

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*EDIT: In the original post, I wrote that the theme of the second week in Advent is Hope. That was the first week’s theme. This week’s theme is traditionally PEACE.

Blogmas Day 6, Part 2: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

Oh yeah, we’re going back to a classic! Hymn #119 in Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

This hymn was written by the one and only Charles Wesley in 1739. Felix Mendelssohn composed the music in 1840, and the version we know now was arranged by William Hayman Cummings in 1855. The hymn was most recently copyrighted in…I actually can’t find copyright information for it. No worries. Let’s sing!

(Also this is another one of those songs where you just HAVE to hear the soprano descant.)

1 Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn king.
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful all ye nations, rise;
join the triumph of the skies;
with the angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Refrain:
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn king!”

2 Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,
offspring of the virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail the incarnate deity,
pleased in flesh with us to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel. [Refrain]

3 Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth. [Refrain]

This hymn starts with the sweet baby Jesus and immediately launches into a listing of all of his redemptive characteristics. Now that we have established that the Messiah is born, here are all the things he is meant to do:

  1. Restore the relationship between God and humanity (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
  2. Embody God (John 1:1-2, 14)
  3. Reign as Lord (Philippians 2:10-11)
  4. Be the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)
  5. Be a humble servant (Philippians 2:6-8)
  6. Resurrect us to eternal life with God (Romans 6:5)

In this hymn, the angels are rejoicing, because finally, the promised Messiah–the child who will grow up to quite literally save the world–has been born. This child embodies the paradox of ruler and servant. He has come to make the world right again. And most importantly, he is God with us.

Blogmas Day 6: Caught up in the Mustard, Trying to Catch Up, Pt. 1: “Wait for the Lord”

Despite the title, I promise this is still about Advent.

I missed posting yesterday, because I had to prepare for a presentation that I have tomorrow. So, today, I will try to succinctly discuss not one, but TWO (2) hymns.

The first is #90, “Wait for the Lord,” a Taizé piece. Taizé is a type of worship music that comes from the Taizé community in France. This community is like an intentional ecumenical religious residential community that is open to all.

The song “Wait for the Lord” was written by Jacques Berthier from the Taizé Community (Communauté de Taizé) and copyrighted by GIA Publications and the Ateliers et Presses de Taize, an independent publishing company in 1984.

The lyrics are as follows:

Wait for the Lord, whose day is near. Wait for the Lord. Keep watch; take heart.

That’s it.

This hymn is based on Psalm 27.14: “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”

The way Taizé music works is that congregations or choirs repeat simple choruses. The music is useful for worship, prayer, and/or meditation. Imagine sitting in the sanctuary or in a chapel or any quiet space. The lights are low, and there may be candles lit. You’re all singing softly, just above a breath.

Seriously. Close your eyes. Can you picture it? What are you doing? Are you singing with the congregation? Are you quietly praying? Now, read the following excerpt and then read it again. On the second reading, try to imagine yourself in the story. Do you identify with a particular character? Or are you an observer on the sidelines?

Luke 1.26-38, NRSV:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

So, what did you see? Maybe you identified with Mary. A grand dream or promise has been placed in your heart. It seems too good to be true, but, like Mary, you are putting your trust in the Lord, accepting that the Lord’s word to you will never fail.

Or, maybe, you identify with Elizabeth. You’ve been in pursuit of your dream or promise for as long as you can remember, and finally–FINALLY–it is coming to fruition. You are in a season of celebration because, even though you know intellectually that nothing is impossible with God, now you have actually experienced it.

If you were just observing, what did you see? How did it make you feel?

In either scenario, is there anything that you sense the Lord telling you through the perspective that you were led to take?

 

Blogmas Day 4: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”

Today we will study “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”, hymn #108 in the Glory to God hymnal. This is another hymn that I absolutely LOVE musically. I first sang this my first semester of seminary. It has a beautiful melody that reminds me of early church chants.

This hymn was written in the fifth century by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius. (And that’s why it sounds like early church chant). It was translated into English from Latin twice. The first time was in 1854 by John M. Neale, and the second time was in 1859 by Henry Williams Baker. The tune was harmonized by C. Winfred Douglas in 1940. The most recent copyright is of the melody by Church Pension Fund in 1985.

Some of the lyrics are as follows:

1 Of the Father’s love begotten,
ere the worlds began to be,
he is Alpha and Omega;
he the source, the ending he,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see,
evermore and evermore!

3 O, that birth forever blessed
when the Virgin, full of grace,
by the Holy Ghost conceiving,
bore the Savior of our race,
and the babe, the world’s Redeemer,
first revealed his sacred face,
evermore and evermore!

5 O ye heights of heaven, adore him.
Angel hosts, his praises sing.
Powers, dominions, bow before him,
and extol our God and King.
Let no tongue on earth be silent;
every voice in concert ring,
evermore and evermore!


I like this song because it also mentions Mary. If this were Instagram, I would insert the hand clap emoji between each syllable, saying, “Stop! Ignoring! Mary!” (Okay, I’m done now.) I will get to this more in my discussion of Stanza 2, but I feel like because of the high status she is afforded in Catholicism as an intercessor and essentially as the mother of God, Protestants shy away to the extreme, with which I completely disagree. I believe we Protestants can reintegrate Mary into our religious faith and practices without putting her on the exact same level as Jesus or the Father. More to come later.

  1. “Of the Father’s love begotten.”

“For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, so that everyone who believed in Him (the Son) would not perish, but would have everlasting life.” –John 3:16.

“God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father.” –Nicene Creed

I discussed the metaphysical nature of the relationship between Jesus the Son and God the Father in Day 2’s post on “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”, so I won’t expand upon it here. However, I do want to highlight the relationship between scripture and these lyrics.

In the Old Testament, most translations use the term “beget” to mean to father or produce. For instance, in Genesis, Abraham “begat” Isaac. Isaac is the descendant or progeny of Abraham. God “begat” Jesus. Jesus is what I would term (for the purpose of simplicity) the “biological” son of God. And God begat Jesus because of God’s love for the world. In the Old Testament, whenever people or societies sinned, God would destroy them in wrath. Or, God would threaten destruction in order to get His people to repent. Not so in the New Testament. Jesus is a sign of grace. He was one sacrifice for all sin for all time. However, in order for this to come about, God had to ensure that Jesus was born into the world and experienced humanity so that Jesus could bear and redeem the sins of humanity. Jesus was not created or built or molded with clay or wood like an idol. Instead, he was born the same way we were born. And it was all because of the Father’s love for us. That instead of perishing on account of our sins, we would have faith in this beautiful exchange and be saved.

2. “When the Virgin, full of grace, by the Holy Ghost conceiving, bore the Savior of our race.”

I also discussed Mary in my post about the Magnificat, AKA “Canticle of the Turning.” So here I’ll focus on Jesus as Savior.

Words like Savior or Deliverer are not foreign to the original culture out of which Jesus came. As the descendant of Israelites (in the New Testament also called Jews, like today), Jesus was immersed in Hebraic/Semitic culture. His name, Jesus, is simply a translation of Yeshua, the Hebrew word for Salvation/To Save. Because He would be a savior, God commanded that his name be called Jesus. Another biblical character with a similar name is Joshua or Yehoshua, meaning “The LORD is salvation.” (Strong’s Concordance, entry #3091). Note that it was Joshua who ultimately led the Israelites into Canaan after Moses’ death.

Also note the concept of Grace, this time explicitly mentioned.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”–Ephesians 2:8.

God’s grace has nothing to do with our works. By God’s grace towards us, Jesus died for all. God knew that people would mock Jesus and have Him beaten and killed. Jesus knew the fate that awaited Him, but He went anyway. It was hard, and He wept and prayed and travailed, but He did it for us. He did for the sinners and the righteous. For descendants of Israelites/Jews and descendants of Gentiles. For the privileged and for the poor. For those who believe and those who do not.

I do believe, however, that we honor this sacrifice when we are led by the Holy Spirit to have faith in this great work.

3. “O ye heights of heaven, adore him. Angel hosts, his praises sing. Powers, dominions, bow before him, and extol our God and King.”

Jesus the Messiah is both God and King. He was born to usher in a more perfect kingdom. A more perfect world. His rule is pure and just. This stanza here is a prophecy. Although Jesus’s praises are currently being sung in the heavenly realms, and it is a spiritual reality that all powers and dominions and principalities (spiritual entities that have some form of ruling power) are subject to Jesus, this will yet be fulfilled when He comes back to defeat all of the evil powers that hold influence over our society.

This stanza is one of victory. We are encouraged to sing with the angels, “Holy! Holy! Holy!” in anticipatory of faith of Jesus’s return and triumph over evil. All nations and tongues on earth will join together and sing that Jesus is Lord and King.

Please enjoy this image of a lion. It reminds me of the fierce, yet loving King Aslan, C.S. Lewis’s adaptation of the character of Jesus, from The Chronicles of Narnia (which I still haven’t seen–or read).

close up portrait of lion

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com