Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  I hope you are having a wonderful time of celebrating Christ's coming with family and/or friends!  I am doing just that, so I will make this post short and let you meditate on the words of one of my favorite hymns.

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!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent Hope and the Magnificat

Photo credit:
I just returned from a wonderful Lessons and Carols service, in which one of the main pieces was a setting of the Magnificat.  It was beautiful to spend that hour meditating in joyful song upon the marvelous works of our God.

One thing I realized is this.  Advent is a time of hope.  Perhaps this is why, for so many of us, it is our favorite season of the church year.  Hope is what keeps us going a lot of the time.  We hope for warmer days.  We hope for healing.  We hope for freedom from sin.  But what is the basis for this hope?  It is, of course, the character of God already shown to us through the events we celebrate during this season: the Word become flesh who made his dwelling among us - our God Emmanuel.  During Advent we celebrate what God has done and look forward to what he will do.

And so we rejoice, even as we cry "O come, O come Emmanuel!"  For how glorious will be that day when he does return, when all of creation joins in the song of worship to the King who became a lowly, suffering, man so that we might know and love Him forever.  Oh, how we will sing!

Some scriptures referenced in this post (for you to ponder if you like):
Luke 1:39-55
John 1:14
Philippians 2:6-11

Sunday, December 4, 2011

candles in the wind

An Advent candle burning on Dec 4th.
Candles are everywhere during Advent.  Not only do we enjoy their light during the longest nights of the year, but they are probably the symbol of Advent - of hopeful waiting and watching, of light coming into the darkness.  I've heard that candles are a good metaphor for the Christian life.  I don't know about you, but I've always found that analogy kind of morbid or depressing.  But now, looking at the Advent candles in my living room, I find myself pondering that parallel anew.

A burning candle is beautiful.  Hardly anyone, I think, would say that a lit candle is less beautiful than an unlit one.  Even the simplest taper comes to life with a stunning elegance all its own when it is lit.  Someone might protest and think that to burn a candle means to 'use it up',  feeling that the sacrifice involved in following Christ is too much, that it is a waste of a good life.  But perhaps to remain unlit is to miss the beauty that God planned.  Perhaps our lack of trust wastes more than we know.

A burning candle symbolizes surrender.  The wax which makes up the candle is given up, bit by bit, to feed the flame.  This is not just a giving in to the nicks and pressures of time, or a pointless progression of loss in our lives.  Surrendering to the life of God in our lives is a but like the candle surrendering to the flame - something so much more beautiful and powerful than ordinary wax.  And just as the candle was created to burn, so perhaps are we created to surrender to this life of God, letting it burn brightly in us.  If only we could do it as well as the candle!

I think I need to learn from the candle.  What things are you learning or growing in this Advent?

I leave you with this excerpt of a poem by John Bunyan:
Meditations upon a Candle 
Man's like a candle in a candlestick,
Made up of tallow and a little wick;
And as the candle when it is not lighted,
So is he who is in his sins benighted.
Nor can a man his soul with grace inspire,
More than can candles set themselves on fire.
Candles receive their light from what they are not;
Men grace from Him for whom at first they care not.
We manage candles when they take the fire;
God men, when he with grace doth them inspire.
And biggest candles give the better light,
As grace on biggest sinners shines most bright.
The candle shines to make another see,
A saint unto his neighbour light should be.
The blinking candle we do much despise,
Saints dim of light are high in no man's eyes.
Again, though it may seem to some a riddle,
We use to light our candles at the middle.
True light doth at the candle's end appear,
And grace the heart first reaches by the ear.
But 'tis the wick the fire doth kindle on,
As 'tis the heart that grace first works upon.
Thus both do fasten upon what's the main,
And so their life and vigour do maintain.
But candles in the wind are apt to flare,
And Christians, in a tempest, to despair.
The flame also with smoke attended is,
And in our holy lives there's much amiss.
Sometimes a thief will candle-light annoy,
And lusts do seek our graces to destroy.
What brackish is will make a candle sputter;
'Twixt sin and grace there's oft' a heavy clutter.
Sometimes the light burns dim, 'cause of the snuff,
Sometimes it is blown quite out with a puff;
But watchfulness preventeth both these evils,
Keeps candles light, and grace in spite of devils.
Nor let not snuffs nor puffs make us to doubt,
Our candles may be lighted, though puffed out.
The candle in the night doth all excel,
Nor sun, nor moon, nor stars, then shine so well.