So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.”
Then the eyes of both were opened, and [Adam and Eve] knew they were naked; And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.
(vv. 3:7 and 3:21)
Through the ages, the church has regarded Jesus Christ as the new Adam, who came to save humanity from the tragic sin that originated from (or is epitomized by) the “old” Adam and his wife, Eve.
A theological question arises: Had Adam and Eve chosen not to eat forbidden fruit, would Christ have needed to come? Should we be somehow grateful for the First Couple’s tragic disobedience, without which we might not know the love and mercy of our Lord? This strand of thinking exists in the historical church, which explains in part why this “bad news” text is part of the Advent cycle of readings, but it can be hard to accept. Would we celebrate a cancer because of the joy of its remission? Would we embrace the ravages of war, without which we would not know the relief of armistice?
And yet, so often we hear those emerging from periods of great ruin and suffering describe how paradoxically grateful they are for their hells, because of the new life that emerged through them. I have heard people express gladness for their battles with addiction, which shaped them into new people, capable of greater love and forgiveness. I have seen a friend nearly destroyed by his divorce nonetheless embrace it as a part of the journey that led him to the wife and marriage he now cherishes. In the church, we honor the cross for a similar reason, as we acknowledge how a grotesque tool of torture and death became an instrument of eternal life. It is this perspective that allows us to call the terror of Good Friday, “good.”
The point of this is not to solve riddles (is darkness really a necessity of light?) or be persuaded to celebrate suffering or sin of any kind as a prerequisite of healing or forgiveness. Our invitation, instead, is to celebrate and anticipate the ways in which the God of our faith shines light in the midst of darkness so that even our horrors can become vessels carrying the possibility of transformation and gratitude. If Adam and Eve’s shame in seeing their nakedness led them to receive the very fabric of God’s mercy, may we in Advent look upon all that is unworthy of praise as the raw material through which we receive the joy that awaits us in Christ.
And so we pray anew the prayer of the ancient church, saying, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
As we begin this season of preparation and expectation, there is nothing more appropriate than the beloved carol, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Like much of the music of this season, the music for this carol began its life in the 12th century. The text is taken from the so-called “O Antiphons,” and is more ancient than the music. We can find references to these dating all the way back to the 6th century.
Originally, there were five “O Antiphons;” later, two more were added. The first letters of the Latin titles, from last to first, form an acrostic – ero cras – meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.”
O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
O Adonai (O Lord)
O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
O Clavis David (O Key of David)
O Oriens (O Dayspring)
O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
O Emmanuel (O With Us is God)
We will all join in singing this carol at Advent Lessons & Carols on Friday, December 6 and Sunday, December 8. For today’s recording, you will hear our own Dr. Ben Hutchens performing the original plainsong chant, in Latin.
First Sunday of Advent – The Candle of Hope
Advent is a time of hope. It is hard for us to remember this when we think about all that we have or want to do. When your family is baking, wrapping, setting up the tree, shopping, or writing cards, remember what Advent is about. When the stress, hurriedness and over-stimulation of the season happens, stop, breathe and say the word hope. Use the word hope at your gatherings, dinners and prayers.
The children of Westminster were asked to talk about the word hope. This is their response:
Dear Lord, thank you for giving us hope.
Though Christmas is still weeks away, we have been bombarded for months by Christmas commercials, all telling us what we can or should buy to make someone’s Christmas bright. As a community of Christian faith, we join in that desire to bring joy to others, though we attribute the light we share to a different source. “I am the light of the world,” Jesus said (John 8:12). Jesus also said, “I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27). In that spirit, Westminster celebrates its annual Alternative Giving Bazaar (AGB), a festival of giving that provides an opportunity to honor friends and family with gifts in their names to nearly twenty organizations supported by our Local, National and International Mission Committees.
One purchase gives rise to two gifts:
1) to the people whom these donations will serve, and
2) to members of your family, friends, co-workers or neighbors whom you enable to be a part of this expression of love and care.
The AGB is also a great introduction to the mission ministries of our church. This year, the AGB will be held after the 11:00 a.m. services on December 8 and 15 in Fellowship Hall. As part of your Advent devotion, make a point of visiting one of the tables and making a connection with the mission representative. We will also have children’s activities to help our young ones engage the bazaar. If you cannot attend, go to wpc-alex.org/bazaar to read the AGB catalog and prayerfully consider finding ways to support one of the featured groups with time, talent or treasure. Doing so will indeed infuse a measure of Christ’s light into the darkness of this world.