The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
When it was released earlier this year, there was much fuss over the new album by award-winning singer Adele. In the spirit of Isaiah and those who would have been his first audience, my thoughts about Adele at the time of writing are: predictions yet to come true but grounded in previous realities. History kissing hope.
All too often, we limit our theological understanding of Christmas to the “babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.” We love singing about Jesus taking on flesh as we glance at our nativity scenes lit up by fireplaces and Christmas tree lights, imagining a mother and father looking at their newborn with tenderness as sheep and cows are also in awe. The Christ child is indeed Christmas, but so, beloved, is the anticipated return of Christ and the coming reign of God. History kissing hope.
For us who claim Christ, this passage in Isaiah reminds us not only of the revelation of the Messiah in the manger but a glimpse into a cosmic future with the very same Messiah. Today on this Christmas Eve, it’s here: the birth and the belief, the wonder and the waiting, history kissing hope.
O Little Town of Bethlehem
On Advent 3 we lit the pink candle in the Advent Wreath. Also known as Gaudete Sunday or Rose Sunday (“gaudete” is Latin for “rejoice”), on this Sunday of Joy we focus on the building sense of joy as we await the great festival of Christmas.
The theologian Henri Nouwen described the difference between joy and happiness: while happiness is dependent on external conditions, joy is “the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing—sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death—can take that love away.” Thus joy can be present even in the midst of sadness.
This Christmas Eve, we focus our attention the beloved carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” In many churches, the tune ST. LOUIS is most often paired with this text. This tune was composed by Episcopal priest, Phillip Brooks, in 1868. The alternative tune, FOREST GREEN, provides a more flowing melody to this gentle text and is performed by the Westminster Ringers. In the recording you will notice that the handbells begin with the tune in a minor mode, then move to major.
Christmas Eve—the Christ Candle
The children and youth of Westminster were asked to talk about the word gift. This is their response:
Dear Lord, thank you for the most wonderful gift of Jesus. As we celebrate Christmas, we are most grateful for your gift to us.
Where to Serve in the New Year
The end of one calendar year and the beginning of a new one often leads us to resolve new ways of being, new ways of sharing our blessings with others. The challenge often is knowing how and where to give that support, especially in this time when our patterns of being and doing are being transformed. Each week, the church updates a list at wpc-alex.org/serve of how we may help our local brothers and sisters.
As Advent comes to a close and we celebrate the birth of Christ, we encourage you to take a look and see where you might yourself serve, or where you may direct your prayers on behalf of those who are able to do so. Allow time for this to be a matter of prayer, so that any resolutions that come emerge from a deeper place of listening and desire.
If you have any questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.