Another Advent Hymn

The hymns of Advent prepare us for the coming of Christ, just as the words of the sermon do. This hymn is another favorite of mine — it reminds us to rejoice. This is a message we need to hear at a time when we become easily distracted by the glitz and glitter of a commercialized Christmas. This counterfeit joy drains our energy and leaves us with nothing when the season ends. Enjoy the true joy of knowing Christ and the redemption He brings.

For more Advent hymns see:

An Advent Hymn

Hopeful Hymn #3

O Come

Advent and the Advent Wreath

This information was included in a recent church bulletin, and I found it informative and interesting, so I decided to share it with our readers.

Advent specifically focuses on Christ’s “coming,” but Christ’s coming manifests itself among us in three ways — past, present, and future.

The readings which highlight Christ’s coming in the past focus on the Old Testament prophecies of his incarnation at Bethlehem. The readings, which highlight Christ’s coming in the future, focus on his “second coming” on the Last Day at the end of time. The readings that highlight Christ’s coming in the present focus on his ministry among us through Word and Sacrament today.

The traditional use of Advent candles (sometimes held in a wreath) originated in Eastern Germany prior to the Reformation. As this tradition came down to us by the beginning of this century, it involved three purple candles and one pink candle.

The purple candles matched the purple paraments on the altar (purple for the royalty of the coming King). The pink candle was the third candle to be lit on Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent. “Gaudete” means “Rejoice” in Latin which is taken from Philippians 4:4. (“Rejoice!…The Lord is near.”). Hence a pink candle was used to signify rejoicing. Some include a white “Christ candle” in the middle to be lit during the 12 days of Christmas (Dec. 25-Jan. 5).

For more about Advent, see these posts:

No Advent Wreath?

Advent – Part 2 – The Wreath

“Hello – It Is Not Christmas Yet”

Preparing for Christmas

Are you singing Christmas carols at church this month? If you’re a liturgical Lutheran, probably not. The reason — it’s not Christmas yet! We’re in the season of Advent, and we’re preparing our hearts for Jesus by remembering the promises of the prophets who foretold the birth of the Messiah. We’re anticipating the great joy of His birth, but it’s not here yet. As a consequence, the songs we use are Advent hymns. Here’s a familiar one from a recent service at our church. It’s called (appropriately) “Prepare the Way, O Zion” and was written by Mikael Franzen (1771-1847).

For more Advent hymns see:

An Advent Hymn

O Come

Staying Grateful

Last month most Americans celebrated Thanksgiving. Hopefully in addition to the turkey and pumpkin pie, that celebration included some expressions of gratitude to God for the many ways He has blessed us. It’s easy to give thanks once a year, when that special day comes around. But what about every day? Especially every day during this hectic and busy season of Christmas? Do you make time to be grateful, or is thankfulness being crowded out by shopping, baking, decorating and entertaining?

A Christian friend recently sent me this prayer request:

“At this time of year, many of us find ourselves engaged in The Christmas Rush.  There are days when being grateful is lost.  I read an article recently that describes the healing we experience when we focus on gratitude rather than frustrations.  This is Advent, the time when we anticipate the coming of the greatest blessing of all—the birth of our Savior.  Let us pray we will keep this in mind and share the story of this most precious gift freely.”

Thanksgiving Day may be over, but the need to give thanks continues. Take some time every day to be grateful. Make a list of your blessings. Say a prayer of thanks. Write thank you notes to people you appreciate. Reflect on the true, permanent gift of Christmas (our salvation) and find a way to pass it on. It will be time well spent.

For more posts about gratitude see:

Practicing Gratitude

Teaching Thanksgiving

Let Thanksgiving Lead to Action

New Month/No Theme

It’s December, readers! Advent has already begun, so the Christmas season is upon us. That season that could be seen as dark and dreary if we were not looking forward with hope for the light of the world to come among us. As John puts it:

“In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

It’s not the hope of getting more gifts, enjoying more parties or even attending a beautiful worship service: it’s the hope that through the life and death of Jesus, our own lives are redeemed and made worthy. Jesus, true God, did not become man to amaze us — He became man so that He could save us. That’s what the incarnation is all about. Without His birth, we would have no rebirth, no reconciliation with God.

So this month, let’s give thanks for that birth. Any other gifts we receive are just poor reflections of the one that really matters. He loves you and so do !

For more posts about Advent see:

ADVENT MEDITATION: To You Christ Is Born by Martin Luther

Martin Luther Quote about Advent

What is Advent – Part 1

Jesus, Our Savior

Once again, a reminder that this series of posts were written by our author, Martha, as a teaching tool during the Christmas season.

Savior: We have considered Jesus as the Great High Priest, preparing the sacrifice that will atone for our sins once and for all. We have watched him become that sacrifice, taking those sins onto himself and dying on a cross to defeat death forever. Now we see the resurrected Christ, his triumph over the grave complete, granting us eternal life.  We have known about this child in the manger since the beginning of time; God told Adam and Eve that one day a child would come who would crush Satan’s head. Where Adam’s sin brought sin to all, this child will bring redemption to all. This child is the physical manifestation of the mercy and grace of God: mercy because we do not receive what we deserve, and grace because we  receive what we do not deserve.  Without the grace and mercy of God, we would walk in  darkness, but the birth of this child is the coming of the light into the world. Every baby is a miracle, but this one is the greatest miracle of all: the miracle of God’s love – the miracle that he loves each one of us so much that he would die to purchase us back from death to life.  This child in the manger has come to accomplish all that. His birth will reveal both his godly and his human natures: He comes amid the glories of heavenly hosts to a world that barely has room for him. He is visited by kings, but first he is visited by humble shepherds. He will be hailed by those who recognize him when he is presented in the temple, and then he will be forced to flee in the night to escape those who would have him killed. And in the end, he will be killed, but only to rise again and bring us salvation and eternal life.  

For more about Jesus, our Savior see these posts:

No One is Good Except God Alone

The Way to the Savior by Jeff and Abbey Land–Book Review

Make Jesus Your All in All

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Advent

This quote seemed to go along well with my previous post about really seeing those around us.

“Jesus stands at the door knocking (Rev. 3:20). In total reality, he comes in the form of the beggar, of the dissolute human child in ragged clothes, asking for help. He confronts you in every person that you meet. As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you. That is the great seriousness and great blessedness of the Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger

For more quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer see:

A Quote on the Christian Life by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Optimism

Loyal to the End — A Quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Cheer up! You’re Worse than you think!

I’m currently reading a book about spiritual formation, and the author mentions the Jack Miller (pastor, author, missionary) quote I’ve used as the title of my post. I liked it, because it reminded me of something I was thinking about during the readings at our Sunday worship service. Here are the verses that caught my attention:

“But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and fuller’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. Then I will draw near to you for judgement. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:1-5

In other words, we’re going to be judged someday by God Himself. That should strike terror in us! But often we read these verses smugly, thinking, I don’t do those things. I haven’t committed adultery or practiced sorcery…. I’m not even an employer so I can’t be guilty of unfair wages. I practice hospitality, and so on. I’ve thought these things myself.

However, Jesus teaches us to look deeper. We’ve committed adultery in our hearts if we think lustful thoughts about someone other than our spouse; the clothes on the backs of most Americans are produced through the exploited labor of people in other countries; many argue that our immigration laws and policies are unfeeling and unfair toward immigrants (our sojourners), we don’t fear God because we secretly think we’re the “good” people … and so on. I don’t claim there is an easy answer to these issues, but we must face up to the fact that we are indeed worse than we like to think. We sin in thought, word and deed and we do it every day.

Jack Miller evidently had a response for this too: “Cheer up, God loves you more than you know!” We’ll be judged for our sins, but not condemned, because God Himself has paid the penalty. That’s what Advent is really about. So be merry, not because of the gifts under your tree, but for the true and lasting gift of salvation given to those who believe.

For more about sin see these posts:

Sin and Grace

Occasions of Sin

Martin Luther on Sin

Martin Luther Quote about Advent

“For God’s ancient people that time was fulfilled with Christ’s advent in the flesh, and in like manner it is still being fulfilled in our daily life, whenever a person is illumined through faith, so that our serfdom and toil under the Law come to an end. For Christ’s advent in the flesh would be useless unless it wrought in us such a spiritual advent of faith. And verily, for this reason He came in the flesh, that He might bring about such an advent in the spirit. For unto all who before or after believed in Him thus coming in the flesh, even to them He is come. Wherefore, in virtue of such faith, to the fathers of old His coming was ever present.”

Martin Luther

An Advent Hymn

If you’re a Lutheran, you’re probably aware that “Hello – It Is Not Christmas Yet”. That means in the Lutheran churches I’ve been attending this month we are not singing Christmas carols — we’re singing advent hymns. The particular one I’m going to highlight today was written by a German Lutheran pastor, Georg Weissel (1590 – 1635). Psalm 24 is the inspiration for this hymn, particularly verses 7-10:

“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.”

In this psalm David is celebrating the moving of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. To the people of that time, it meant that God would be among them. In the same way, this hopeful hymn asks us to make our heart a temple for the presence of God.

For more advent hymns see these posts:

Hopeful Hymn #3

O Come