Category Archives: Christmas

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – Theological Remix!

img_4331At our Christmas Eve services this year, we shared the wonderful poem/carol by Cheryl Lavornia. She captures the familiar cadence of a cultural classic but re-forms it into a beautiful re-telling of the Greatest Story Ever Told!  Enjoy!


Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the manger,

Not a creature was stirring, not even the strangers.

The cattle were lowing, waiting with the mare,

In hopes that a baby soon would be there.

 

See it all started some nine months back

When an angel appeared to Mary announcing the fact

That she would conceive and be found with child

He would be God’s Son, so meek and so mild.

 

And Joseph, Mary’s spouse, not wanting to make a clatter,

Vowed to divorce her quietly and settle the matter.

But an angel appeared and flew like a flash,

Into his dreams – stopping his fear in a dash.

 

The angel told Joseph the News he should know,

Gave the plans of our God to His creatures below.

“Do not be afraid, for soon shall appear,

God’s Word become flesh, and a light to all near.”

 

This baby they’d been waiting on, now seemed so quick,

So Joseph believed and took Mary, his pick

Off to Bethlehem for the census they came,

To be claimed as David’s descent; called by his name!

 

“Now Adam, now, Seth, now Abram and Isaac,

On Jacob, On Judah, on Boaz and David!

To the top of God’s family, to those answering His call,

Now make a way! Prepare the way! Here’s a way for all!”

 

As angels before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.

So up to the mountain-top the messengers flew,

To some shepherds…. and their little sheep too !

 

And then, in a twinkling the sky was their roof

And the host of angels offered some proof.

“Fear not, for behold, good tidings abound,

Good news for all people in Bethlehem’s found.”

 

“He’s dressed in swaddling cloths, from his head to his foot,

In a manger, this small baby lay put.”

The angels sang, as to heaven went back,

“Glory to God! Peace on earth; now get up and pack.”

 

Their eyes, how they twinkled, those shepherds so merry!

So they left the sheep sleeping, taking what they could carry!

The outcast, the child, the old women low,

The leper, the stranger, and all who had woe.

 

They hurried to the manger, they barely could breathe,

Their hearts were encircled with hope like a wreath.

As they spied Mary & Joseph,  they slowed down their run,

What did peace look like;  the Christ child, God’s own Son?

 

He wasn’t chubby or plump, but a real human babe,

How odd that a king be born in a stabe.

A wink of Mary’s eye and a twist of her head,

Soon gave them to know – they had nothing to dread.

 

They spoke not a word, but marveled at God’s plan,

To save humankind through Jesus, the Son of Man.

This babe would be hung up, pierced hands and toes,

But would soon conquer death, when he arose!

 

So Mary and Joseph, shepherds and kings,

All testify to the joy  that this night of nights brings!

Jesus came to stop death and sin’s dark plight,

So we can exclaim, “Happy Christmas to all,

Jesus is setting things right!”

                                             _Cheryl Lavornia, Copyright 2010

Mary’s Magnificat: Soundtrack for a Revolution

Hopelogo2The “songs” of Luke’s Gospel are many and amazing. Zachariah, Simeon, the Angels’ Gloria, and of course Mary’s Magnificat! They are sung throughout the year: morning, evening, and late nite by Christians all around the world. In preaching on the Magnificat, I borrowed this title: “Soundtrack for a Revolution” from a documentary on the “Freedom Songs” of the Civil Rights movement. I would call the Magnificat a “Cosmic Freedom Song!”  It announces our liberation from sin and death and oppression.  You can listen to the sermon audio here.

In a day when so many question if there is a God who really sees and can take action, we need to see Mary’s song in a new light. In the sermon, I reference the poetic structure below that reinforces a powerful truth: What God has promised is already as good as done! 

My soul magnifies the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,     

for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
for he who is mighty has done great things for me…

he has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;

he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
[he has] exalted those of humble estate;

he has filled the hungry with good things,
[he has] sent the rich away empty…

as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.

God DOES notice, and God HAS acted in Jesus!
We can live accordingly and join in the Revolution that His Kingdom has launched!

Be ready for the “Ah HA” moment!

Fresco, Church of the Transfiguration, Orleans, MA
Fresco, Church of the Transfiguration, Orleans, MA

The Western church marks January 6 – the twelfth day of Christmas – as Epiphany. The Gospel reading for the closest Sunday is Matthew 2:1-12. It’s the story of Magi, the “Three Kings,” and the significance is that the Nations begin coming irresistably to the light of Christ that has dawned on the world!

Listen to the sermon from Christ Church here.

God has spoken in Christ! And out of that great “Ah HA!” moment, the Lord continues to speak and to call all people to himself.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”  (Titus 2:11-14, ESV)

Are you and I alert to those “sudden moments of God clarity” that call us to faith, to godliness, to hope, to purity, and to zeal – for God’s Kingdom to manifest itself “on earth as it is in heaven?”

Let yourself be moved!

Advent Lessons and Carols @ Community of Jesus
Advent Lessons and Carols @ Community of Jesus

Advent ushers us into a feast for the senses that CAN lead to “spiritual ecstasy,”  (instead of  just sensory overload!)

I’ve been working through a wonderful book of poems by Luci Shaw called Scape. I came back today to this one called Ec-stasis. It’s from a Greek word from which we get the word “ecstasy” or literally being “beside oneself.”

Read the poem over more than once and let it sink in. I’m struck with how all our senses are conduits that God built in: to “move” us; to displace us from our ruts; to transform us. In Shaw’s words, we are “engineered for transformation!

from Ec-stasis

The music…
is described by the announcer as
moving, touching, powerful. As if
even as we listen, we’ll get shoved
around, displaced, our senses
turning us to another orientation.

So, maybe this is what is meant for us –
to be ready to be unsteady, unhinged,
beside ourselves, constrained by magic
to know the world new, to be
transposed, dislodged, ready for
realignment, reintegration.

Bring whatever it takes – for sight,
for hearing, touch, taste, sense
of smell, spirited imagination, any of
the ways we’re engineered
for transformation.


I hope that if you are local, you will join with us at Christ Church this Advent and Christmas. We are exploring the tensions of living where God has brought – and brings – A Light in the Darkness.

Here are the details for All Things Christmas.

The Real Wisdom Around ‘The Wise Men’

Fresco in Cappadocia
Fresco in Cappadocia

The second Sunday after Christmas is Epiphany (“revealing”) marking The Adoration of the Magi – or “Wise Men.” The so called “Three Kings” enter the story of Jesus in Matthew, chapter 2. There is a lot more going on here than meets the eye (or the ear, when we sing that really annoying song!)

The Magi need to be seen as prototypical Seekers! As Matthew commentator Dale Bruner points out, these Gentiles were drawn by the Star (natural revelation), which led them to the Scriptures (special revelation), which THEN led them to the Savior (God’s final and complete revelation).

Benedict XVI recently wrote a small book on the Infancy Narratives of Christ that includes the importance of this story in the Big Story of God.  This quote is from the blog of First Things.

The Magi—the Wise Men, the Three Kings—are crucial figures in salvation history, for they were the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah promised to the people of Israel, through whom all the nations of the world will be blessed. That’s not a new insight, of course; what is striking in Benedict’s interpretation of their story is his expansion of the meaning of the Magi’s journey. The “Wise Men from the east,” he writes, “mark a ‘new beginning.’” In them, we find “the journeying of humanity toward Christ.”

Thus these Three Kings “initiate a procession that continues throughout history.” Moreover, they represent more than those who have actually found the Lord: “they represent the inner aspiration of the human spirit, the dynamism of religions and human reason” toward Christ. The Magi embody the truth of which Paul wrote in one of his great Christological hymns: “all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16).

a poem and a painting about LOVE

by Hannah Mullaney
by Hannah Mullaney

Our fourth Sunday in Advent focused on God’s indescribable love in Christ and how the Church becomes, “Christmas for the World!” Each week has featured a video story and a painting – this week was Tim and Hannah Mullaney.  See the video and listen to the sermon here.

AGAPE LOVE

Jesus doesn’t love us like a man loves his wife (not EROS),

His love is far greater than a best friend for life (not PHILOS),

Jesus doesn’t hold us in a tight embrace (we are free),

Jesus gives us love with his arms agape (that’s right – AGAPE!)

      Tim Mullaney, c. 2012

 

“Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen

“The great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go God’s love for us does not.”
C.S. Lewis

Poetry Monday – Ephrem the Syrian on Christ’s Nativity

EphremEphrem the Syrian, known as the ‘Harp of the Holy Spirit’ is described as ‘the greatest poet of the patristic age and perhaps the only theologian-poet to rank beside Dante.’ Ephrem was not only a well-known figure in the Syriac-speaking world but also was well known in the Greek East and the Latin West.

I recently picked up a used volume containing Ephrem’s Hymns on the Nativity. It is a gem of beautiful and unending word pictures on the wonder of the incarnation – God taking on human flesh. Filled with quotes and illusions to Scripture, it fills the heart and mind with joy and praise!  Here is a taste from two of the hymns:

 

Blessed be the Child, Who today delights Bethlehem.
Blessed be the Newborn Who today made humanity young again!
Blessed be the Fruit, Who bowed Himself down to our hunger!
Blessed be the Gracious One, Who suddenly enriched
all of our poverty and filled our need.
Blessed is He Whose mercy
inclined Him to heal our sickness.

Today the Deity imprinted itself on humanity.
so that humanity might also be cut into the seal of Deity.

(from Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns – Classics of Western Spirituality, 1989)

Give Them Jesus!

Christ is come to save the people Whom He has created
and whom He loves.

Eastern Hymn
for the Sunday before the Nativity

Martin Luther, the Reformer, strongly challenged the church of his day (16th Century) over unbiblical practices like indulgences, that were drastically clouding over the Good News. It’s  recorded that Luther’s spiritual father at the time pleaded with him: “But Martin, if we get rid of all these things – the practices so many common people cling to – what will we give them in their place?”

Luther replied firmly and intently, “Why, Sir, we will give them Christ! Yes, we will give them Christ!”

This Sunday is the beginning of Advent – the season that leads us to the Celebration of the Nativity of Jesus.
“In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5)

“Give them Jesus!”

The Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love of Jesus!
Not religious rules, but Jesus!
Not shame, but the Healing of Jesus!
Not a new organization, but a Community of Jesus!

Joy to the world!

A book of readings for each day of Advent has been prepared by one of our pastors.
You can read or download through this Christ Church link.

Adam and Christmas Eve

Christ Church in winter

The Story of God and Man begins with the creation of Adam – the first icon, made in the image and likeness of God. Though designed to walk with God and rule the earth with him, Adam (whose name means ‘humanity’) falls and God immediately begins the great cracked-icon-restoration project with the promise of the serpent’s ‘crushing’ defeat. (Genesis 3:15) The Bible puts great emphasis on Jesus as the Second Adam. Replacing Adam One – the New Humanity has begun!

Patrick Reardon puts it this way, as seen not just from the birth, but from the death and resurrection of Christ.

(Christ) stands in defiance of Adam’s Fall…Adam no longer had the final word about the human expectation. On the contrary, a new order had been introduced; an order in which death was no longer the last chapter of history. Jesus…radically remodeled human iconography and changed the content of man’s inheritance. With respect to our ultimate destiny, Christ replaced Adam. Paul elaborates: “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam, a life-giving spirit.”
(1 Corinthians 15:45). 

Christmas Eve will mark again, the glorious coming of the Second Adam – our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
With the 5th  century hymn writer, we can sing:

Bethlehem has opened Eden, come, let us see;
There a virgin has borne a babe
and has quenched at once Adam’s and David’s thirst.
For this, let us hasten to this place where there has been born
a little Child, God before the ages.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift!
Let us Glorify Him!

Lyle

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Remix

We were blessed at our Christmas Eve services this year by the creative work of Pastor Cheryl Lavornia as she took the familiar cadence of a cultural classic and re-formed it into a beautiful re-telling of the Greatest Story Ever Told!  Enjoy!

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the manger,

Not a creature was stirring, not even the strangers.

The cattle were lowing, waiting along with the mare,

In hopes that a baby soon would be there. Continue reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Remix