The “O Antiphon” for December 18 is, O Adonai (sacred Lord) and Ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the Law on Sinai: Come with an outstretched arm and redeem us.
On cold winter days in northern Wisconsin we would work in the woods. The woods provided protection from the wind and seemed warmer. Dad would set a big brush pile on fire to provide warmth. I’m not sure what we would have done, if God had spoken from the pile burning brush.
When God called to Moses out of a burning bush, he answered, “Here I am.” However, the conversation quickly degenerated as Moses offered excuses for making him the choice to deliver Israel “out of the hand of the Egyptians.” “Send someone else,” he pleaded.
Wouldn’t you have willingly and faithfully obeyed the Lord’s command? Well then, why don’t we obey him now? After all, we have been delivered from slavery to sin through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The Lord did send someone else. He sent Jesus, who stretched out his arm on the cross and bought us back from slavery to sin and death.
December 17 has long marked the beginning of the “Great O” antiphons that have been used from perhaps as early as the seventh century. Wisdom is the subject of the first antiphon.
O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth
Of the Most high, pervading and
Permeating all creation, mightily
Ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.
Wisdom is the gift of wise practical living in uprightness, justice and fairness. In wisdom, God created the world, “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens (Proverbs 3:19-20).” For us, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Only “fools despise wisdom and instruction (Prv. 1:7).”
Jesus, the son of God, knew wisdom, “He became strong, filled with wisdom (Luke 2:40).” Therefore, it ought not to surprise us that God would create our salvation with wisdom also. He used wisdom which confounded human wisdom. He sent his Son to be crucified for us and for our salvation. He did this so that no one could boast in God’s presence that he did it himself. We point to the cross and say, “There is God’s wisdom.”
On a day when the weather is moody; the news from D.C. is gloomy; and John the Baptist’s disciples ask Jesus, “Are you the one or do we look elsewhere.” comes Gaudete Sunday – Rejoice Sunday. The third Sunday in Advent. The Sunday of the pink candle.
“Rejoice,” St. Paul writes to the Philippians. And in case they didn’t get it the first time, “Again, I say rejoice.” “Sing aloud! Shout!” the Prophet Zephaniah calls to us across the ages, “Rejoice and exult with all your heart.”
Why all this rejoicing, shouting and exulting? Because, in the words of Psalm 85, it’s the time when “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss.” While “faithfulness springs up from the ground, righteousness looks down from the sky.” And wherever you go, righteousness will lead the way breaking a path for you on your walk-through life.
The One for whom you look, the Pathbreaker is nearly here, and it is to him we pray,
Lord Jesus Christ we beseech you to hear our prayers and to lighten the darkness in our heart by your grace-filled visit. For it you who live and reign with the Father and Holy Spirit, one united God, now and forever.
Gaudete – Rejoice
I had an idea yesterday that led to looking up hymn phrases in the hymnal concordance which led to this, a work still in progress.
Jesus is Born
Born in a stall in David’s City
Born of God and Virgin Mary
Born from heaven for earth below
Born to renew a world askew
Born Immanuel, Messiah
Born to set his people free
Born with endless grace and mercy
Born to die, that we might live
Born to bear our sins, not his
Born to raise the children of earth
Born to reign in us now, forever.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” asked the seminary student at the check- out desk. “I found something I wasn’t looking for.” I answered. While downstairs browsing in the stacks I spotted a book at the end of a row entitled, “Christians at the Border.” I have been thinking for some time that many of the people seeking entry into our country have been baptized into the same body of Christ into which I was baptized. Being in Christ’s body and having received his resurrection life, changes how I look at the world and my fellow members of Christ’s body. I am called to see through the eyes of Jesus Christ, through whom and for whom all things were created and saved in his dying and resurrection. For followers of Christ, that is part of the discussion.
However, the wonders of wandering had started at the entry way. When pastors disperse their library, they can bring them to the Sem and those books are made available for free. I had been searching for a particular translation of the bible, and there it was, not that I need more translations, but I use this one on line for my daily readings. And it was just the right price.
But back downstairs among the stacks having just found the book I wasn’t looking for, Bob Kolb appeared. Bob is a classmate, long time professor, and he and his wife Pauline spend most of their time in Germany, where he studies Reformation history. They had just returned. It is always good to talk with Bob.
But there is more, back upstairs and checking out the latest periodicals I discovered that Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly had devoted one whole issue to my alma mater, Concordia University in St. Paul.
I’m not much of a daring-do guy, but such wonders to be found while library wandering makes for a satisfying and exciting day, and it was time to go home and savor my treasures.
How silently, How Silently
This story comes out of Uruguay some forty years ago. It’s a favorite of mine.
The political prisoners may not talk without permission, or whistle, smile, sing, walk, or greet other prisoners; nor may they make or receive drawings of pregnant women, couples, butterflies, stars or birds.
One Sunday, Didasko Perez, school teacher, tortured and jailed “for having ideological ideas,” is visited by his daughter Milay, aged five. She brings him a drawing of birds, which is destroyed by the guards at the jail entrance.
The next Sunday, Milay brings him a drawing of trees, which are not forbidden. Didasko praises her work and asks about the colored-circles scattered among the treetops, many small circles half-hidden among the branches: “Are they oranges? What fruit is it?”
The child puts her finger to her mouth: “Sssshhh.” And she whispers in his ear: “Silly. Don’t you see they’re eyes? They’re the eyes of the birds that I’ve smuggled in for you.”
Luke 3: In the second year of Donald Trump as President, Mike Parson governor of Missouri, Lyda Krewson mayor of St. Louis and Steve Stenger was commissioner of St. louis County, during the Synod presidency of Matthew Harrison and Lee Hagen as district president, the word of God came from the mouth of preachers to the wilderness of our lives. The voice was as one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make the traffic lanes straight for Him, fill every ravine and level every mountain and hill; straighten the ess curves and smooth out the potholes. Build it so all people can see from horizon to horizon and perceive that God has saved them.”
O Lord, as You stir up your power and come, so stir up our hearts to prepare the royal highway for your Son, that by his coming we may be enabled to serve you in single mindedness. We ask this through the One you sent even Jesus Christ, who is our Lord, and lives and rules with You and the Holy Spirit, one united God, both in the present and for eternity.
Christina Georgina Rossetti was born this day in London in 1830. Her poem, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” has also become a Christmas Carol.
Herbert Brokering wrote 40 Advent Christmas devotions based on her poem. Of her opening line, “In the Bleak mid-winter” he began with winter in Nebraska, “The best window paintings of all were by Jack Frost, who painted all night to amaze us with frosted glass in the morning.” I remember those paintings on the windows of our farmhouse in northern Wisconsin.
Brokering continued: “Winter was not a night for a baby to be born outside in a barn, in Nebraska or in Bethlehem. Not even in the warm barn old Pastor Geyer had built for his six horses that we now had for our two cows and winter cats. (Brokering’s father was a pastor.)
Incarnation is about God in the real world, God in a birth in the cold. God in a barn in a manger bed. God wrapped in a midwinter, bleak long winter wrapped around cold feet and hands, cold spirits, cold hearts…God in the cold with any nation or person or baby when it is way too cold too long. God in the cold. Advent means God is coming in bleak midwinter, when things are far too cold.
Now stay us, O God, near the stable
When hearts are too brittle and cold
To wrap us in winter’s cold arms
Which in your old spring times unfold.
Snow has been softly falling all day. The Missouri Cedar in the front yard is beginning to look like a frosted Christmas tree. My mind recalls Dylan Thomas’s opening sentence in “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.”
“One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sounded except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.”
“Let’s get something fun for the yard. We’re always so serious with our figures of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus,” Becky suggested. The neighbors have whirling balls, snowflakes, and snowmen showing on their outside walls. For once, I said what husbands smarter than me say, “Okay.”
Off to Home Deport we went. Now we often hear of the ordeals of December shopping, but this was not the case Saturday. People crowded into the narrow aisles containing the decorations were polite and patient. We especially enjoyed a young mother and her three boys picking out items. When we showed interest in what they were selecting the boys gladly showed us. They reminded us of our family when we were much younger.
There was such an assortment of decorations, even a pink pig. Some could be turned on with an app. But We don’t know apps from apse from asps. I’ll stop there.
I had previously set our 50-year wood toboggan by the front door. Not much use down here where winter is like three months of Wisconsin November. It turns out Becky had a theme in mind. We now have on the green grass of our front yard a lighted penguin, a creature of the Antarctic, standing atop an igloo, a structure of the north artic, holding a fish out to a smaller penguin standing on an ice block. The toboggan is outlined with a string of multicolored lights. Standing in the corner is the holy family, surrounded by adoring creatures, a frog, a cat, four turtles and a fox. Jesus from his manger crib is watching over it all in answer to our prayer, “Savior of the Nations Come.”