Category : Advent

Peter Kreeft on the Meaning of Christmas

Let’s apply the spiritual sense of the Christmas story to our lives. For that story happens not only once, in history, but also many times in each individual’s soul. Christ comes to the world but He also comes to each of us. Advent happens over and over again.

Christmas is so familiar that we sometimes wonder whether anything fresh and true can be said about it.

But there is a way to explore its meaning that may seem new to us today, yet is in fact quite traditional, dating back to the Middle Ages and the ancient Fathers of the Church.
Modern interpreters often argue about whether a given Scripture passage should be interpreted literally or symbolically. Medieval writers would question the “either/or” approach. They thought a passage could have as many as four “right” interpretations, one literal and three symbolic.

These were: (1) the historical or literal, which is the primary sense on which the others all depend; (2) the prophetic sense when an Old Testament event foreshadows its New Testament fulfillment; (3) the moral or spiritual sense, when events and characters in a story correspond to elements in our own lives; and (4) the eschatological sense, when a scene on earth foreshadows something of heavenly glory.

This symbolism is legitimate because it doesn’t detract from the historical, literal sense, but builds on and expands it. It’s based on the theologically sound premise that history too symbolizes, or points beyond itself, for God wrote three books, not just one: nature and history as well as Scripture. The story of history is composed not only of “events,” but of words, signs and symbols. This is unfamiliar to us only because we have lost a sense of depth and exchanged it for a flat, one-dimensional, “bottom-line” mentality in which everything means only one thing.

Let’s try to recapture the riches of this lost worldview by applying the spiritual sense of the Christmas story to our lives. For that story happens not only once, in history, but also many times in each individual’s soul. Christ comes to the world ”” but He also comes to each of us. Advent happens over and over again.

Read it all.

Posted in Advent, Christmas

A Prayer to Begin the Day from James Todd

O God, who didst promise that thy glory should be revealed, and that all flesh should see it together: Stir up our hearts, we beseech thee, to prepare the way of thine only begotten Son; and pour out upon us thy loving kindness, that we who are afflicted by reason of our sins may be refreshed by the coming of our Saviour, and may behold his glory; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth one God, world without end.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Frederick Macnutt

O Thou Who when Thou comest wilt take account of Thy servants: remember for good Thine eternal pact and promise in Thy Cross and Resurrection; in judgement forget not mercy; take not from us the help and comfort of Thy Holy Spirit; and suffer us not at that last hour to fall from Thee; Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory

O God of hope, fill us, we beseech thee, with all joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope by the power of thy Holy Spirit, and show forth our thankfulness to thee in trustful and courageous lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: Services of Praise and Prayer for Occasional Use in Churches (New York: Oxford University Press, 1933)

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Bishop William Walsham How

O Heavenly Father, whose most dearly beloved Son has come once to save the world, and will come again to judge the world: Help us, we pray thee, to watch like servants who wait for the coming of their lord. May we abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost; and, having this hope, may we purify ourselves by thy grace, even as Christ is pure. Grant this, O Father, for his sake and for the glory of thy holy name.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Scottish Prayer Book

O Lord Jesus Christ, before whose judgment-seat we must all appear and give account of the things done in the body: Grant, we beseech thee, that when the books are opened in that day, the faces of thy servants may not be ashamed; through thy merits, O blessed Saviour, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from a New Prayer Book

O God, who didst send thy messengers and prophets to prepare the way of thy Son before him: Grant that our Lord when he cometh may find in us a dwelling prepared for himself; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who came to take our nature upon him that he might bring many sons unto glory, and now with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, ever one God, world without end.

–A New Prayer Book (London: Oxford University Press 1923)

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the United Lutheran Church

O Lord God, heavenly Father, who through thy Son hast revealed to us that heaven and earth shall pass away: We beseech thee to keep us steadfast in thy Word and in true faith; graciously guard us from all sin and preserve us amid all temptations, so that our hearts may not be overcharged with the cares of this life, but at all times in watchfulness and prayer we may await the return of thy Son and joyfully cherish the expectation of our eternal salvation; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

(CaPC) Kaitlyn Schiess–Advent Is Actually Quite Political

One of my favorite hymns, “O Holy Night,” for example, has explicit political implications: it connects the arrival of our Savior with these deeply political actions:

“Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name all oppression shall cease.”

This is the version we’ve sung since 1847, when the original song was altered slightly by American writer John Sullivan Dwight in order to reflect abolitionist beliefs during the Civil War. What once focused merely on Christ’s view of humanity—“He sees a brother where there was only a slave”—the updated lyrics reflect a more active role of Christ’s work of redemption. Yet when we gather together during this season and sing this song, once used in the deeply political fight against slavery, the churches that “don’t get political” try to convince themselves that being apolitical is (and had always been) the proper orientation of the church. But nothing could be as perpetually relevant or beautiful than the radical and eschatological idea that Jesus came to end oppression. In his book Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear, Dr. Matthew Kaemingk asks, “What should we the church do in the emerging age of fear and reactionary politics? We should sing old hymns and wrestle with their subversive political implications.”

Perhaps we should even take a cue from abolitionist Christians and be unafraid of writing political hymns and sermons for our own era. It is easy to look back on past political issues and claim that they were merely “moral” or “theological,” but in the midst of the controversy, they were deeply political. Our theological convictions have political weight, and holy indignation is an appropriate response to chains that enslave and systems that oppress. By acknowledging the injustices of our own day, we can mourn the state of our fallen world and confess the ways we have been complicit in them. Awareness of what’s broken is the first step toward subverting it.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Advent, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CT Women) Elisabeth Kincaid–Bonhoeffer: Advent Is Like a Prison Cell

When we consider this second double movement of Advent—the coming of the Lord in judgment and the coming of the child Jesus—we realize that God demands more than we could ever imagine or accomplish. We also realize that, by becoming one of us in the Incarnation, Christ has already accomplished all.

Finally, what do we do during this waiting? Bonhoeffer identifies Christians with the servants in Luke 12 who keep their lamps burning while waiting for the bridegroom. Because we know the bridegroom will come, our waiting is not passive or resigned. Rather, like Joseph and the servants, we learn to wait actively for God’s promises to be fulfilled.

We also learn how to live out the radical freedom that comes from God’s promise already being fulfilled. Most fundamentally, we are set free from captivity within ourselves. This freedom, says Bonhoeffer, releases us from “thinking only of [ourselves], from being the center of my world, from hate, by which I despise God’s creation. It means to be for the other: the persons for others. Only God’s truth can enable me to see the other as he really is.”

Bonhoeffer lived out this Advent waiting in his own prison cell. Although the door was locked and his life was collapsed in rubble around him, he still clung to the knowledge of his freedom in Christ, and he did so through the practice of Advent. In a letter sent to his parents, he described how an Altdorfer Nativity scene “in which one sees the holy family with the manger amidst the rubble of collapsed house … is particularly timely.” Amid the upending of the world, the fear of death, and the knowledge of our own failings and captivity, “even here one can and ought to celebrate Christmas.”

Read it all.

Posted in Advent, Theology

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Church of South India

Almighty God, who in many and various ways didst speak to thy chosen people by the prophets, and hast given us, in thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the hope of Israel: Hasten, we beseech thee, the coming of the day when all things shall be subject to him, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Harold Anson

O great and glorious God, holy and immortal, who searches out the policies of nations and tries the hearts of men: Come, we pray thee, in judgment, upon the nations of the world; come and bring to destruction all that is contrary to thy holy will for mankind, and cause the counsels of the wicked to perish. Come, O Lord, into our hearts, and root out from them that thou seest, and we cannot see, to be unlike the Spirit of thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Prayers for the Christian Year

Almighty and everlasting God, who orderest all things in heaven and on earth: We give thee thanks and praise that thou didst make all ages a preparation for the coming of thy Son, our blessed Redeemer. Prepare us for the coming of him whom thou dost send, and grant that of his fullness we may all receive; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Prayers for the Christian Year (SCM, 1964)

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Day from Richard Acland

Grant, O Lord, that we who once again prepare for the commemoration of the coming of thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, may so direct our hearts to the fulfillment of thy law, that he may now accept our hosannas, and in the life to come receive us in the heavenly Sion; where with thee and the Holy Ghost he liveth and reigneth, ever one God, world without end.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Richard Baxter

Keep us, O Lord, while we tarry on this earth, in a serious seeking after thee, and in an affectionate walking with thee, every day of our lives; that when thou comest, we may be found not hiding our talent, nor serving the flesh, nor yet asleep with our lamp unfurnished, but waiting and longing for our Lord, our glorious God for ever and ever.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Gelasian Sacramentary

We beseech thee, O Lord, to purify our consciences by thy daily visitation; that when thy Son our Lord cometh, he may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

(1st Things) Peter Leithart–Angels of Advent

…angel spottings become less frequent as the Hebrew Bible progresses. In 1-2 Samuel, the angel of the Lord appears only once; in 1-2 Kings, only three times. The angel guides Israel from Egypt in the first exodus, but no angels lead Israel’s second exodus from Babylon.

So, it’s a shock to turn from Malachi and find the next page teeming with angels. Nowhere in the Old Testament is there a cluster of angelophanies like those in the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke. Joseph dreams of angels. An angel tells him to take Mary as his wife (Matt. 1:20, 24), instructs him to flee from Herod (Matt. 2:13), and assures him it’s safe to return home (Matt. 2:19). Gabriel visits Zecharias in the temple to announce the birth of John (Luke 1:11-13) and brings Mary news of the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38). An angel heralds Jesus’s birth to shepherds (Luke 2:9-10), and then he’s joined by a multitude of angels praising God (Luke 2:13).

We’re so familiar with this Christmas scene that we don’t realize how unique it is. Among the saints of Israel, only Jacob saw what those shepherds saw, the hosts of heaven, and Jacob didn’t hear them sing. In the old covenant, angelic hosts stayed put in heaven, worshipping at the heavenly throne. With the birth of Jesus, heaven comes to earth. As they sang to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14).

Read it all.

Posted in Advent, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Scottish Prayer Book

Grant, O Almighty God, that as thy blessed Son Jesus Christ at his first advent came to seek and to save that which was lost, so at his second and glorious appearing he may find in us the fruits of the redemption which he wrought; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God world without end.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

Music for Advent Sunday–Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending (with words by Charles Wesley)


The lyrics are:

Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favoured sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign

Every eye shall now behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.

The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshippers;
With what rapture, with what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!

Yea, amen; let all adore thee,
High on thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory;
Claim the kingdoms for thine own:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Thou shalt reign, and thou alone.

Posted in Advent, Church History, Liturgy, Music, Worship

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Gelasian Sacramentary

Make us, we beseech thee, O Lord our God, watchful and heedful in awaiting the coming of thy Son Christ our Lord; that when he shall come and knock, he shall find us not sleeping in sin, but awake and rejoicing in his praises; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

Bishop of London launches Advent App as new research shows 39% of population will celebrate the season

The new app, available for iOS and Android, includes an introduction to Advent written by Bishop Sarah, who was installed as the 133rd Bishop of London at St Paul’s Cathedral on 12th May.

Bishop Sarah writes that:

“During St Paul’s Cathedral’s dramatic Advent service, a procession moves from darkness to light, mirrored by music and words, reflecting hope and despair. To appreciate the light and hope, you need to wait in the darkness. Advent is a time to be still in the midst of our busy lives. We should make space in the darkness to appreciate the light, and to find time to focus on hope.”

The app also includes a short daily Advent meditation, suitable for Christians or people on the edges of faith who wish to make the most of the season. SPCK’s most recent app, for Thy Kingdom Come 2018, was recently selected as App of the Year at the Premier Digital Awards 2018.

SPCK..[recently] released research from ComRes showing that 92% of British adults are aware of Advent, and 39% expect to do something to celebrate it….

Read it all.

Posted in Advent, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

A medieval friar’s cheery carol for the end of Advent: ‘Farewell Advent, Christmas is come!’

 

15. This time of Christ’s feast natal,
We will be merry, great and small,
And thou shalt go out of this hall;
Farewell from us both all and some!

16. Advent is gone, Christmas is come;
Be we merry now, all and some!
He is not wise that will be dumb
In ortu Regis omnium. [At the coming of the King of all things]

Read it all from Eleanor Parker.

Posted in Advent, Christmas, Church History

A Prayer for the Day from James Todd

O God, who didst promise that thy glory should be revealed, and that all flesh should see it together: Stir up our hearts, we beseech thee, to prepare the way of thine only begotten Son; and pour out upon us thy loving kindness, that we who are afflicted by reason of our sins may be refreshed by the coming of our Saviour, and may behold his glory; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth one God, world without end.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Prayers for the Christian Year

Lord God Almighty, King of glory and love eternal, worthy art thou at all times to receive adoration, praise, and blessing; but especially at this time do we praise thee for the sending of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, for whom our hearts do wait, and to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, be honour and dominion, now and for ever.

–Prayers for the Christian Year (SCM, 1964)

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

Poetry for a Friday–Edwin Muir’s ‘Transfiguration’

But he will come again, it’s said, though not
Unwanted and unsummoned; for all things,
Beasts of the field, and woods, and rocks, and seas,
And all mankind from end to end of the earth
Will call him with one voice. In our own time,
Some say, or at a time when time is ripe.
Then he will come, Christ the uncrucified,
Christ the discrucified, his death undone,
His agony unmade, his cross dismantled—
Glad to be so—and the tormented wood
Will cure its hurt and grow into a tree
In a green springing corner of young Eden,
And Judas damned take his long journey backward
From darkness into light and be a child
Beside his mother’s knee, and the betrayal
Be quite undone and never more be done

Read it all.

Posted in Advent, Poetry & Literature

A Prayer to Begin the Day from The Prayer Manual

O Day-Spring, splendour of the light eternal, Sun of Righteousness: come, enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death. O King of nations, Whom they long for, Corner-stone Who makest all one, come and save mankind, whom Thou didst fashion out of the dust. O Emmanuel, our King and Law-giver, Desire of all nations and their Saviour: come and save us, O Lord our God.

–Frederick B. Macnutt, The prayer manual for private devotions or public use on divers occasions: Compiled from all sources ancient, medieval, and modern (A.R. Mowbray, 1951)

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Frederick Macnutt

O Thou Who when Thou comest wilt take account of Thy servants: remember for good Thine eternal pact and promise in Thy Cross and Resurrection; in judgement forget not mercy; take not from us the help and comfort of Thy Holy Spirit; and suffer us not at that last hour to fall from Thee; Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon–Will You be Ready When Christ Comes? Learning from John the Witness (John 1:9-28)

You can listen directly here and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Advent, Eschatology, Ministry of the Ordained, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology: Scripture

(CT) Carolyn Arends–Advent Is a Season of Longing

A season that is all about family can be a desperately lonely time for people who find themselves living in isolation, grieving the loss of a loved one, or trying to cope with family stress. And for those of us who follow the church calendar, if Advent happens to come at a time when we are in a spiritually barren place, the call to open up our hearts to the season can intensify our experience of doubt or alienation.

Undoubtedly, some people are just not “feeling it” this Advent, due to temperament or circumstance or who knows what. Perhaps the season finds you at a South Pole of sadness or in a wilderness of spiritual alienation. If that’s the case, it’s important to remember that Advent is a season all about longing and emptiness and waiting. It is a season set aside to help us realize that we need deliverance from our current condition.

Read it all.

Posted in Advent, Theology

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Non-Jurors’ Prayer Book

O Thou, Who hast foretold that Thou wilt return to judgement in an hour that we are not aware of: grant us grace to watch and pray always; that whether Thou shalt come at even, or at midnight, or in the morning, we may be found among the number of those servants who shall be blessed in watching for their Lord; to whom be all glory now and for evermore.

–Frederick B. Macnutt, The prayer manual for private devotions or public use on divers occasions: Compiled from all sources ancient, medieval, and modern (A.R. Mowbray, 1951)

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer