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December 23 – O Emmanuel

December 23, 2005 1 comment

December 23 – O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel: “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.”

The Lord reigns in holiness.

Isaiah sees the Lord. He is summoned into the courts of heaven to stand before the holy, holy, holy Lord of hosts. He does not fall in fear but screams in terror, “Woe is me!”
He is coming undone.

The great and terrible Lord of hosts dwells in unapproachable light. No human can behold Him and live. He is greater than power for He precedes power. There is no power than operates independent of His life. He alone holds all things together.

He is greater the all knowledge for He precedes knowledge. There is no thought beyond Him, for He anticipates every thought and is over and above all thinking.

There is no reference to describe the Holy Creator of all things. So how can we describe this Lord of Lords, the power, this person, this pure life that precedes all things? He chooses to give us language and ideas and images that help us to grasp Him, and yet our words and our imaginations simply cannot fully contain Him. He is always greater than.

And Isaiah knows firsthand the terror of failing into the hands of the living God.

This High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, dwells in the high and holy place, chooses also to “dwell with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

In the mystery beyond mysteries, the Sovereign Lord, Creator of Heaven and Earth, chooses to dwell among humans and comes to be born in and from the virgin Mary. As the baby appears, He is both God and infant. Fully God, fully man. Who can grasp it?

O come let us adore Him.

This baby reveals the Creator in ways no one could have anticipated. He is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks. How can God be born?

Beholding the Son of Mary, we see the Son of God. Worshipping the Son of God, we behold the Father. And our eyes see and heart believes because the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father allows us. Emmanuel, God with us, reveals one God and three persons. We cannot contain the mystery, we cannot solve the mystery, but we can bow down and worship before the mystery. Our God is a loving community: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

O come let us adore Him.

This act of God becoming flesh, appearing as the baby Jesus, shakes human knowledge and delights the soul. The mystery and the beauty of the Triune God enraptures the heart and lets us a see just a glimpse of the dance of love that creates and sustains all things.

We could not storm the heavens. We could not approach the Holy One. We could not grasp the fullness of His beauty. All our paths of spirituality led and still lead around a winding mountain that never takes flight. We cannot go where He has not summoned. But He comes to us and reveals Himself to us in the baby Jesus. As St. Bonaventure says, in Jesus, He revealed “all He was, all He had, all He could.” Our as Saint Paul says, “He is the image of the invisible God.”

O come let us adore Him.

Through Jesus, God reveals Himself in the weakness of little baby, in trials of a desert sojourner, in the preaching of an impassioned prophet, in the power of a healer, in the crucifying of the King, and in the resurrected Son.

Let us be cautious for asking for more than Jesus. When we desire our own revelations, it may be a sign that we’ve never really beheld Him. He has given us the most personal, most powerful, most beautiful revelation of Himself by coming as Emmanuel. May we learn to gaze upon the glory of the Son.

He chose to reveal Himself in a particular person at particular place and a particular time. How can I grasp or even explain the glory of such a wondrous action, of such a miraculous birth?

O come let us adore Him.

There is a realization in most human hearts that the Creator is greater than our ideas. This often leads to an understanding that seeks to move beyond particularity to universality. We seek to transcend the limitations of this earth. We seek the break the illusion of the material world. So in one sense, it is easier to seek and discuss the abstract idea about God, because we realize no one thing can contain the limitlessness of God.

And yet, He choose reveal Himself in a particular person, at a particular time and in a particular place. In other words, He chooses to enter history. In so doing, He transforms history, He defines history. By His act, He reveals the value He places upon particularity. Every person, every moment and every place is significant and created according to His purpose. Nothing is by chance.

If I could but live in the reality of this one thought, it would change not only my Christmas but my every waking moment until death. Every moment is significant and according to His purpose. Every place is significant and created according to His purpose. Every person is significant and created according to His purpose.

Everywhere I turn, I am overwhelmed by His glory for His purpose is shining through all things. When I pass people in the stores, each person is significant. Every person passing by is created according to His purpose. Thus He is free to reveal His glory and beauty and love through every person I pass. O that I would learn to treasure particularity. Every time I meet someone, I should look into their eyes, behold them; stand in wonder of God’s marvelous workmanship. Behold this person created in the image of God.

O come let us adore Him.

God in His unsearchable wisdom chose not to destroy a wayward creation but to redeem it, to embrace it, to enter into it in a particular way. So that now by His grace alone, His glory shines freely in and through everything, and His image is revealed in every person. Evil is still here and sin still corrupts, but His love and His glory and His redeeming power cannot be stopped. All things will consummate in Him.

No words can contain or convey this grand vision. All that is left is worship.

So the O Antiphons have led us to the end of the Advent journey. According to Professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, if we can go backwards and consider each of the titles from the past seven days, we have Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia. The first letter from each name forms the acrostic “ero cras,” meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.”

Let us hasten to Bethlehem and behold the birth of God. As we bow in worship, we proclaim to the waiting world:

“O come let us adore Him.”

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December 22 – O Rex Gentium

December 23, 2005 Leave a comment

December 22 – O Rex Gentium
O Rex Gentium: “O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.”

The earliest ornament I remember seeing is a small, brown plastic triangle-shaped nativity with sparkles on the roof and a little scene inside the stable. They came in all shapes and sizes, and we had every variation in virtually every room.

Today a large porcelain nativity greets us in our foyer complete with shepherds, wise men, animals, hay, a well, Joseph, Mary and the baby. Our imagination places all these characters together even though the gospel stories do not. This tradition of creating a composite nativity dates at least back to the eleventh century and maybe earlier.

While most of our contemporary nativities focus on the main characters, Italian village nativities may include a host of other characters. They recreate a miniature Italian village humming with activity. There are hundreds of figurines including craftsman, village people, and more. It is as though Jesus is born in the midst of the busy activity of life.

These nativities may not accurately represent the way the story unfolds, but they do reveal a truth deep within the gospel story. The baby Jesus holds the scene together, and in Him the kings and shepherds, rich and poor, the Jew and Gentile are joined together.

This newborn King, attended by great and small alike, fulfills the very idea of king. Up until his birth, all kings were simply imperfect types. When he appears, the archetype appears and kingship is fulfilled completely in Jesus. The baby in the manger wields the power of heaven and earth. Wise men recognize this one having authority and bow down, offering homage to the source of their rule.

By claiming His throne through the cross, this king claims every throne. This king will claim all power and all rule and all wisdom and all grace and all might. In so doing, He will remove the walls of separation. We celebrate, and rightly so, the wall of separation he removed between humans and God. In Him alone, do we enjoy the mystery of the communion of love revealed in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Even as he removed the wall separating God and humans, he removed the wall between one human and another. A clear and definite wall existed between the Jews and the Gentiles, forbidding the Jews to have relationship with the Gentiles. Jesus removes that wall and literally forms one new man of Jew and Gentile alike.

At the same time, he removes the wall between all humans. Ultimately, sin isolates every person from every other person and true communion is impossible. The existentialists saw and felt this separation more deeply than most. In spite talking nonstop, we cannot penetrate the wall between us. We can sit in the same room and sleep in the same bed and still are separated by an uncrossable divide.

How could we ever hope to have peace between nations when we cannot even maintain peace between two human beings? We seem hopelessly separated by islands of thought. We use the same words but experience completely different worlds.

In the mystery of His rule, King Jesus enters into the breach between one soul and another. By the power of His Spirit, he binds us together. Our words do not simply drop into a void but the wind of the Spirit blows through our words and we enliven one another.

And now we speak of a mystery. The binding of two souls in one relationship points to the mystery of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in perfect, delightful communion.

Some feeling the weight of separation and dualism in this world, embrace the idea that we are all part of the same substance: it is only illusion that separates. I believe it is sin the separates us not only from God but also from one another.

Evil must be overcome. And King Jesus breaks the power of evil through His own life, death and resurrection. He invites us to sup with Him and with one another. By His grace alone, we are transformed to living by the flow of love. By His grace alone, can we enjoy true communion with God and one another.

From time to time, we experience but a glimpse of this perfect harmony of love in our worship and in our conversations, in our art, and in our relationships. These glimpses stir us to strain forward toward the day of His appearing when love will be made complete.

All things have been made in Him and all things will be gathered together in him. In the end, our nativities that bring together shepherd and wise men and craftsman and villagers will become reality and all will behold a cosmic nativity before the King of the past, present and future. The King who is all in all: over all, in all, exceeding all, sustaining all, filling all, ruling all.

O come let us adore Him.

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