Fourth Sunday of Advent

Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see, evermore and evermore!

At His Word the worlds were framèd; He commanded; it was done:
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean in their threefold order one;
All that grows beneath the shining
Of the moon and burning sun, evermore and evermore!

He is found in human fashion, death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam’s children doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish
In the dreadful gulf below, evermore and evermore!

O that birth forever blessèd, when the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving, bare the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face, evermore and evermore!

This is He Whom seers in old time chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord, evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him; angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing, evermore and evermore!

Righteous judge of souls departed, righteous King of them that live,
On the Father’s throne exalted none in might with Thee may strive;
Who at last in vengeance coming
Sinners from Thy face shalt drive, evermore and evermore!

Thee let old men, thee let young men, thee let boys in chorus sing;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens, with glad voices answering:
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And the heart its music bring, evermore and evermore!

Christ, to Thee with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving, and unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory, evermore and evermore!

~Aurelius Prudentius, 5th Cen­tu­ry (Corde na­tus ex pa­ren­tis); trans­lat­ed from Latin to Eng­lish by John M. Neale, 1854, and Henry W. Baker, 1859.~

This morning one of our pastors preached an Advent sermon on Psalm 118. I can’t even begin to tell you how perfectly this sermon “hit home” for us today. What a truly pastoral message, the deep sense of that word. When it gets online, you should take a listen to it here (the sermon for 12/19/2010).

You are part of Christ’s advent to the world. So, suffer with Him.
Live by faith in Him in the middle of all your mess.
He will vindicate us and lead us to glory
~Pastor Alexander~

At our parish meeting’s (i.e. “small group” if that’s a familiar term to you) Christmas party this evening, after finger-food and visiting (and before prayer and singing), we read the nativity passage from Luke, focusing on the gift the angels proclaimed to the shepherds. And then we went around the room sharing some gift the Lord had given each person this year. That is such a… um… hard question for Steven and me right now. We looked at each other through a little grimace. People shared about new life, new loves, new jobs, new homes, new cars, new friendships. When it got around to us, we told the truth. That it’s hard to see gifts for our family in the last year. But that they are there: they are simply gifts in grief. We received the gift of three more jewels in our crown in heaven this year. I have so much trouble seeing that as a gift. But, sigh, Trojan though it may be, it is a gift. And then we have seen the body of Christ in a way we never saw prior to this year. And that, perhaps, is the biggest gift of all. Being rallied around, upheld, and grieved with. And so tonight my heart feels heavy–physically heavy in a way I can not even begin to explain–as I try to see these gifts through tear-filled, puffy eyes.

Come, Lord Jesus. I grow weary of this world. Weary of the pain, the tears, the grief, the death. I groan at the suffering. You who knew the deepest suffering of all, come and lift my burden. You came in flesh in Bethlehem… I know that one day You will come again in glory, and call me from my grave, and I will arise with never a tear to grace my cheek again. Oh Lord, come.

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