Advent 2019 – Day 23

O Come, O Come Emmanuel Verse/Antiphon 7

O Come, Desire of Nations bind in one the hearts of all mankind,

Bid Thou our sad divisions cease, and be Thyself our Prince of Peace.

Fair warning – Today is really scripture heavy.

Then King David rose to his feet and said, “Listen to me, my brethren and my people; I had intended to build a permanent home for the ark of the covenant of the LORD and for the footstool of our God.  So I had made preparations to build it.  But God said to me, ‘You shall not build a house for My name because you are a man of war and have shed blood.’

1 Chronicles 28:2-3
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Advent 2019 – Day 20

O Come, O Come Emmanuel Verse/Antiphon 6

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high, and order all things, far and nigh;

To us the path of knowledge show, and cause us in her ways to go.

Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.  For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles, foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians 1:20-24

Nothing about the story of Jesus makes sense.  Why would a Holy, Mighty, Jealous God choose to come as an infant?  Why would the arrival of a liberator be hidden away in Bethlehem?  Why would it be announced only to shepherds?  Why risk the ridicule and skepticism of a virgin birth?  Why would the news be carried by a madman in a wilderness?

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Advent 2019 – Day 18

O Come, O Come Emmanuel Verse/Antiphon 5

O come, Thou Key of David, come and open wide our heav’nly home;

Make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery

“Then it will come about in that day, that I will summon My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your tunic and tie your sash securely about him.  I will entrust him with your authority, and he will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.  Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, when he opens no one will shut, when he shuts no one will open.”

Isaiah 22:20-22

God’s words here are spoken as His people face a series of sieges.  They have seen the walls of Jerusalem breached (v. 9) and have pulled down houses to fill the gaps with their rubble (v. 10).  But as they scavenged resources and looked to their own devices for fortifying the city, God has this against His people: “you did not depend on Him who made it, nor did you take into consideration Him who planned it long ago.” (v.11)  In fact, when God called them to mourning and prayer, they chose feasting and drinking “for tomorrow we may die” (v.13) instead.

Isaiah 22 is one of the unending examples of people relying on the wisdom of man rather than the plans of God – and God is having none of it.  These particular verses are part of God’s rebuke to the steward who has been leading the royal household in this time. 

Because you have chosen to trust in what is unreliable, God says, I will remove you from this position and put my chosen, Eliakim, in your place – and he will have control over this city.  Everything he does will be certain and secure.

And right now you are thinking, “How is this Advent-y?”

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:  I know your deeds.  Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.”

Revelation 3:7-8

In contrast to God’s people in Isaiah 22, the church in Philadelphia kept their hope and trust in God amidst their persecutions.  And now Jesus has the key of David on his shoulder and tells them that He is making certain and secure their place in the New Jerusalem.

We find here this truth: Those who trust in God can rest in their security.  Christ has opened the door for us – and no one can shut it.

“After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.”

John 14:19

This, then, is our joy.  In Advent we remember not only that Jesus lived on earth, but that He lives and we live with Him.  Ongoing.  Without end. 

Advent 2019 – Day 16

O Come, O Come Emmanuel Verse/Antiphon 4

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by thine advent here.

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight.

A Song of Ascents — Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD.  Lord, hear my voice!  Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.  If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?  But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.  I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word I do hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning; indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.  O Israel, hope in the LORD; for with the LORD there is lovingkindness; and with Him is abundant redemption.  And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Psalm 130

The dawn has long been a symbol of hope and joy, its light spreading over the earth to drive out the fear of those things that so menacingly loomed in shadow, things that our eyes could not comprehend.  So too, Jesus comes as the hope bursting into our world of darkness.

The Hebrew for morning in this Song of Ascents is בֹּקֶר or boqer meaning: morning, end of night, coming of daylight, coming of sunrise, bright joy after night of distress – all fitting, and glorious, epithets for Jesus – but there is something richer for us to find here.  Boqer comes from the root בָּקַר baqar, a verb meaning to seek, to enquire, to cleave apart looking for.  It is the verb God speaks to Ezekiel when he says “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out” (Ezekiel 24:11).

Jesus the Dayspring comes not only as a source of hope, but as the fulfillment of everything that we have been desperately, single-mindedly, frantically, or diligently been seeking after.  He is the realization of all aspirations and the source of complete, fearless, Joy.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant – as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old – Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant; the oath which He swore to Abraham our father, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.  And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the LORD to prepare His ways; to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. 

Luke 1: 68-79

Advent 2019 – Day 12

O Come, O Come Emmanuel: Verse/Antiphon 3 (Part II)

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;

From depths of hell Thy people save, and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

Yes, I’m still on this verse.  And it’s only partly because I am a nerd.

Then a shoot will spring forth from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.

Isaiah 11: 1

See that imagery?  A shoot/branch coming up from the roots after the plant is cut down?  That’s adventitious growth right there – when a branch grows from a place you wouldn’t normally find a growth node.  It’s some pretty pernicious asexual propagation used by the most determined of plant species to keep coming back even when you’ve mowed it to the ground.  Know why that wisteria you planted now has a couple dozen clones coming up throughout your yard?  Adventitious growth. And here we’ve got the stubborn remnant of God’s people popping back up after being mowed down by years of oppression – adventitious growth! 

Ok, end of bio-nerd geek out.

Why I’m really still on the references to Jesus as the rod of Jesse is because there is more to unpack; they speak so well to what He has done, is doing, and will do.

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Advent 2019 – Day 10

O Come, O Come Emmanuel: Verse/Antiphon 3

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;

From depths of hell Thy people save, and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.  The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.  And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear, but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.

Isaiah 11:1-4

Just before he speaks of the coming stem/rod of Jesse, Isaiah tells of God’s coming wrath toward the Assyrians and all those who “enact evil statutes,” “record unjust decisions,” “deprive the needy of justice, and “rob the poor of [their] rights.” (Isaiah 10:1-2) On the heels of this vengeance, one might expect the rod of Jesse to be depicted as a warrior in the spirit of David, or as a glorious king in the spirit of Solomon.

Instead, the stem of Jesse comes in the Spirit of the LORD, and His character is one of wisdom, understanding, counsel, and righteous judgement.  God, Himself, has laid out a plan for vengeance on the oppressor. Now He speaks to the core need of His people – because cries for vengeance really come from the unfulfilled need for justice.

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Advent 2019 – Day 5


Verse 2

O Come, O Come, Thou Lord of might, who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height,

in ancient times did give the law in cloud and majesty and awe.

If you asked me to write a couplet based on the prophecy of one called the Lord of might, or mighty God, coming for His people, I would instinctively be inclined to a much different angle.  After all, the people of Israel were often under attack – in need of a mighty God to be their champion; or else they were in captivity – in need of a mighty God to be their liberator.

So why would the author of this antiphon choose instead to highlight the Lord of might as the giver of the law?  Surely there are any number of other monikers with which this would pair better. Continue reading