Friday, December 24, 2010

Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful

Christmas Eve Reflection 

Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful
By: John F. Wade
1st Published in: 1767

When Jim and I were waiting for our children to be born, we often wondered what would become of them. In those days, before ultrasounds, we did not know whether the child I was expecting was a boy or a girl. We took a lot of time determining the name of the child, so it would fit with our family name, and our personal preferences. We hoped and prayed that the child would be healthy. We hoped and prayed that the child would live, first beyond childhood, and then to old age. We hoped and prayed that the child would grow up to do whatever the child was gifted to do and interested in doing.
When Mary and Joseph were expecting their baby, they had much of this information given to them by an angel – the child will be a boy, he will be healthy, he will be called God-with-us, and he will grow up to be the savior of the world. Just how this would happen was not known – at the beginning, there was no warning about the crucifixion, and no prediction of the resurrection.
Tonight, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior. We remember that God came to earth with skin on, as a baby, cuddly, cute, welcome, and adored by his parents and family and friends in the household.
Many of our favorite Christmas carols celebrate the events of the birth – we sing about Bethlehem, shepherds, mangers, angels. The angels tell the shepherds the good news, and the shepherds head to town to adore the new child. Soon, the Magi will appear, bringing gifts, and bowing down to worship and adore the child.

Let us also come to adore him tonight, by singing the refrain only of hymn # 283.
Oh, come, let us adore him, Oh, come, let us adore him, Oh, come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

This song describes, not the cute and cuddly infant, but describes who the baby really is. In the first verse of “O Come Let Us Adore Him,” Jesus is “born the king of angels.” Angels are heavenly beings, God’s messengers, often equipped with special powers. In Jesus’ story, angels announce the birth of John to Zechariah, they announce Jesus’ birth to Mary and to Joseph, and they minister to Jesus in the wilderness after the temptation. Jesus is more important than these heavenly beings.

The King of Angels is worthy of our adoration, so let’s sing again the refrain only of hymn # 283.

In the second verse, Jesus is described as, “Highest, most holy, Light of light eternal, Born of a virgin, A mortal he comes; Son of the Father Now in flesh appearing!” In other words, Jesus is equal to God – the highest and holiest being. Yet, at this moment, he is appearing in human form – God-with-skin-on. He is the very Son of God the Father.
In ancient times, the gods often appeared on earth, had intimate relationships, and gave birth to god-children. But this child is different. This child is at once a human child, and divine. Jesus and the Father are one, from the very beginning of time, beyond death, and into the unseen and unknown future.

The holy and human Son of the holy and divine Father is worthy of our adoration, so let’s sing again the refrain only of hymn # 283.

The third verse and much of the fourth verse call us to join the angels in singing our praise and adoration. The fourth verse ends by describing Jesus as “Word of the Father, Now in flesh appearing!” This is a reference to the opening verses of John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And, “The word became flesh and lived among us.” The presence of God has become visible on earth with the birth of this child and the life of this man.

The Word of God, who makes God visible to us, is worthy of our adoration, so let’s sing again the refrain only of hymn # 283

The refrain itself describes Jesus’ role in the history of God’s people. Christ is the Latin version of the Hebrew word Messiah. Jesus is the messiah the people had long hoped for, watched for, and waited for. Although he was not what many expected, he was and is the one God sent to offer us love and forgiveness. He is the Messiah – the Christ – and the Lord of all, one with God the Father.

Let us glorify God for the birth and life and gift of Jesus, the Word of God, the Christ, who is worthy of our adoration.

Let’s sing all four verses of “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful” and give praise to God for the birth of the Son as we sing.

Oh, come, all ye faithful, 
Joyful and triumphant!
Oh, come ye, oh, come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the king of angels:

Oh, come, let us adore him, 
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.

Highest, most holy,
Light of light eternal,
Born of a virgin, a mortal he comes;
Son of the Father 
Now in flesh appearing!

Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God
In the highest:

Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given!
Word of the Father, 
Now in flesh appearing!