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Death at Christmas

Christmas is a time when families get together, when celebrations are held and memories made. But it is also a time when the loss of family members and friends can be felt far more acutely. Twenty-one years ago today, I lost my beloved father-in-law, Ed Elsner. This is an article I wrote about learning to come to grips with loss at Christmas time. If you are coping with grief, may it help comfort you in the face of your loss. And may it remind all of us for the reason why Christmas is so necessary.

Advent Devotional: December 22

December 22: These are based on the O Antiphons, traditionally said during  church services from December 18 to December 24; they are also the basis for the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emanuel.” Read the Antiphon to understand what it is saying, then spend some time reading and meditating on the scriptural texts. Then pray the Antiphon in light of your reading of the Scriptures and end by singing the verse of “O Come, O Come, Emanuel.” For more information on the history of the prayers, Click here.

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae,
et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.

Isaiah 9:1-2; 58:8; 60:18-20
Malachi 4:2
Luke 1:78-79
John 8:12
Revelation 21:23-25; 22:16

Veni, Veni O Oriens, solare nos adveniens,
noctis depelle nebulas, dirasque mortis tenebras.
Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel nascetur pro te Israel!

(6) 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.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Advent Devotional: December 21

Advent 4.jpg

December 21: These are based on the O Antiphons, traditionally said during  church services from December 18 to December 24; they are also the basis for the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emanuel.” Read the Antiphon to understand what it is saying, then spend some time reading and meditating on the scriptural texts. Then pray the Antiphon in light of your reading of the Scriptures and end by singing the verse of “O Come, O Come, Emanuel.” For more information on the history of the prayers, Click here.

 

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperuit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel,
controlling at your will the gate of heaven:
Come, break down the prison walls of death
for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death;
and lead your captive people into freedom.

Isaiah 9:1-2; 22:22
Matthew 4:16; 16:19
Luke 1:79
Revelation 3:7

Veni, Clavis Davidica, regna reclude caelica,
fac iter tutum superum, et claude vias inferum.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel nascetur pro te Israel!

(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.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Advent Devotional: December 20

Advent 2

December 20: These are based on the O Antiphons, traditionally said during  church services from December 18 to December 24; they are also the basis for the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emanuel.” Read the Antiphon to understand what it is saying, then spend some time reading and meditating on the scriptural texts. Then pray the Antiphon in light of your reading of the Scriptures and end by singing the verse of “O Come, O Come, Emanuel.” For more information on the history of the prayers, Click here.

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse,
you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.

Isaiah 11:1, 10; 52:15
Romans 15:12

Veni, O Iesse virgula, ex hostis tuos ungula,
de spectu tuos tartari educ et antro barathri.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel nascetur pro te Israel!

(4) O Come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
thine own from Satan’s tyranny.
From depth of Hell they people save
and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Advent Devotional: December 19

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December 19: These are based on the O Antiphons, traditionally said during  church services from December 18 to December 24; they are also the basis for the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emanuel.” Read the Antiphon to understand what it is saying, then spend some time reading and meditating on the scriptural texts. Then pray the Antiphon in light of your reading of the Scriptures and end by singing the verse of “O Come, O Come, Emanuel.” For more information on the history of the prayers, Click here.

O Adonai, et dux domus Israel,
qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Sacred Lord of ancient Israel,
who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush,
who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

Isaiah 33:22; 63:11-12
Exodus 3:2; 24:12
Micah 6:4
Acts 7:30-31

Veni, Veni, Adonai, qui populo in Sinai
legem dedisti vertice in maiestate gloriae.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel nascetur pro te Israel!

(3) O Come, O Come, Thou Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times didst give the law,
in cloud, and majesty, and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel

Advent Devotional: December 18

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December 18: These are based on the O Antiphons, traditionally said during  church services from December 18 to December 24; they are also the basis for the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emanuel.” Read the Antiphon to understand what it is saying, then spend some time reading and meditating on the scriptural texts. Then pray the Antiphon in light of your reading of the Scriptures and end by singing the verse of “O Come, O Come, Emanuel.” For more information on the history of the prayers, Click here.

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter,
suaviter disponensque omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, O holy Word of God,
you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care:
Come and show your people the way to salvation.

Isaiah 11:2-3; 28:29
Proverbs 8:1-36
John 1:1-5
1 Cor. 1:24

Veni, O Sapientia, quae hic disponis omnia,
Veni, viam prudentiae ut doceas et gloriae.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel nascetur pro te Israel!

(2) O Come, Thou Wisdom, from on high,
and order all things far and nigh;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

The Heavens declare the glory of God

Take 3 and a half minutes to watch the video. It is trip through part of the highest resolution photo of the Andromeda galaxy yet taken.
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To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name;
by the greatness of his might
and because he is strong in power,
not one is missing. (Is. 40:25-26)

Election Day Reflections and a Prayer


The candidates for the presidency of the United States, one of whom will be elected today, share a number of things in common. Broadly speaking, their professional lives are driven by a desire for wealth; their personal lives are shaped by sexual appetites; and their political ambitions are driven by a lust for power. This trio–money, sex, and power–has been the motivation for ambitious people throughout history and in biblical terms defines worldliness. And as James points out, friendship with the world in enmity toward God (James 4:4).

In contrast, Christianity has recognized three characteristics of godly people: poverty, whether literal or poor in spirit; chastity, which is not the same as celibacy and involves having our sexuality under control and expressing it only in accord with God’s purposes for it; and obedience, drawn from humility and proper submission to authority, starting with God Himself.

To put it differently, God’s Kingdom will never come from our political leaders. It will only advance when God’s people act in obedience to God’s commands, rejecting the World and its values and sticking stubbornly to His. The political realm is important, but it is secondary at best to our call to spread the Kingdom and make disciples. And that call never changes whatever the political circumstances.

A Prayer for this Election

Lord God, you are the King of Glory. You are sovereign over the affairs of nations. Kingdoms rise and fall according to your eternal plans and purposes. We pray that your will be done in this election. We are faced with two very flawed presidential candidates; this has been true of all candidates, only this year it is far more obvious than it has been in other elections. May we learn from this that your Kingdom will never advance through politics. May we keep our eyes on the goal you have set before us: the expansion of your reign of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whatever the outcome of this election, whether it results in the preservation of religious liberty or increased pressure and persecution, may we be about your business of making disciples, building culture, and living out the Law of Love. We ask and trust that your purposes will be carried out and that the result will move your eternal plan for the world forward. May your Kingdom come. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior, Amen.

Gimli and Genesis 1

During the Battle of Helms Deep In The Two Towers,  Gimli was driven into Aglarond, the Glittering Caves behind the fortress. When he came out he told Legolas about the wonders he had seen there. When Legolas replied that it was well that the dwarves did not know about the caves because they would ruin them, Gimli indignantly replies:

“No, you do not understand… No dwarf could be unmoved by such loveliness. None of Durin’s race would mine those caves for stones or ore, not if diamonds and gold could be got there. Do you cut down groves of blossoming trees in the springtime for firewood? We would tend these glades of flowering stone, not quarry them. With cautious skill, tap by tap–a small chip of rock and no more, perhaps, in a whole anxious day–so we could work, and as the years went by, we should open up new ways, and display far chambers that are still dark, glimpsed only as a void beyond fissures in the rock. And lights, Legolas! We should make lights, such lamps as once shone in Khazad-dum; and when we wished we would drive away the night that has lain there since the hills were made, and when we desired rest, we would let the night return.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers)

The biblical mandate God gave to humanity to have dominion over the world and subdue it has often been blamed for the Western world’s plundering of the environment, for pollution, and for a host of crimes against nature. And in fact some Christians have advocated plundering the earth’s resources for our own use with no thought for the future, often on the grounds that Jesus will return soon and so what we do to the earth doesn’t matter since it’s all going to burn anyway.

Historically, though, most Christians have not understood the Genesis passage in those terms. The Bible teaches that the earth is the Lord’s not ours, and our “dominion” is that of a steward, not an owner. We were given responsibility to complete the work of creation that God began using the resources God provided for us. And this means that plundering, polluting, or otherwise destroying the world is a direct violation of God’s mandate to us. As a result, theologians such as Calvin have understood that our responsibility is to leave the earth in better condition than we received it–properly cultivated, but stewarded for the next generation to continue the work we were given.

We are thus responsible to complete the work of creation, to bring out all that the world is capable of producing, but to do so in such a way that we will be able to present it to God completed, not marred by our efforts. Gimli’s dream for the Glittering Caves of Aglarond is good example of how we should see the creation and the care we should take in developing it.