His Life, Our Life

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).” (Matthew 1:22-23)

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8)

Christmas Day is a time of great celebration. Some of us will open presents. Some of us will gather with family or friends to share a meal. Some of us will enjoy certain annual traditions with those we love. Some of us will remember those no longer with us, feeling both the sadness of loss but also the depth of meaningful memories. 

Regardless of what fills our day, Christmas puts into sharp focus the greatness of God’s gift to us in Jesus becoming incarnate by the Holy Spirit’s power working in the Virgin Mary. From start to finish, Jesus’ story is one of God’s life given for so that we might have life. Jesus enters our world as a baby who will grow into a man destined to save all humanity. His infancy is humble in a variety of ways: coming from glory to earth, born to ordinary parents with little reputation, growing up outside the centers of power, and more. So, too, Jesus’ adult life embraces the humility as he is misunderstood as Messiah, lives dependent upon others’ financial supply, and ultimately in a sacrificial death for our salvation.

His life for our life. This gift is beyond measure. May we celebrate Jesus as we enter into this Christmas Day.

Singing Our Faith into Our Lives in Advent

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Advent is one of the times I remember most clearly from my early years. My parents would gather my older brother and I around the Advent wreath each night to light candles and sing hymns about the coming of Christ. That tradition is one we have continued in our own family, since the time our children were young until today.

When our children were younger, they couldn’t read the words of many hymns, so we always sang the first verse and chorus of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” together. They quickly caught on and, during their earlier years, made up their own hand motions to parts of the chorus. I don’t think they make the hand motions anymore, but we still sing that song regularly in the evenings of Advent as we light the candles before reading Scripture, a devotional, and praying together.

There is something powerful about singing our faith. We experience that when we sing with others in corporate worship, whether in formal worship services or informally with a few friends or family members. Singing engages our minds and our spirits in worship. We both consciously and subconsciously enter into the meaning of the songs with our whole being. This depth of engagement is enhanced when we return to the same songs again and again, year after year. That may be why we find tears in our eyes when we sing a song that brings back memories of dear friends or family members like “How Great Thou Art” or “It Is Well (With My Soul).”

I didn’t think of it this way when my children were younger, but I realize now that we have been singing our faith into our lives for years. Every Advent, we again gather in this simple ceremony of singing, candle-lighting, Scripture, and prayer. There is not much to it at one level, but there is much more happening beyond what we see. The fabric of faith – Jesus has Immanuel – is being woven into our lives one strand at a time. The symphony of God’s story is rising up and we are joining in with it one note at a time.

So, let’s sing our faith during this season of Advent. No matter whether it is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” or some other song, may we be caught up into the symphony of God’s good story with our voice and in our lives.

A Prayer for the Fourth Sunday in Advent

Advent candles

O Lord,
raise up, we pray thee, thy power,
and come among us,
and with great might succor us;
that whereas, through our sins and wickedness,
we are sore let and hindered
in running the race that is set before us,
thy bountiful grace and mercy
may speedily help and ‘deliver us;
through the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord,
to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost,
be honor and glory, world with out end. Amen.

Source: The Book of Common Prayer (1928)

A Prayer for the Third Sunday in Advent

Advent candles

O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at thy first coming
didst send thy messenger
to prepare thy way before thee;
Grant that the ministers and stewards
of thy mysteries may likewise
so prepare and make ready thy way,
by turning the hearts of the disobedient
to the wisdom of the just,
that at thy second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight,
who livest and reignest
with the Father and the Holy Spirit
ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Source: The Book of Common Prayer (1928)