Posted by: Phoebe | December 12, 2008

Truly Advent

before-dawn

Ere Thanksgiving was over, Christmas music was upon us. I was asked to play piano at a party, and searched around for a book of lively Christmas music, discovering one in my teacher’s office. I played “Rudolf, the Red-Nosed…”, “Sleigh Bells,” “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” “Merry Christmas Darling,” (I’m fond of that one) etc. But not until I opened my hymnal a couple nights ago did I feel I was playing music having to do with Christmas. Those holly-jolly songs I played at the party do not feel like Christmas to me. In fact, I said then that they are nice sit-’round-the-fire-and-drink-hot-cocoa-and-sing songs, but not Christmas songs. Samuel, my brother, pointed out that their jollility does, indirectly, come from the joy of Christ’s birth. That may true, and I think I can call them Christmas music. But they are not music that celebrates His birth, so instead I’ll make this distinction: they are not Advent songs. The songs I love are Advent songs.

At church we played some good Christmas carols, but I was too busy to let them sink in. When I opened our good old Mennonite hymnal, that’s when Advent started to touch my spirit. That was when we started to sing about Emmanuel, God With Us.

He came to dwell with us:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

He came that He might dwell in our hearts, and fill us with love and the fulness of God.

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith

—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,

that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:17-19)

He came, that someday he might return and dwell with us forever.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:1-4)

Oh, the mystery, that God became man and dwelt among us that we might know the intimacy of dwelling with him forever! This is what Advent is, as Noel Piper puts it:

Advent is a season of looking back, thinking how it must have been for those awaiting the promised salvation of God, not knowing what to expect. And at the same time, it is a season of looking ahead, preparing ourselves to meet Jesus at his Second Coming.

And so, I opened my hymnal and saw this song, a song of the Second Advent. And it gave me true Christmas joy:

Wake, awake, for night is flying,

The watchmen on the heights are crying;

Awake, Jerusalem, at last!

Midnight hears the welcome voices,

And at the thrilling cry rejoices:

Come forth, ye virgins, night is past!

The Bridegroom comes, awake,

Your lamps with gladness take;

                        Alleluia!

And for His marriage feast prepare,

For ye must go to meet Him there.

 

Zion hears the watchmen singing,

And all her heart with joy is springing,

                        She wakes, she rises from her gloom;

For her Lord comes down all glorious,

The strong in grace, in truth victorious,

                        Her Star is risen, her Light is come!

Ah come, Thou blessed Lord,

O Jesus, Son of God,

                        Alleluia!

We follow till the halls we see

Where Thou hast bid us sup with Thee.

 

Now let all the heav’ns adore Thee,

And men and angels sing before Thee,

                        With harp and cymbal’s clearest tone;

Of one pearl each shining portal,

Where we are with the choir immortal

                        Of angels round Thy dazzling throne;

            Nor eye hath seen, nor ear

Hath yet attain’d to hear

            What there is ours,

But we rejoice, and sing to Thee

Our hymns of joy eternally.

 

By Philipp Nicolai, 1599

 

May the joy of Jesus’ birth, and the hope of his return, dwell with you richly.

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Responses

  1. Happy singing!
    Happy Hymning!
    Rejoice in God with us!

    Infant holy, infant lowly, for his bed a cattle stall;
    Oxen lowing, little knowing, Christ the Babe is Lord of all.
    Swift are winging angels singing, noels ringing,
    tidings bringing: Christ the babe is Lord of all.

    Polish Carol translated by Edith Reed in 1925

  2. Thanks, Laurie!

    Here is a wonderful quote on this same subject.

    “On this side of eternity, Christmas is still a promise. Yes, the Savior has come, and with him peace on earth, but the story is not finished. Yes, there is peace in our hearts, but we long for peace in our world.

    Every Christmas is still ‘a turning of the page’ until Jesus returns. Every December 25 marks another year that draws us closer to the fulfillment of the ages, that draws us closer to . . . home.

    When we realize that Jesus is the answer to our deepest longing, even Christmas longings, each Advent brings us closer to his glorious return to earth. When we see him as he is, King of kings and Lord of lords, that will be ‘Christmas’ indeed!”

    – Joni Eareckson Tada, “A Christmas Longing” in Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus


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