Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve Sermon from The Bishop's Wife

There's a Christmas classic that doesn't get quite as much attention as some of the others, but it's message is just as heart warming and inspiring and that is the 1947 classic "The Bishop's WIfe" Cary Grant stars as an angel who has come to help out a bishop - David Niven who has lost his way. 

Ah if only we could all have Cary Grant come down and set us straight!

The movie ends with the bishop preaching the following sermon on Christmas Eve (of course the angel wrote it for him) and it's still good today.

Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking. Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child's cry, a blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts.

We haven't forgotten that night down the centuries. We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells, and with gifts.

But especially with gifts. You give me a book, I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry can do with a new pipe.

For we forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one.

And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger.

Its his birthday we're celebrating. Don't let us ever forget that.

Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share, loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance.

All the shinning gifts that make peace on earth.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Imanuel~ God with us

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel.Isaiah 7:14
O come, o come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
This is the promise of Christmas. 

God with us. 

For now is hidden and we must rely solely on faith and trust that he comes to us in bread and wine, in the water of baptism, wherever an act of kindness is done for another. 

As much as we long to see his presence more clearly among us, I suspect that if we cannot see him in those things, we may be unable to see him in his glory as well.
O Emmanuel, you are our King and Judge, the One whom the peoples await and their Savior. O come and save us, Lord our God.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I don't CARE if you say Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or get out of my way!

I’m always dumbfounded at what causes some Christians choose to go to the mat fighting for their Lord. 

Like Christmas. Like getting mad at Wal-Mart for not saying Merry Christmas. Like wanting to BOYCOTT stores who won’t say “Merry Christmas” 

Hey I’m all for boycotting Wal-Mart. Boycott Wal-Mart for their anti-labor policies, crappy way they treat their employee, how they put companies out of business for refusing to pay a fair price for their goods, or the fact that they ruin small town business. 

 But not for not saying Merry Christmas.

Really? Frankly I would prefer that Wal-mart and ALL the merchandisers who see this holy time as profit making time would find another word for my religious holiday. 

 Please don’t wish me a Merry Christmas because I worship a different God than you. Or at least I should be worshiping a different God.

What is Christian about forcing others to acknowledge our religious observance? 

When did Jesus tell us to force everyone to celebrate his birth?

Christmas carols in school concerts? 

Well I just don’t get the controversy. I grew up in a school district with lots of Jewish kids. We never had to do anything in school on Jewish holidays because so many kids would be absent it wasn’t worth doing anything important. We sang Hanukah songs (and I still know all the words to a lot of them) AND Christmas songs. 

Why can’t we sing ALL of the cultural and religious songs of the season instead of vague songs about winter? 

 I live in Iowa. I don’t WANT to sing or hear songs about WINTER thank you very much. 

I think this so called war on Christmas is just laziness on the part of Christians. 

Much easier to write a letter to Wal-Mart complaining about their holiday greeting than to do something like, you know, feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit those in prison.

Rex Gentium King of Gentiles ~ Sixth Antiphon

And he shall judge the Gentiles, and rebuke many people: and they shall turn their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they be exercised any more to war.
Isaiah 2:4
O come, Desire of nations, bind,
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of peace

Peace on earth is the wish and dream of Christmas. 

The image of the anointed one of the God of Israel who is also King of the Gentiles symbolizes the longing for all peoples to be gathered into one kingdom of peace and justice.
O King, whom all peoples desire, you are the cornerstone which make us all one. O come and save humankind whom you made from clay

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fifth Antiphon – Radiant Dawn

Oriens – Radiant Dawn, Dayspring

The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen. Isaiah 9:2

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.

It is no coincidence that the church chose to celebrate the coming of the Light of the World during the dark of winter when people long for sunlight to break open the cold and dark. 

 There is still much darkness in the world and we long for the brightness of God's love. 

 It doesn't take much light to change the darkness. God's light has already begun to break through and we bear that that light today even as we long for the time when we no longer need the sun or the moon.

O Rising Sun, you are the splendor of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. Amen.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fourth Antiphon – “Clavis” Key of David

And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open.
Isaiah 22:22
O come, thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
They hymn speaks of Jesus opening heaven for us but there is so much more for us to be freed from before heaven. 

To me the O antiphons call for Christ to come today and make his kingdom present now while we wait for the final redemption. 

What is keeping you today from being all that God has called you to be?

What is keeping you from answering his call today. Today's antiphon is a prayer to be set free today to be God's hands and feet in his world today.

O key of David and Scepter of Israel, what you open no one can close again; what you close no one can open. O come and lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Root of Jesse Third Antiphon

Radix Jesse – Root of Jesse

And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root.
Isaiah 11:1

O come, O Rod of Jesse free,
Thine own from Satan's tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o'er the grave.

Jesse was King David's father. Isaiah's reference to the "root of Jesse" reminded the people that though it seemed as though Israel had been destroyed, a root remained. 

 There would always be a remnant of God's people. 

 The root of Jesse was a symbol of hope that God would restore his people. In this prayer we call upon Jesus, descended from David to come and establish his Kingdom among his people.

O stock of Jesse, you stand as a signal for the nations; kings fall silent before you whom the peoples acclaim. O come to deliver us, and do not delay.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Second Antiphon - Adonai

But he shall judge the poor with justice, and shall reprove with equity the meek of the earth: and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. And justice shall be the girdle of his loins: and faith the girdle of his reins. Isaiah 11:4-5

The second of the Advent Antiphons deals with the longing for God's coming justice.

 There is so much suffering and injustice in the world and we long for God's anointed to come and set things right. But often what we want is justice for others and mercy for ourselves. 

 God is both merciful and just, which is a combination of attributes that is often difficult for us to reconcile. Until Jesus returns to bring us into his kingdom of perfect compassion and justice, we are called to live lives of compassion and mercy.

O Lord and Ruler the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: come, and redeem us with outstretched arms.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

First of the Advent O Antiphons

The “Oh Antiphons” are an ancient tradition of the church.

They are prayers that begin today, December 17 and continue until Christmas Even Each begins with the exclamation "O" and ends with a plea for the Messiah to come. 

As Christmas approaches the cry becomes increasingly urgent. The hymn “Oh Come Oh Come Emanuel” is based upon the antiphons.

The first letter of each invocation, when read backwards, forms an acrostic in Latin: the first letters of Sapientia, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex, and Emmanuel in reverse form the Latin words: ERO CRAS. 

 These can be understood as the words of Christ, responding to his people's plea, saying "Tomorrow I will be there."

Today’s Antiphon is Sapientia, Wisdom .

And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness. And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord, He shall not judge according to the sight of the eyes, nor reprove according to the hearing of the ears.Isaiah 11:2-3
O Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, come to teach us the way of prudence!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Las Posadas December 16

In Mexico the Christmas festivities begin December 16 with Las Posadas. It is the beginning of nine days of celebration for the nine months Mary carried Jesus in her womb. I think this is a wonderful tradition that reminds us of the plight of the homeless during this time when it is tempting to focus on ourselves and our own cozy homes and families.

The posadas re-enact Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter; in Spanish, the word means "lodging."

Traditionally, a party is held each night in a neighborhood home. At dusk, guests gather outside the house with children dressed as shepherds, angels and sometimes, Mary and Joseph. An angel leads the procession, followed by Mary and Joseph or by guests carrying their images. The adults follow, carrying lighted candles.

The "pilgrims" sing a song asking for shelter, and the hosts sing a reply, finally opening the doors to the guests and offering festive foods. The party ends with a piƱata in the shape of the Christmas star.

Las Posadas Song

The Pilgrims…

In the name of the heavens
I request lodging from you,
Because she cannot walk,
My beloved wife.

The Innkeepers…

This is not an inn,
Go on ahead
I can’t open up for you
In case you’re a crook.

The Pilgrims…

Don’t be cruel,
Give us charity
That the gods of the heavens
Will give it to you.

The Innkeepers…

You can go now and
Don’t bother us
Because if I get upset
I’m going to beat you.

The Pilgrims…

We come tired
From Nazareth
I am a carpenter
Whose name is Joseph.

The Innkeepers…

Your name doesn’t concern me
I’m going to sleep
Because I already told you
That we don’t have to open up.

The Pilgrims…

I’ve asked you for lodging
Dear innkeeper
Because the mother is going to be
The queen of the heavens.

The Innkeepers

Then if she is a queen,
Who requests it
How is it that at nighttime
She’s traveling so alone?

The Pilgrims…

My wife is Mary
Queen of the heavens
And mother who’s going to make
The divine oath.

The Innkeepers

You are Joseph
Your wife is Mary
Come in travelers!
I didn’t know it.

The Pilgrims…

May God pay gentlemen,
For our charity
And may the heavens overwhelm you
With Happiness!


Happy (or blessed) is the house
That shelters today
The pure virgin
The beautiful Mary.

Enter holy pilgrims
Receive this haven
That although it’s a poor dwelling
The dwelling…
I offer to you from the heart.