Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mystery of Love

Christians, awake, salute the happy morn
Whereon the Saviour of the world was born
Rise to adore the mystery of love
Which hosts of angels chanted from above
With them the joyful tidings first begun
Of God incarnate and the virgin's Son

I have taken every imaginable position on the question of whether Christians should celebrate things like Christmas and Easter. I've read The Two Babylons (more than once, in fact): I understand why John Calvin, Oliver Cromwell, Arthur Pink, and J. N. Darby all condemned celebrating these holidays. On the other hand, I understand why Martin Luther and Thomas Cranmer encouraged them.

But in the end, I've come to the conclusion that whether you condemn Christmas or revel in it; there are deep and amazing mysteries that are ostensibly "the reason for the season." If you don't celebrate Christmas, I can accept that. But I will tell you with absolute certainty: if you allow yourself to forget that the Son of God came down here--if you let the wonder of it fade---then you're falling down as a Christian.
Lo, within a manger lies
He who built the starry skies;
He who throned in height sublime
Sits amid the cherubim

I enjoy traditional Christmas carols: partly for the wonderful music, partly because I grew up with them. But I really, really value the sense of wonder they have for the mystery of Incarnation: the Son of God became a Man. You and I can't fathom that: only God can understand what happened there.
Christ by highest heaven adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel

Of course, the story doesn't stop with Christ coming here. As amazing as that is, a pagan might be able to appreciate that. The real wonder is, He came to die for sinners.
Sacred Infant, all divine, What a tender love was thine
Thus to come from highest bliss , Down to such a world as this

I came to the conclusion long ago that this is a principle difference between Christianity and the majority of religions: many if not all religions try and teach men how to become God; Christianity tells how One who is God became Man. Not with the intention of making us gods with Him, but to make us consciously objects of His love.
Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice
Now ye need not fear the grave:
Peace! Peace!
Jesus Christ was born to save

So if you see me driving by, obviously singing (terribly out-of-key and with not talent at all) at the top of my lungs; feel free to join in. If you don't celebrate Christmas, that's fine---but even then, you ought to be able to appreciate why I'm so obviously enjoying the song.
Then may we hope, the angelic thrones among
To sing, redeemed, a glad triumphal song
He that was born upon this joyful day
Around us all His glory shall display
Saved by His love, incessant we shall sing
Of angels and of angel-men the King

So blessed forever dear Jesus our King
Who brought us Salvation, his praises we'll sing


Ames said...

Very nice.

Chuck Hicks said...

These are marvelous posts, Ox. Keep it up!

(Btw, where are you reading Cranmer? I want to get in on that)

clumsy ox said...

I've just read the bits of Cranmer I've found on the web. I'm still looking for the Complete Tom.

Gwen said...

Personally I feel that Christmas is the big daddy of all Christian celebrations. It seems to stand to reason that once Christ actually became a man, the crucifixion and resurrection logically followed. The incarnation of Christ is the biggest miracle, to my mind. Easter is the result of Christmas.

(Not that this has much to do with how we celebrate Christmas. I'm just saying.)

Shan said...

AYEmen, preach it bruthuh.

Chuck Hicks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
clumsy ox said...

Well, if we're going to talk about relative importance of holidays... an Anglican rector was telling me that Epiphany was accepted and celebrated earlier than Christmas, because Epiphany represents the Incarnation in terms of the Gentiles, where Christmas celebrates the Incarnation in terms of the Jews.

I thought that was interesting.

Chuck Hicks said...

Gwen's comment was interesting.

I don't want to sound like I'm carrying water for the Orthodox, but they view the Incarnation as the most stupdendous event in history. By God becoming Man nature has been sanctified and can be presented back to Him in worship: thus, icons, incense, candles, architecture, etc., the touchstone being the bread & wine. Not that I entirely agree with their reasoning (not found in the early church via Scripture or the Apostolic Fathers), but at least it is the antithesis of gnosticism.

That said, they assert that Easter is the most important date on the liturgical calendar; for with the Resurrection the Incarnation is unfulfilled.

Chuck Hicks said...

...that should read, without the Resurrection, the Incarnation is unfulfilled.

Anonymous said...

every single day should include christmas and easter in our hearts. hope to be singing with the ox... very loud....