Sunday, November 29, 2015

LSB 358 From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

Carols teach the faith and still provide a cultural link to my neighbor

Herald angels sing. Bubbling, joyful shepherds can't keep still.  Mary ponders the Word made flesh. The babe in the manger coos, "Follow Me."
The cultural noise blares its distractions.

Fa la la la la -- Cha-ching

From Heaven Above is the first Christmas carol included in my new hymnal Lutheran Service Book and it is my intention to provide a reflective devotion on each of the Christmas hymns included in LSB as a portion of my personal focus on Jesus during these days.

Some will denounce the jump to Christmas as “too soon”; the church is still celebrating Advent. "Some" are right. It is too soon. I have championed that point of view each year of my ministry. In fact if you were worshiping in my congregation this past Sunday morning Advent hymns held sway, perhaps to the dismay of "others". So why not stick with the Advent hymns here on Gleanings? 

Several reasons:
  1. By December 24, I have lost what opportunity I had previously to set the Christmas Agenda. I have adapted King College's Nine Lessons and Carols to fit my congregation. But if I wait until December 24 to introduce the Christian Christmas Hymns of the Classical Tradition, the world has already framed the argument. Everyone already knows all that, and they are ready to box up Christmas on the 26th, twelve days or not. I cherish Advent. But these devotions on the Christmas hymns intend to redirect if not over come the Muzak noise of profane “christmas” and return to the sacred. I don't want my children wondering what I would say about these hymns, I want them to know.

  2. Christmas Hymns are still a culturally known commodity. People know Silent Night, while even Easter Hymns well known in the Church remain obscure in the culture. This gives the Church a witnessing opportunity. They're singing our song(s). Granted, most don't know that there is much difference between Silent Night and Frosty the Snowman, but therein lies the witnessing opportunity Christmas Carols provide.

From Heaven Above to Earth I Come  --  Luke 2:10-20

“From heav’n above to earth I come           10And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold,
To bear good news to ev’ry home;                  I bring you good news of a great joy that will
Glad tidings of great joy I bring,                       be for all the people.
Whereof I now will say and sing:

“To you this night is born a child                  11For unto you is born this day in the
Of Mary, chosen virgin mild;                           city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
This little child of lowly birth
Shall be the joy of all the earth.

“This is the Christ, our God Most High,
Who hears your sad and bitter cry;
He will Himself your Savior be
From all your sins to set you free.

“He will on you the gifts bestow
Prepared by God for all below,
That in His kingdom, bright and fair,
You may with us His glory share.

“These are the signs that you shall mark:       12And this will be a sign for you: you will
The swaddling clothes and manger dark.           find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths
There you will find the infant laid                       and lying in a manger.”
By whom the heav’ns and earth were made.”

How glad we’ll be to find it so!                    13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude
Then with the shepherds let us go                            of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
To see what God for us has done                14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace
In sending us His own dear Son.                            
 among those with whom he is pleased!

Come here, my friends, lift up your eyes,    15When the angels went away from them into heaven,
And see what in the manger lies.                  the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to
Who is this child, so young and fair?            Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, 
It is the Christ Child lying there.                   
which the Lord has made known to us.”

Welcome to earth, O noble Guest,              16 And they went with haste and found Mary

Through whom the sinful world is blest!            and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.

You came to share my misery

That You might share Your joy with me.

Ah, Lord, though You created all,
How weak You are, so poor and small,
That You should choose to lay Your head
Where lowly cattle lately fed!

Were earth a thousand times as fair
And set with gold and jewels rare,
It would be far too poor and small
A cradle for the Lord of all.

Instead of soft and silken stuff
You have but hay and straw so rough
On which as King, so rich and great,
To be enthroned in royal state.

And so it pleases You to see
This simple truth revealed to me:
That worldly honor, wealth, and might
Are weak and worthless in Your sight.

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Prepare a bed, soft, undefiled,
A quiet chamber set apart
For You to dwell within my heart.

My heart for very joy must leap;             17And when they saw it, they made known

My lips no more can silence keep.              the saying that had been told them  
I, too, must sing with joyful tongue              concerning this child.

That sweetest ancient cradlesong:           18And all who heard it wondered at 

                                                                  what the shepherds told them.

Glory to God in highest heav’n,
Who unto us His Son has giv’n!
While angels sing with pious mirth
A glad new year to all the earth.

 Public domain

19  But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

20  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Martin's carol reflects his preaching

Ok, Martin's carol is long. 15 verses is enough to send any modern running, much less a post modern. That’s another reason to take … your … time with good things. Suck on a candy cane while you read it through again.

Imagine you're a shepherd. Imagine it's Christmas Night. Imagine your watching your flocks in the fields around Bethlehem. Imagine you are awestruck and experiencing the Christmas proclamation for the first time. Imagine you need to go and see this great sight and that you have to see it right now. You run.

Martin's Christmas sermons and his Christmas carol both seek to appreciate the earthly, human, and surprising experience of the first Christmas.

What was Mary's experience? Joseph's? The Shepherds'? and even the Angels'?

What was in the Father's heart while the Holy Spirit was instilling faith in the humble?

Can the 16th century believer claim fellowship with a Bethlehem shepherd? Can a 21st century believer claim fellowship with both of them? Can one speak for another? Can we actually share in their experience?

How glad we’ll be to find it so!
Then with the shepherds
let us go
To see what God for us has done
In sending us His own dear Son.

“I believe in the the communion of saints.” - The Apostles' Creed

“With angels, and arch-angels, and all the company of heaven” - The Liturgy

I have fellowship with these people because they are my friends. I eat and drink with them in the ongoing feast gathering every Lord's Day. Because they are my friends, I love them and I cherish their experiences with our Lord. I learn from them while we kneel together.

My heart for very joy must leap;
My lips no more can silence keep.
I, too, must sing with joyful tongue
That sweetest ancient cradlesong.

2 Corinthians 8:9
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich…

1 Timothy 3:16
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

Ephesians 1:21-23
21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
22And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.