Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Feast of Stephen/Christmas I

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The Nativity of Our Lord

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Christmas Eve Children’s Service

The Waiting and the Wonder”

 I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed when Christmas Eve arrives. I know that sounds strange, but let me explain. The fact is, I love Advent. I’ve always been more at home in the anticipation than in the realization. I love the hymns of Advent, the expectation of Advent, the fact that it goes so contrary to the spirit of the world, which wants us to start celebrating Christmas on the day after Halloween, mostly for the sake of getting us to buy, buy, buy. And what’s the result? Anxiety, worry, rushing around from one place to another, one party to another, one store to the next. What’s the result? Complete exhaustion by the time Christmas actually arrives; by December 25th, you never want to hear another Christmas carol again.

But Advent! Advent preserves a reflective place in the midst of everything that’s going on; a haven from cards and cookies and carols. Advent, it seems to me, is much more like real life: we spend far more time waiting than we do celebrating. And I wonder if that’s part of the issue: we don’t really know how to celebrate because we don’t really know how to wait. We don’t know how to fast, so we don’t know how to feast. We find it hard not to overindulge, overspend, overdo. Advent says, hold on a minute, light one candle a week, wait a while in the wilderness with the strange and the holy, like John the Baptizer. Hear again, as if for the first time, that this whole mess has been made right in Jesus, who is coming again to judge the quick and the dead. Advent is the skinny, crooked finger of the Baptizer, pointing in stark relief to the Mighty One who was to follow him—but pointing to a Mighty One who did not come in divine might, with fire and sword. Pointing to a glorious One whose glory was shown most clearly on a cross. Pointing to a Judge who would take on Himself the entire judgment due sinners in payment for their sin.

But that’s not the message of John only. It’s the message of the prophets, of the little town of Bethlehem, of the shepherds, and of the angels, as we will hear in a moment. Every prophecy, every Word of God—indeed, the entire creation—is summed up in the body of that Baby, who would give His Body and Blood on a cross for you. That it is for you, you can be sure, because God raised His Son from the dead, and now He lives and reigns, the same God-Man, at the Right Hand of God’s power.

And yet, even as we celebrate tonight, we still do not see it all. His power is still hidden, just as it was in that Virgin, that manger, that cave, that Man. Advent, in its waiting, makes the wonder of Christmas all the more wonder-full. And, of course, without the fulfillment of everything we wait and hope for, the waiting would be worthless.

So in this world that is too impatient to prepare and to gluttonous to celebrate, the Church of Christ takes her time with the wonder. To wonder at prophets speaking the Word of God centuries before the fulfillment; to wonder at God in diapers; to wonder, what Child is this in Bethlehem, silently pleading for sinners? To wonder at filthy, sheep-scented shepherds blessed with the song of angels; to wonder at God walking around in Nazareth and Galilee and Jerusalem; to wonder, as we come to adore the new-born King, what sort of King is this, who goes to a cross for His enemies, even you and me? So, whether you need help with the waiting, or with the wonder, the prophets, shepherds, and angels are here tonight to speak Jesus into our ears and hearts. Not just this December, or this Christmas, but throughout lives lived in both waiting and wonder, as the God-Man continues to come to us in water, words, wine and bread, for forgiveness, life, and salvation. There’s nothing more worthy of wonder than Him, as we wait for Him to begin the eternal celebration with a Word.

Let us pray: Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, we find it hard to wait in patient hope for the redeeming of this dying world; as we celebrate the Birth of Your eternal Son in time, grant, by Your Word, that we would never cease to wonder, and never cease to wait for that great Day, when the neverending feast of celebration will begin; for the sake of Your Son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the whole world, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 12/18/10

‘O’ Antiphon for December 23

O Emmanuel, our king and our Lord, the anointed for the nations and their Savior:
          Come and save us, O Lord our God.

“O come, O come, Emmanuel,/And ransom captive Israel,/That mourns in lonely exile here/Until the Son of God appear” (LSB 357:1)

Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

As you know, if you read the first post, using the first letter of each Name for Christ, beginning with Emmanuel, and going back to Wisdom (Sapientia), it spells out ERO CRAS, or “I come tomorrow.”  Alternately, sometimes the Antiphons were moved back a day, starting on December 16, and the last one was O Virgo virginum (O Virgin of virgins).  Thus, the acrostic was VERO CRAS, or “truly, tomorrow.”  A blessed celebration of our Lord’s Nativity to you!

Pr. Timothy Winterstein

‘O’ Antiphon for December 22

O King of the nations, the ruler they long for, the cornerstone uniting all people:
          Come and save us all, whom you formed out of clay.

“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” (LSB 357:7). 

Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Pr. Timothy Winterstein

‘O’ Antiphon for December 21

O Dayspring, splendor of light everlasting:
          Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

“O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,/And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;/Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,/And death’s dark shadows put to flight” (LSB 357:6).

Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Pr. Timothy Winterstein

‘O’ Antiphon for December 20

O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel, You open and no one can close, You close and no one can open:
           Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and the shadow of death.

“O come, Thou Key of David, come,/And open wide our heav’nly home;/Make safe the way that leads on high,/And close the path to misery” (LSB 357:5).

Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Crux Christi clavis Paradisi,
Pr. Timothy Winterstein