God With Us

Four lit Advent candles

Photo: Elmar Ersch (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The seventh and final O Antiphon, which will be chanted tonight at Vespers at monasteries around the world:

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Savior:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Emmanuel: God with us. This is the meaning of Christmas. In a cave—which is what the “stable” in Bethlehem really was—born to a poor teenaged girl: a powerless child of a powerless mother in the shadow of the most powerful empire the world had ever known.

God chose not to come in power and glory, but in humility. He chose not to stop all the suffering in the world—and we struggle to understand why—but he chose to suffer with us.

God is with us. In our joy and in our sorrow. He is with all the children who eyes will light up on Christmas morning when they see their presents wrapped and left under a tree, and he’s with the parents who children are not with them anymore: not this Christmas or any other.

And he is with those children too, for nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even death.

God is with us.

December 23

Advent calendar graphics by Oh My Gluestick. They are intended for personal use only and may not be used commercially.

A Different Kind of King

Christ the Redeemer, Rio De Janiero, Brazil

Photo: Sean Vivek Crasto

The sixth O Antiphon, which will be chanted tonight at Vespers at monasteries around the world:

O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.

All of these antiphons allude to the Messianic prophecies of Isaiah, with their promise of a coming king. But what kind of king? One that would rule by force and terror as all kings had in Isaiah’s time and throughout human history? Or did these prophecies point to a different kind of king? One that “shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks”? (Isaiah 2:4) A peaceable king for a peaceable kingdom?

O King of the nations, save us, for our desire is to be at peace:

December 22

Advent calendar graphics by Oh My Gluestick. They are intended for personal use only and may not be used commercially.

The Sun Rises and the World Goes On

Painting of sunrise over the Catskills

Thomas Cole, Sunrise in the Catskill Mountains (1826)

The fifth O Antiphon, which will be chanted tonight at Vespers at monasteries around the world:

O Rising Sun, splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

The sun rose today, just like every other day. The world didn’t come to an end. But for twenty-six families in Connecticut, the world as they knew it ended a week ago.

And yet the sun still rose today. I’ve read that the only way to live through profound, life shattering grief is to get through each day as it comes, but I can’t imagine how people begin to do that. I can’t imagine how someone grieving that deeply can muster the act of will to take another breath.

The sun rises and the world goes on, but not for them. They are still in darkness. All I can do is pray that eventually the day will dawn once more and the morning star will rise in their hearts (2 Peter 1:19).

O Rising Sun, enlighten those who dwell in the shadow of death:

December 21

Advent calendar graphics by Oh My Gluestick. They are intended for personal use only and may not be used commercially.

Open and Shut

Illuminated letter with David and an angel.

Illumination from Master of the Ingeborg Psalter (J. Paul Getty Museum)

The fourth O Antiphon, which will be chanted tonight at Vespers at monasteries around the world:

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

My daughter will turn seven in January. She is the same age as the kids that were killed in Connecticut last week. I want to protect her and every child like her. I want to lock every door between them and any one who might possibly hurt them.

But I can’t do that.

I can take precautions: I can be sure her school is as secure as it can possibly be, and I can keep her in my sight the rest of the time. But there is no lock in this world that only I can open and shut.

There is no way to protect every child all the time, and that both worries me and breaks my heart.

O Key of David, lead us out of darkness and the shadow of death:

December 20

 Advent calendar graphics by Oh My Gluestick. They are intended for personal use only and may not be used commercially.

Who are Our Kings?

Cathedral St. Peter (Dom St. Peter), Worms, Germany - Tympanum - Tree of Jesse

Tree of Jesse. St. Peter’s Cathedral, Worms, Germany

The third O Antiphon, which will be chanted tonight at Vespers at monasteries around the world:

O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

Who are our kings?

It’s not our politicians. They simply represent our wishes. They write our laws, but they do not rule over us. Our rulers are violence and greed. Together, they feed our multibillion dollar defense industry, our multibillion dollar entertainment industry, our multibillion dollar gun industry, and our multibillion dollar prison industry.

And it’s only when a horrible tragedy befalls us, when too many innocent children die at one time to ignore, that we stop and pay attention.

But it never lasts. Our “kings” won’t shut their mouths for long. They never have.

O Root of Jesse, deliver us . . . from us:

December 19

 Advent calendar graphics by Oh My Gluestick. They are intended for personal use only and may not be used commercially.