O come, Desire of nations

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.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

The best laid plans.  The obviously haven’t been any posts on this blog on Friday or Saturday.  Who takes on an extra blogging challenge the week before Christmas?  Maybe I’ll get all the O Antiphons in next year, but I’m at least happy that I have time today to reflect on the O Antiphon that takes us all the way from Advent to the Last Supper.

Here, just three sleeps until the coming of the Messiah, we find ourselves in the upper room with Jesus and his disciples on the night of his betrayal as he utters that painful and powerful high priestly prayer, “That they all may be one.”  As followers of the King of Peace, we have a lot to learn about being “one.”  There’s some truth to the well worn joke:

A man was stranded on a desert island, all by himself for years and years.  When a ship happened upon him, he was eager to show his rescuers how he had survived for so long.  On the island, there were three buildings.  “The first,” he said, “is my home.”  “The second,” he continued, “is my Church.”  “And what about the third?” they asked.  “Oh that,” he replied, “that’s the church I used to go to.”

Following Jesus has, in many ways, become another marketplace for personal preference.  “I like hymns!’  “No, I like praise music.”  “That guy can’t preach well.”  “She really knows how to speak to me.”  “Yay justice!”  “Boo works righteousness.”  What were once issues of theology have, for the most part and for many, become issues of taste, and as Diana Butler Bass tell us, taste makes for a mess in a world with 82,000 possible coffee combinations at Starbucks.  The truth of the matter, and the focus of today’s Antiphon, is that God’s desire is for unity of mind and mission; that we put away the pettiness of taste and instead be about the work of the Kingdom.

Of course, it probably won’t come close to happening until Jesus’ second Advent, but we know that it will come.  Thankfully, Jesus prayed for it.  He prayed for us.

O come, thou Branch of Jesse’s tree…

O come, thou Branch of Jesse’s tree,
free them from Satan’s tyranny
that trust thy mighty power to save,
and give them victory o’er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

There is a non-denominational church that sits just outside the entrance to my neighborhood.  As church’s are wont to have, this one has a sign board that is always good for a smug theological chuckle.  One particularly interesting post came a few months back when it read, “Would be willing to merge with a like minded church.  If interested call…”  That raise all sorts of questions about polity and ecclesiology for me, but that’s a digression for another day, perhaps.

Their current sign reads, “Jesus gave his gift on a tree, not under it.”  I always find the co-mingling of the Incarnation and Crucifixion to be interesting.  I’m certain that this particular church does not hold Good Friday services, saving the agony of the cross for Easter so as to fit a very narrow understanding of the salvific work of Jesus, there I go digressing again.  I can’t help but wonder why it is that the cross has to invade the manger?  I mean, one is not complete without the other, I get that.  The cross means nothing if Jesus’ isn’t the Word made flesh who dwelt among us.  The Incarnation is a quaint idea without some sort of soteriological event to back it up.  But do they have to invade each other’s space?  We don’t preach the manger on Good Friday, do we?

I was feeling all high and mighty about our better developed, more nuanced theology when I came to the O Antiphon for December 19th and found, what else, the cosmic battle between good and evil, playing out in one of my favorite Advent/Christmas hymns.  Maybe I should go back and reevaluate just how smart I think I am.