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Celebrate Advent!

Advent prepares us to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus as we remember the first Christmas Day, to anticipate his glorious reappearing on the Last Day, and meanwhile to greet Him who gives his holy body and precious blood for us to eat and drink in the holy supper.  Two hymn stanzas below, selected from the first hymnal of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, address all three aspects of Jesus’ coming: past, present, and future.

Thou criest, in Thy manger laid, to give us heav’nly laughter. 
Thou, Highest One, art lowest made, to lift us up hereafter. 
Thou, O my Savior, Mercy-Seat and Son of God, whom here I greet,
art born of earthly mother to be our elder Brother.

O bounteous Savior, grant to me the good that will not fail me.  

O Mighty Lord, I trust in Thee, Thy refuge will avail me;   
When human help is far away, when comes at last my dying day,    
Death’s bondage Thou wilt sever, to Thee I’ll sing forever!

(from C.F.W. Walther’s Hymnal, “Church Hymnbook for Evangelical Lutheran Congregations of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession 1847,  translated by Matthew Carver)

         We are not accustomed to imagining the Infant Jesus crying in the manger, for we all learned as children “But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes!”   Since our Lord was made like us in every way, except for sin, how could He not shed infant tears just as He wept 30 years later at the grave of his friend Lazarus?  This hymn illustrates what theologians call the “Blessed Exchange” i.e., our crying for His heavenly laughter and our humiliation for His exaltation.  Only eyes of faith can see the truth of this mystery – human reason remains blind and uncomprehending.  Another poet captured the immense significance of Christ’s coming into our world in these lines:

This little babe, so few days old,
Is come to rifle Satan’s fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake.
Though he himself for cold do shake,
For in this weak unarmèd wise
The gates of hell he will surprise.

            May the Christ Child, our Lord and Savior Jesus, whose birth fills the devil with despair, drive all darkness from our hearts and fill them with the wonders of His love today and hereafter.

Pastor Paul Becker

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