Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Final Thoughts on Advent Study

So what do we make of Matthew's genealogy? This "rogues gallery" of a family tree. Oh yes there is Abraham "father of the believers in the Old Covenant" through whom all of the families of the earth were to be blessed, the promise fulfilled in Abraham's greatest Son, Jesus and the new people of God, the Church.

Then there is King David mystically typifying the royalty of Christ and also the repentant sinner and a foreshadow of the King of the Church, whose kingdom cannot be destroyed.

We have Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and the mentioning of Bathsheba, all women, sinners and gentiles showing God's graciousness and underscores the role of women in the history of salvation and anticipates the crucial role of Mary, the mother of Jesus. (Orthodox Study Bible)

We see evidence of God's forgiveness in his treatment of Manasseh. In the face of a life of evil, God responds to earnest repentance. It is never to late to turn to God.

We also see that , in His response to Manasseh's son, who tried to take advantage of God's grace and mercy and was cut down quickly, God will not be toyed with.

Still, there are some shady characters in this family at least those who are not completely swallowed in the anonymity of history. What do we make of this?

As I pondered on this I was drawn to an article from some years back over at Touchstone Magazine called God Rest Ye Merry. In the article the author talks about how every year certain carols seem to stand out in his mind:
...This year, somehow it’s been “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” that has stuck in my brain, and particularly these words, in the first verse: “To save us all from Satan's power/ When we were gone astray.” We skip by these words so quickly. I always have. And yet how plainly those few words sketch in a somber background, a whole universe of presuppositions without which the song has a very different, and diminished, meaning. The merriness being urged upon the gentlemen (one should always remember that, in the lyrics themselves, there is a comma between “merry” and “gentlemen”—they are not “merry gentlemen” being encouraged to "rest") comes amid a great darkness, a darkness that never disappears, that always threatens to envelop us, a darkness whose presence is subtly conveyed by the minor key with which the song begins and ends.
...There are constant reminders of this darkness, if one has ears to hear them, running through the great liturgy of our Christmas carols, with their evocations of bleak midwinter and snow on snow....We are constantly reminded to “keep Christ in Christmas” and to remember “the reason for the season.” And of course that’s entirely right. But it’s also important, if I may put it this way, to keep Satan in Christmas, and not to skip too lightly over the lyrics that mention him. It changes the way we understand Christmas, if we also hold in our minds an awareness of the darkness into which Christ came, and comes, to save us. Later in "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" the visiting angel tells the shepherds in the field that Christ had come “To free all those who trust in Him/ From Satan's power and might." We ought to remember that being subject to that “power and might” is, as we say these days, the default setting of our human existence. Which means that the “comfort and joy” of which the song sings is not merely some seasonal jollity, but the ecstatic gratitude of pardoned convicts, who suddenly, surprisingly, find themselves emerging out of darkness and into the light.
This year for me the carol that has stuck in my brain, ironically, is the same one he mentions at the start of his article: (I had forgotten until I recently went back to read it) Oh, Holy Night:
...Long lay the world in sin and error pining. Till He appeared and the Soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. ...
...In all our trials born to be our friends. He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger...
...Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name all oppression shall cease.
And what greater oppression is there than death? I'll end with an excerpt of the post over at MereComments today:
...Is there anything in the whole world that casts a darker shadow over man than death? Would not a God who loves man address the captivity of death? Again, there is only One who even makes a claim to have done so, before the eyes of many witnesses. That single life, that single death, that single empty tomb, has changed all of history? Are there not evidences from one end of the world to the other of the spiritual power of Christ working in the saints from the day of the first Pentecost?
It's a claim that reasonable men should consider on its own merits, not using the failures of Christians as excuses: even in Jesus' lifetime, while personally present with his disciples, he told them they would fail him often, that they would misunderstand, that they didn't get it. So why should now be any different? That's not an excuse for failure, and our failure to meet the standard set by Christ does not negate the standard. It is all about Christ, not us. We look to Him, who is God with Us, the Creator in our midst, in humility, confessing our sins, rejoicing in his fathomless love and mercy that bind up our broken hearts and set us free.
Fall on your knees!
I'm off to Missouri. See you next year.
Merry Christmas- Eutychus


Magister Christianus said...

And God rest ye merry, my brother, as well. What a wonderful ministry you operate through this blog!

May our Lord pour forth upon you, Loretta, and the boys the abundance of His love and grace!

Miss you, brother. Perhaps a phone call when we have time over the next week?

eutychus said...

And a "God rest ye merry" as well on this 11th day of Christmas, to you and yours. Thnaks for the kind words. Yes indeed, a phone call is in order. I will call soon.