The Twelve Days of Christmas-Day 5 (2)

Christ is here in the flesh: let us exult with fear and joy—with fear, because of our sins; with joy, because of the hope that he brings us. He who is without flesh becomes incarnate; The Word puts on a body; the Invisible is seen; he whom no hand can touch is handled; the Timeless has a beginning; the Son of God becomes Son of Man—Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever…For the sake of my flesh he takes flesh; for the sake of my soul he is united to the rational soul, purifying like by like…He shares in the poverty of my flesh, that I may share in the riches of his Godhead.

—Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 38

Meditations on the Incarnation from Select Church Fathers and Doctors

Meditations read on Christmas 1B, December 28, 2014, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.

The following are meditations and reflections from the Church Fathers and Doctors on the Incarnation we celebrate during these twelve days of Christmas. There is no audio podcast of the reading of these meditations. Merry Christmas!

The following sermon preached by John Chrysostom is the first extant Christmas sermon we have. It was preached in Antioch in 386. To read the whole sermon, click here.

Since this heavenly birth cannot be described, neither does His coming amongst us in these days permit of too curious scrutiny. Though I know that a Virgin this day gave birth, and I believe that God was begotten before all time, yet the manner of this generation I have learned to venerate in silence and I accept that this is not to be probed too curiously with wordy speech. For with God we look not for the order of nature, but rest our faith in the power of Him who works.

What shall I say to you; what shall I tell you? I behold a Mother who has brought forth; I see a Child come to this light by birth. The manner of His conception I cannot comprehend.

What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness.

For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His Word; taking my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit, that He may save me.

Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been in planted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels.

Why is this?

Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He became Flesh. He did not become God. He was God. Wherefore He became flesh, so that He Whom heaven did not contain, a manger would this day receive. He was placed in a manger, so that He, by whom all things are nourished, may receive an infant’s food from His Virgin Mother. So, the Father of all ages, as an infant at the breast, nestles in the virginal arms, that the Magi may more easily see Him. Since this day the Magi too have come, and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny; and the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star.

To Him, then, Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, we offer all praise, now and for ever. Amen.

—John Chrysostom (d. 407), priest at Antioch and later Archbishop of Constantinople

Now hear this word from St. Athanasius.

The Word of God did not abandon the human race, his creatures, who are hurtling to their own ruin. By the offering of his body, the Word of God destroyed death which had united itself to them; by his teaching, he corrected their negligences; and by his power, he restored the human race.

Why was it necessary for the Word of God to become incarnate and not some other? Scripture indicates the reason by these words: “It was fitting that when bringing many heirs to glory, God, for whom and through whom all things exist, should make their leader in the work of salvation perfect through suffering.” This signifies that the work of raising human beings from the ruin into which they had fallen pertained to none other than the Word of God, who had made them in the beginning.

By the sacrifice of his body, he put an end to the law which weighed upon them, and he renewed in us the principle of life by giving us the hope of the resurrection. For if it is through ourselves that death attained dominance over us, conversely, it is through the incarnation of the Word of God that death has been destroyed and that life has been resurrected, as indicated by the Apostle filled with Christ: “Death came through one person; hence the resurrection of the dead comes through another person also. Just as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will come to life again.”

It is no longer as condemned that we die. Rather, we die with the hope of rising again from the dead, awaiting the universal resurrection which God will manifest to us in his own time, since he is both the author of it and gives us the grace for it.

—Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria (d. 373), On the Incarnation 10.14

A reading from Gregory of Nazianzus.

Christ is born: glorify him. Christ comes from heaven: go out to meet him. Christ descends to earth: let us be raised on high. Let all the world sing to the Lord; let the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad, for his sake who was first in heaven and then on earth. Christ is here in the flesh: let us exult with fear and joy—with fear, because of our sins; with joy, because of the hope that he brings us.

Once more the darkness is dispersed; once more the light is created. Let the people that sat in the darkness of ignorance now look upon the light of knowledge. The things of old have passed away; behold, all things are made new. He who has no mother in heaven is now born without father on earth. The laws of nature are overthrown, for the upper world must be filled with citizens. He who is without flesh becomes incarnate; the Word puts on a body; the Invisible is seen; he whom no hand can touch is handled; the Timeless has a beginning; the Son of God becomes Son of Man—Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and for ever.

Light from light, the Word of the Father comes to his own image, in the human race. For the sake of my flesh he takes flesh; for the sake of my soul he is united to a rational soul, purifying like by like. In every way he becomes human, except for sin. O strange conjunction! The Self-existent comes into being; the Uncreated is created. He shares in the poverty of my flesh, that I may share in the riches of his Godhead.

—Gregory of Nazianzus, Bishop of Constantinople (d. 389), Oration 38

Next is this reading from Hippolytus, a very early bishop of Rome. Notice the strong connection between Christmas and Easter in his sermon. This is exactly right because without Easter, Christmas would mean nothing.

Our faith is not founded upon empty words; nor are we carried away by mere caprice or beguiled by specious arguments. On the contrary, we put our faith in words spoken by the power of God, spoken by the Word himself at God’s command. God wished to win us back from disobedience, not by using force to reduce us to slavery but by addressing to our free will a call to liberty.

The Word spoke first of all through the prophets, but because the message was couched in such obscure language that it could be only dimly apprehended, in the last days the Father sent the Word in person, commanding him to show himself openly so that the world could see him and be saved.

We know that by taking a body from the Virgin he refashioned our fallen nature. We know that his humanity was of the same clay as our own; if this were not so, he would hardly have been a teacher who could expect to be imitated. If he were of a different substance from me, he would surely not have ordered me to do as he did, when by my very nature I am so weak. Such a demand could not be reconciled with his goodness and justice.

No. He wanted us to consider him as no different from ourselves, and so he worked, he was hungry and thirsty, he slept. Without protest he endured his passion, he submitted to death and revealed his resurrection. In all these ways he offered his own humanity as the firstfruits of our race to keep us from losing heart when suffering comes our way, and to make us look forward to receiving the same reward as he did, since we know that we possess the same humanity.

When we have come to know the true God, both our bodies and our souls will be immortal and incorruptible. We shall enter the kingdom of heaven, because while we lived on earth we acknowledged heaven’s King. Friends of God and co-heirs with Christ, we shall be subject to no evil desires or inclinations, or to any affliction of body or soul, for we shall have become divine. It was because of our human condition that God allowed us to endure these things, but when we have been dei?ed and made immortal, God has promised us a share in his‘ own attributes.

The saying “Know yourself” means therefore that we should recognize and acknowledge in ourselves the God who made us in his own image, for if we do this, we in turn will be recognized and acknowledged by our Maker. So let us not be at enmity with ourselves, but change our way of life without delay. “For Christ who is God, exalted above all creation,” has taken away our sin and has refashioned our fallen nature. In the beginning God made us in his image and so gave proof of his love for us. If we obey his holy commands and learn to imitate his goodness, we shall be like him and he will honor us. God is not beggarly, and for the sake of his own glory he has given us a share in his divinity.

—Hippolytus, Bishop of Rome (d. 236), On the Refutation of All Heresies, 10.33-34

And finally, a word from our own St. Augustine of Hippo.

Awake! For your sake God has become human. “Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” I tell you again: for your sake, God became human.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

…Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but by sheer grace.

—Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (d. 430), Sermon 185

C. Kavin Rowe: Why Christmas needs Easter

Yes indeed.

annunciation_m_0One of the striking things about the first Christmas is the announcement of good tidings. Of all the Gospels, the Gospel of Luke is the most explicit. The angel Gabriel says to Mary, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end!” (Luke 1:31-33).

Later, an angel — soon joined by “a multitude of the heavenly host” — piles up exclamations one on top of another and says to the shepherds, “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people! To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!” (Luke 2:10-11).

And Simeon, an old prophet who was awaiting the consolation of Israel, cries out to God when he sees the infant Jesus, “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for a revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32).

As one reads on in the Gospel, however, joy does not appear on every page.

Read it all.

A Tale of Contrasting Stories

In a Fox News article, Franklin Graham (Billy Graham’s son) writes about the faith of Louis Zamperini, the ‘Unbroken’ hero. This is a hugely important part of the story because among other things, Mr. Zamperini was eventually able to forgive his Japanese torturers.

iuReturning to life in California after World War II revealed what the Japanese couldn’t do to Louie Zamperini; they couldn’t break this hero. But Louie’s real battle was still ahead.

For a time he enjoyed the celebrity of heroism and hob-knobbing with Hollywood.  He met and married a beautiful woman named Cynthia Applewhite and life was good.  But when all the glitz and glamour faded and reality set in, reoccurring nightmares of war and memories of Louie’s torture by his enemies tormented him.

To escape these horrors, Louie turned to alcohol.  Pent-up anger overcame him.

His wife who genuinely loved him felt she had no choice but to divorce him.  The man who had endured horrific physical and mental abuse, and emerged unbroken from the ravages of war, had succumbed to an enemy that would not let go — himself.

Now compare this story to the story of another survivor of Japanese brutality during WWII, Betsy Heimke. Whereas Zamperini was able to eventually forgive his captors and be truly freed from their influence because of his ability to forgive, Ms. Heimke still remains a prisoner to her captors because she cannot forgive them and that is just heartbreaking.

image-1She watched her mother struggle daily to keep the family together and fed. People died around her. Her father’s ribs stuck out like steel bars.

No one should expect any Louie Zamperini-like absolution from her.

Zamperini was an American bombardier who was held as a POW and tortured by the Japanese after his plane went down in the Pacific. Part of his story, as told in the best-selling book “Unbroken” and now a movie that opened Christmas Day, is that after the war he traveled to Japan and forgave the guards who mistreated him.

When asked whether she could do the same, Heimke lifted her eyes from her scrapbook and locked onto those of her questioner.

image“He’s a better Christian than I am,” she said of Zamperini. “I’m not there and doubt I will ever be.”

 

 

 

Read Graham’s story and then read Betsy Heimke’s sad story.

Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi Message for Christmas 2014

Jesus, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, is born for us, born in Bethlehem of a Virgin, fulfilling the ancient prophecies. The Virgin’s name is Mary, the wife of Joseph.

Humble people, full of hope in the goodness of God, are those who welcome Jesus and recognize him. And so the Holy Spirit enlightened the shepherds of Bethlehem, who hastened to the grotto and adored the Child. Then the Spirit led the elderly and humble couple Simeon and Anna into the temple of Jerusalem, and they recognized in Jesus the Messiah. “My eyes have seen your salvation”, Simeon exclaimed, “the salvation prepared by God in the sight of all peoples” (Lk 2:30).

Yes, brothers and sisters, Jesus is the salvation for every person and for every people!

Today I ask him, the Saviour of the world, to look upon our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria, who for too long now have suffered the effects of ongoing conflict, and who, together with those belonging to other ethnic and religious groups, are suffering a brutal persecution. May Christmas bring them hope, as indeed also to the many displaced persons, exiles and refugees, children, adults and elderly, from this region and from the whole world. May indifference be changed into closeness and rejection into hospitality, so that all who now are suffering may receive the necessary humanitarian help to overcome the rigours of winter, return to their countries and live with dignity. May the Lord open hearts to trust, and may he bestow his peace upon the whole Middle East, beginning with the land blessed by his birth, thereby sustaining the efforts of those committed effectively to dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

May Jesus, Saviour of the world, protect all who suffer in Ukraine, and grant that their beloved land may overcome tensions, conquer hatred and violence, and set out on a new journey of fraternity and reconciliation.

Read it all.

Christmas: God’s Gracious Yes to Humanity and Creation

Sermon delivered on Christmas Eve 2014 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.

If you would like to listen to the audio podcast of this sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: Isaiah 9.2-7; The Song of God’s Chosen One (from Isaiah 11.1-16); Titus 2.11-14; Luke 2.1-20.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Merry Christmas, St. Augustine’s! Tonight we celebrate the birth of Jesus and I want us to look at why Christmas is important to us as Christians. In our OT lesson the prophet Isaiah tells us that God’s people have walked in darkness but have seen a great light, and we get the part about walking in darkness, even if we do not have to worry about armies of a great world power invading our country the way Isaiah and his contemporaries did. Be it the darkness of losing loved ones to death, especially at this time of year, or the darkness of disease and illness that threaten our very lives or debilitate us, or the darkness of estranged relationships, or the darkness of past or present sin that still haunts us, we know what it is like to walk in the darkness. But perhaps our biggest fear is that God has abandoned or rejected us so we will have to face our darkness alone with no hope of resolution. Perhaps some of you here tonight are walking in a darkness that is weighing you down and making you wonder how on earth you are going to possibly have a merry Christmas.

I can hear some of you right now. Ah, Father Maney! We always enjoy your feel-good sermons. How especially nice of you to preach one on this joyous occasion of Christmas Eve to refresh and uplift us! And you are right. This would be a terribly depressing sermon if the darkness in which we walk is the end of the story. But of course it isn’t the end of the story and that is why it is possible to celebrate Christmas even when we are walking in the midst of darkness. Why? Because as the prophet tells us, we have seen a great light, the light of God himself, so that as people of light we have reason to have real hope and joy despite the various troubles that sometimes darken our lives. In the OT God’s people always rejoiced whenever they experienced God’s presence in their lives and this is why Christmas is such a joyous feast—because God himself, the Creator of this vast and mind-boggling cosmos of which this beautiful world is part, chose to enter human history in the same way every one of us enters human history to rescue his good creation from the ravages of sin and evil, and reunite heaven and earth in the manner God always intended. In doing so, God proclaimed he is for us and not against us, that he wants us to be his image-bearing people in the manner he created us to rule his good world despite our sinful and rebellious nature that has corrupted and defiled it. As John would report in his gospel, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but to save it. God did this because God loves us and is eternally faithful to us as well as to his entire creation (John 3.16-17; cf. Romans 8.18-25). This is the great light that Isaiah prophesied, the light of God that is seen most brightly in Jesus of Nazareth whose birth we celebrate tonight.

The whole narrative of Scripture is about how God has chosen to rescue us and his creation from the ravages of evil, sin, and death, a rescue plan that ultimately involved God himself becoming human (John 1.1-14). But God’s rescue plan is not what we expected or even wanted. God did not invade his world as a mighty conqueror to sweep away all that is evil. Had he done that, God would have had to sweep us away too because there is no one without sin and God cannot ultimately allow sin and evil to abide in his holy presence.

And so in God’s infinite and gracious wisdom, at exactly the right time God chose to become human and enter our history as Jesus the Son to offer us healing and redemption and real life, not by working outside of history but by using the actions of men and women in history, including our own day, to accomplish his purposes. We see this illustrated in our gospel lesson. Luke tells us that God used Caesar’s order for a census to be taken to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem where our Lord Jesus had to be born (cf. Micah 5.2). Bethlehem was David’s home town and God had promised to save his people through one of David’s descendants, ultimately understood to be the Messiah (2 Samuel 7.8-12). Is it any wonder, then, that shepherds (the profession of David) were the first to hear the Good News of the Savior’s birth?

Here we see Luke telling us that in the midst of the reign of the world’s greatest king (Caesar), an even greater King was born and there was nothing Caesar could do to stop it, even if he had been aware of it (cf. Matthew 2.1-18). This is how God typically works and we need to pay attention to details like these in Scripture because they can help us better understand how God works in even the smallest details of our lives to accomplish his good will and purposes for us and his world. The God who uses even the chance happenings and decisions of history and our lives is not a God who is an absentee landlord or who doesn’t care about us or his world or lacks the power to fix it (and us)!

Of course this Jesus, God with us, would grow up to die for the sins of his people and the world so that we could be released from our bondage to sin and death and begin to live like the image-bearing humans that God originally intended us to live. As Paul would remind us, on the cross God condemned sin in the flesh so that God would not have to condemn us. That is why there is now no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus. The Father has reconciled us to himself, rescuing us from the dominion of darkness and transferring us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins (Romans 8.1-4; Colossians 1.13-14). This was the peace the angels proclaimed to the shepherds on that first Christmas.

And then in an even mightier act, God raised Jesus from the dead to usher in his promised new creation and give us a preview of coming attractions of life in the New Age where evil, sin, and death are abolished and God will wipe away all our tears and hurts and sorrows forever (Isaiah 25.6-9; Revelation 21.1-7). Jesus’ resurrection is the surest sign that God loves us and his whole creation and intends to one day merge heaven and earth together in a fantastic new creation.

This future hope and promise—and in Scripture hope is always a sure and certain expectation, not wishful thinking—is why the angels told the shepherds they were bringing good news of great joy for all the people. God had returned to finish his mighty act of redemption and if they wanted proof, they needed to go find the baby who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a feeding trough. Let that image sink in for a moment. The God of this vast universe is found lying in a feeding trough for animals. This isn’t exactly the kind of God we expected nor the rescue we envisioned God doing on our behalf. But as we have seen, it is the only kind of rescue that gives us a chance to truly be saved from the darkness that besets us.

So what does Christmas mean for us? It means that we no longer have to be haunted by our sins because we have been washed clean of them by the blood of Christ. Guilt and self-loathing have no place at the manger tonight, or in God’s kingdom in general, and if you are one who suffers from this, bring your guilt and lay it forever at the Table when you come to feed on our Lord’s body and blood so that you might know real forgiveness. The Christmas story means that we never have to worry that God has abandoned us or leaves us to our own devices. The same God who used Caesar to bring about Jesus’ birth at the right time and place is the same God who continues to use even the darkness in our lives to accomplish his good will and purposes for us, even when it is not entirely obvious or self-evident to us. The Incarnation means that we no longer have to fear death because we are destined for new bodily life forever. And the Christmas story means we can find comfort in our sorrow because we are a people of hope. Our future is secured and we have immediate access to God through Jesus in the power of the Spirit, as well as in the Scriptures, in worship, in fellowship with God’s people, and in the Lord’s Supper. So when darkness afflicts us, we can have confidence that even though we walk through the darkest valley, we will fear no evil because the Lord has defeated evil on the cross (Colossians 2.15) and is with us in the power of the Spirit to provide the comfort and strength we need to persevere and ultimately triumph over the darkness.

This promise requires a response on our part, and more than just coming to worship every Sunday, vital and necessary as that is. It requires that we develop a realistic worldview about life and things of this world as well as how God operates in this world to love and heal us. We do this by studying the Scriptures diligently and working to develop the kind of fellowship in the power of the Spirit to comfort and support each other in our afflictions because in the birth of Jesus God has chosen to use human agency to make his love and presence known to us. God never promises to make us immune from the darkness, but rather that he will help us overcome the darkness as he did ultimately on Calvary, unbelievable as that initially seemed. One thing is for certain. If we do not have the faith that God is good to his word so that we cry out to him when we are distressed and give thanks to him for his manifold blessings, we will never truly learn what living life with Immanuel, God with us, is all about and that would be a true shame.

But neither are we to keep God’s blessings to ourselves or make it some kind of private religion as Paul reminds us in our epistle lesson. We have been saved so that God can use us to bring his healing love and blessings to others and the world, and we do this in how we choose to live our lives. Every time we renounce our worldly passions and refuse to live as the world wants us to live—as selfish, greedy, unjust, or hateful people to name just a few—by our actions we announce to a world filled with hate and injustice and greed and strife that there is a better way, the way of Jesus, God with us, and that our manner of living testifies to our faith in God’s promise to heal and redeem his world through Jesus of Nazareth.

Living life with this kind of faith, hope, and love allows us to truly have a merry Christmas, irrespective of our circumstances, because we are announcing to others we believe that in the Lord Jesus, we truly have seen God’s great light and the darkness will not overcome it. And in announcing this hope to others, let us also love them enough to invite them to join us in embracing the Good News of Jesus Christ that was first announced in Bethlehem by the heavenly host all those years ago. If you have not already done so, will you respond in an ongoing manner of living to the heavenly call that is ours in Christ Jesus so that you too may know the real hope and promise of Christmas? This Christmastide I pray that not only we, but all the world, will be given the grace to have the faith that proclaims we have Good News, now and for all eternity. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever. Merry Christmas!

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

David Robertson: Turning Christmas into Mythmas: Why We Shouldn’t Ditch the Virgin Birth

It is alleged that the Christians just borrowed the myths of the Babylonian Marduk, the Egyptian Horus or the Greek legend of Perseus and came up with the virgin birth of Christ. To the uneducated and those who have a desperate need to debunk Christianity this seems so obvious that it must be true. It just makes so much sense – after all virgin births don’t happen and Christianity is just made up anyway.

But on closer examination the whole case just falls apart.

Read it all and check this out too.

Jesus Creed: Good News—God Cannot be Contained

An excellent Christmas meditation from the Jesus Creed blog. See what you think.

Hortus_Deliciarum_Die_Geburt_Christi-300x180Many today try to put religion in its place, controlled and contained, tolerated as long as it doesn’t impinge on fact or science.

Stephen Jay Gould gave as the first commandment of NOMA “Thou shalt not mix magisteria by claiming that God directly ordains important events in the history of nature by special interference knowable only through revelation and not accessible to science.” Michael Ruse allows that scientists can be Christian as long as Christianity can be made compatible with unbreakable natural law. “Even the supreme miracle of the resurrection requires no law-breaking return from the dead. One can think of Jesus in a trance, or more likely that he really was physically dead but that on the third day a group of people, hitherto downcast, were filled with great joy and hope.” Alan Lightman refers to this overarching naturalism as the Central Doctrine of Science. “All properties and events in the physical universe are governed by laws, and those laws are true at every time and place in the universe.”

A simple deism, with God well contained, can possibly be compatible with science … or more accurately with natural materialism as a worldview.

This won’t do, of course. Christianity is a religion which – if true – cannot be contained. The supreme miracle of the resurrection requires law-breaking. But the biggest miracle is not resurrection but incarnation. There is a God and he is intimately involved in his creation in relationship with his creature.

Read it all.

Advent Antiphons–December 23

From The Book of Common Worship’s Times and Seasons (p.58).

These antiphons, or refrains, all beginning ‘O …’, were sung before and after the Magnificat at Vespers, according to the Roman use, on the seven days preceding Christmas Eve (17–23 December). They are addressed to God, calling for him to come as teacher and deliverer, with a tapestry of scriptural titles and pictures that describe his saving work in Christ. In the medieval rite of Salisbury Cathedral that was widely followed in England before the Reformation, the antiphons began on 16 December and there was an additional antiphon (‘O Virgin of virgins’) on 23 December; this is reflected in the Calendar of The Book of Common Prayer, where 16 December is designated O Sapientia (O Wisdom). The Common Worship Calendar has adopted the more widely used form. It is not known when and by whom the antiphons were composed, but they were already in use by the eighth century.

23 December – O Emmanuel

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

–cf Isaiah 7.14

Advent Antiphons–December 22

From The Book of Common Worship’s Times and Seasons (p.58).

These antiphons, or refrains, all beginning ‘O …’, were sung before and after the Magnificat at Vespers, according to the Roman use, on the seven days preceding Christmas Eve (17–23 December). They are addressed to God, calling for him to come as teacher and deliverer, with a tapestry of scriptural titles and pictures that describe his saving work in Christ. In the medieval rite of Salisbury Cathedral that was widely followed in England before the Reformation, the antiphons began on 16 December and there was an additional antiphon (‘O Virgin of virgins’) on 23 December; this is reflected in the Calendar of The Book of Common Prayer, where 16 December is designated O Sapientia (O Wisdom). The Common Worship Calendar has adopted the more widely used form. It is not known when and by whom the antiphons were composed, but they were already in use by the eighth century.

22 December – O Rex Gentium

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

–cf Isaiah 28.16; Ephesians 2.14