The Hope of Christmas

In the Hymn “Once in David’s Royal City,” there comes this line:

For he is our lifelong pattern: day by day like us he grew; he was little, weak, and helpless; tears and smiles like us he knew: and he feels for all our sadness, and he shares in all our gladness.

“Our lifelong pattern” reminds us that Christmas is far more than a single day can hold. Christmas is the birth and the best of what human nature can grasp – love, truth, understanding and compassion—the basics upon which the whole of our life in this world depends.  In the babe of Bethlehem, in the person and words of Jesus of Nazareth, in the graceful strength of his Spirit, we find a new dimension at work in our lives.  We discover a goodness stronger than evil, a compassion stronger than selfish striving, and a love stronger than cruelty or hatred.  On this day, we celebrate the glad tidings of Christ’s birth and the profound gift of hope he brings to the world.

Can we truly have hope for a more peaceful world?  Is change in the human heart really possible?   Hope is the single most important ingredient for changing the world, or at least changing our little corner of it. “Hope,” as the writer Jim Wallis likes to say, “is believing in spite of the evidence, then watching the evidence change.”

We yearn for an expression of hope that offers a positive, generous, and engaging way of life.  We want to belong to a hopeful community which is also committed to grappling honestly with difficult questions and which longs to make the world a better place.  Christ is the pattern of that hope, and the Church, when it rises to the call, is a sign and foretaste of what such hope can be in the world.

Wherever you are in your journey of faith this Christmas Eve, do not surrender your hope, no matter how flickering the flame of hope may be within you.  Let the glad tidings of Christmas be reborn in you, and then, for his sake, live and share your hope with others.

Merry Christmas my friends,

Rick+

Christmas Time Is Here

Northern Virginia has been blanketed with a quiet and deep snow with some 16 to 20 inches by nightfall. It put me in the mood to work up Vince Guaraldi’s classic, Christmas Time Is Here, from an arrangement by Jason Vieaux.   It’s not a flawless performance, but good enough for a snowy day.  You can see the snow falling through the windows of my home study.   It has been a long time since we’ve  had a White Christmas in the Washington area.  I’m loving it.

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

At our Advent Lessons and Carols last evening both the adult and children’s choir sang Elizabeth Poston’s carol, Jesus Christ the Apple Tree – a carol we’ve not heard at Holy Comforter in some time (thank you to Michael Painter for choosing it).  Poston credits the poem to a New Englander named  Joshua Smith (1784).  Her hauntingly beautiful setting is extraordinary and it moved me deeply last night.  The last two verses are worth quoting for this third week of Advent:

I’m weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest a while:
I’m weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest a while:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive:
This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive:
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Here is the choir of Kings College Cambridge singing it in about 1993: