Appleton, WI

Dec 8: In Joy and Sorrow by Fr. Bill

Next weekend, on the Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudate! or Rejoice! Sunday), I bring up my 3-foot artificial Christmas tree, fully decorated, lights and all, from the basement. It stands tall on a coffee table in my living room. I like to think of the Christmas tree, topped most often with a star or an angel, sometimes with a village or event the nativity scene displayed underneath it, as a connector between heaven and earth. Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, God’s love for us made visible in human flesh, left his favored place alongside his Father in eternity, to come down and, as Saint John attested in his Gospel, to “dwell among us.” The Greek here is more accurately translated as Jesus “pitching his tent among us.” Incarnation, God’s putting on human flesh, along with the Resurrection of Jesus, are the linchpins of all of human history. Without this intimacy between God and all of us, there would be no reason whatever to have hope. Selfishness, which is what all sin is, and even death, would still have a tight and unbreakable stranglehold upon all of us. We are filled with joy and peace and hope as we celebrate the Incarnation of our God.

In an absolutely wonderful book of prayers titled Every Moment Holy by Douglas McKelvey (published by Rabbit Room), you will find this prayer for Setting up a Christmas Tree:

Leader: O Emmanual, we would find in our traditions these reminders of the wonders of your love:

First, let this fragrant tree, cut down and then raised beneath our roof, remind us how once upon a time, the High King of Heaven consented to be cut from the glories that were his birthright, and descended instead to dwell with us in a broken world, beset by harm and evil.

People: Praise to you, Emmanuel!

Leader: Next let the hard wood of the trunk and the outstretched branches remind us how that same Heavenly King who had entered our world on that distant night, would soon act to redeem his creation and his people in it, though it would require the stretching out of his arms upon a cross of wood – his death for our life.

People: Praise to you, Emmanuel!

Leader: Then, let these evergreen boughs be a reminder of his mighty triumph over death and hell, of his resurrection unto a life eternal which will never fade – an eternal life which he has also secured for us. There is no greater gift!

People: Praise to you, Emmanuel!

Leader: Finally, as we drape the branches of this Christmas tree in glittering finery and sparkling lights, let us imagine Christ our King, seated upon his heavenly throne, arrayed in the royal raiments of his glory. And when at last we set the star atop the tree, let us imagine Christ crowned in his spendor, and all creatures in heaven and on earth bowing before him, crying, “Holy! Holy! Holy!”

People: Glory to you, Emmanuel! Worthy are you, O Lamb of God, to receive all glory, honor, and praise! Glory to you, Lord Jesus!

Father Bill+