Archive for the ‘December 24: Christmas Eve’ Category

Devotions for Christmas Eve, Years A, B, C, and D (Humes)   3 comments

Nativity of Christ

Above:  Nativity of Christ

Image in the Public Domain

With Equity and Justice for All

DECEMBER 24, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 9:2-7

Psalm 96

Titus 2:11-14

Luke 2:1-20

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Christmas and Easter remind me of graduation in a way; orations at each of these events are usually rehashes of old material.  That is not necessarily negative, of course.  Ministers, of all people, must be keenly aware that they are delivering Christmas or Easter sermon #9, frequently repeated.  How can reality be otherwise?

Isaiah 9:2-7 (or 9:1-6, if one is Jewish, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox) is a familiar passage.  Like so many familiar passages, it contains subtexts one might easily ignore when going on autopilot.  Depending on how one reads Hebrew verb tenses, the ideal king described is most likely Hezekiah (reigned 727/715-698/687 B.C.E.), son of Ahaz.  One can read of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18-20 and 2 Chronicles 29-32.  One finds, however, that Hezekiah, although pious, was a deeply flawed man.  The ideal king of the Davidic Dynasty, then, remains a hoped-for figure for many.  Christian tradition identifies this prophecy with Jesus, born in Luke 2.

God is the King of the Earth, and salvation is available to all people, we read.  Yet we know that many people refuse and will reject that offer.  We also know that grace, although free to us, is never cheap to us, if it is to be effective.  Divine generosity to us imposes certain moral obligations upon us.  We have mandates, for example, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  That high calling leads to legal jeopardy sometimes, especially when the “king,” regardless of title, does not strive to be an ideal ruler and certainly falls far short of that standard.

Amid the reigns of wicked potentates and exploitative economic-judicial-educational systems I write

Merry Christmas!

to all of you.  Remember that God is in charge and will judge people with equity and justice.  That is good news for some and terrifying news for others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 16, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ADALBALD OF OSTEVANT, RICTRUDIS OF MARCHIENNES, AND THEIR RELATIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM KUDUNAIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT; AND SAINT MARY OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CACCIAFRONTE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MEGINGAUD OF WURZBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND BISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/16/with-equity-and-justice-for-all/

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Devotion for Christmas Eve (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:  Madonna and Child

Image in the Public Domain

Sharing the Distress of Others

DECEMBER 24, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Habakkuk 3:17-19

Isaiah 54:1-10

Philippians 4:10-14

Luke 2:1-20

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The readings from Habakkuk 3 and Isaiah 54 exist in the context of exile.  They also teach the wisdom of trusting God, even when the darkness seems darkest and hope seems lost.  God is faithful, these scriptures tell us.

For the mountains may move

And the hills be shaken,

But my loyalty shall never move from you,

Nor My covenant of friendship be shaken

–said the LORD, who takes you back in love.

–Isaiah 54:10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

In Philippians 4 St. Paul the Apostle writes of his contentment in a variety of circumstances, from hardship to ease.  This is an inner freedom and a great spiritual gift.  St. Paul can do all things with God’s help, we read.

In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.

–Philippians 4:14, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Was that not what God did via the Incarnation?  Did not God share our distress?

Does not God call on us to be agents of divine kindness by sharing the distress of others?  To be a Christian is to follow Christ, who suffered and died for our benefit.  The author of Hebrews, in 10:24, writing in the context of persecution and of faith community, challenges us to

consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

You, O reader, and I are supposed to be ambassadors for Christ.  What we do might bring someone to faith, turn someone off from God, deepen his or her faith, or damage it.  One way to be an agent of Christ to someone is to share in that person’s distress and offer compassion, not judgment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BOSA OF YORK, JOHN OF BEVERLEY, WILFRID THE YOUNGER, AND ACCA OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY REES, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LLANDAFF

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/sharing-the-distress-of-others/

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Devotion for Christmas Eve (Year D)   1 comment

Madonna and Child

Above:  Icon of Mary and Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

In Jesus’s Name

DECEMBER 24, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Ecclesiastes 5:1-20 or 7:1-14 or Ezekiel 33:23-33

Psalm 21

Philippians 3:1-4a; 4:10-21 or James 1:17-27

Matthew 12:22-50 or Luke 11:14-54

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Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength!

We will sing and praise your power.

–Psalm 21:13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Sincere praise of God is a virtue and insincere spiritual speech is an affront to God.  Often such insincere speech, externally pious, disguises willful and/or institutionalized social injustice, especially that of the economic variety.  The mercy and judgment of God coexist.  Often we prefer to hear of the mercy yet not of the judgment.  That is at least as bad an error as committing the opposite fallacy.

That is a concise summary of several of the elements of the lections for Christmas Eve (Year D).  One might recognize my summary as being accurate while wondering what it has to do with Christmas Eve, however.  That is a legitimate question.  Timothy Matthew Slemmons, in Year D (2012), acknowledges the challenge of selecting germane and neglected texts for December 24 and 25.  He explains that his suggested readings contain relevant themes, such as the universality of sin.

The world that the Second Person of the Trinity, incarnated as Jesus, entered was dangerous and corrupt.  That description still applies to the world, does it not?  Jesus continues to come to us in the guise of the poor, the lame, the exploited, the young, the middle-aged, and the elderly.  Do we content ourselves with pious platitudes while we do little or nothing to help them (as we are able, of course) and/or to justify systems that harm them?  And, as we enjoy hearing about divine mercy, do we give proper attention to God’s judgment on those who exploit the vulnerable?

The celebration of the birth of Jesus, linked to his death and resurrection, is more than a time to celebrate.  It is also an occasion for us to commit or recommit ourselves to living according to the incarnational principle.  God is present all around us intangibly in tangible elements of creation.  These tangible elements include the defenseless and the exploited.  May we commit or recommit ourselves to recognizing the image of God in them and to acting accordingly, in Jesus’s name.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACK LAYTON, CANADIAN ACTIVIST AND FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/in-jesuss-name/

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Devotion for Monday After the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Suitcase

Above:  A Suitcase

Image Source = Maksim

Hostility and Reconciliation

DECEMBER 24, 2018

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that binds us,

that we may receive you in joy and serve you always,

for you live and reign with the Father and

the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 25:19-28

Psalm 113

Colossians 1:15-20

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Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust

and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

He sets them with the princes,

with the princes of his people.

He makes the woman of a childless house

to be a joyful mother of children.

–Psalm 113:5-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To read of God granting a barren woman children is appropriate just a few days prior to December 25.  Unfortunately, Jacob and Esau, the twin children of Isaac and Rebekah, were not paragons of peace and reconciliation, although they did resolve their differences eventually.

The pericope from Colossians functions as a counterpoint to the reading from Genesis.  We humans struggle with each other, “hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,” as Colossians 1:21 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989) says.  Yet we can have reconciliation with God and each other through the killed and resurrected Jesus if we persist in faithfulness.  We humans are creatures of habit.  May we encourage each other in pursuing good habits, therefore, so that we, exercising freedom in God, may come nearer to the proper spiritual destination in Christ.  Yes, clinging to hostility does prove appealing much of the time, but that luggage is too heavy to carry on the journey with Jesus, the celebration of whose birth we approach.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2015 COMMON ERA

 THE FEAST OF JOHN ATHELSTAN LAURIE RILEY, ANGLICAN ECUMENIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/hostility-and-reconciliation/

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Advent and Christmas Message   1 comment

advent-and-christmas-message

Above:  The Beginning of the Draft of This Post

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And Mary said,

My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior….

–Luke 1:46-47, The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1993)

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One of the great virtues of High Churchmanship is having a well-developed sense of sacred time.  So, for example, the church calendars, with their cycles, tell us of salvation history.  We focus on one part of the narrative at a time.  Much of Protestantism, formed in rebellion against Medieval Roman Catholic excesses and errors, has thrown the proverbial baby out with the equally proverbial bath water, rejecting or minimizing improperly the sacred power of rituals and holy days.

Consider, O reader, the case of Christmas–not in the present tense, but through the late 1800s.  Puritans outlawed the celebration of Christmas when they governed England in the 1650s.  Their jure divino theology told them that since there was no biblical sanction for keeping Christmas, they ought not to do it–nor should anyone else.  On the other hand, the jure divino theology of other Calvinists allowed for keeping Christmas.  Jure divino was–and is–a matter of interpretation.  Lutherans, Anglicans, and Moravians kept Christmas.  Many Methodists on the U.S. frontier tried yet found that drunken revelry disrupted services.  Despite this Methodist pro-Christmas opinion, many members of the Free Methodist denomination persisted in anti-Christmas sentiment.  The holiday was too Roman Catholic, they said and existed without

the authority of God’s word.

Thus, as the December 19, 1888 issue of Free Methodist concluded,

We attach no holy significance to the day.

–Quoted in Leigh Eric Schmidt, Consumer Rites:  The Buying and Selling of American Holidays (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 1995), page 180.  (The previous quote also comes from that magazine, quoted in the same book.)

Many Baptists also rejected the religious celebration of Christmas.  An 1875 issue of Baptist Teacher, a publication for Sunday School educators, contained the following editorial:

We believe in Christmas–not as a holy day but as a holiday and so we join with our juveniles with utmost heartiness of festal celebration….Stripped as it ought to be, of all pretensions of religious sanctity and simply regarded as a social and domestic institution–an occasion of housewarming, and heart-warming and innocent festivity–we welcome its coming with a hearty “All Hail.”

–Quoted in Schmidt, Consumer Rites, pages 179 and 180

Presbyterians, with their Puritan heritage, resisted celebrating Christmas for a long time.  In fact, some very strict Presbyterians still refuse to keep Christmas, citing their interpretation of jure divino theology.  (I have found some of their writings online.)  That attitude was more commonplace in the 1800s.  The Presbyterian Church in the United States, the old Southern Presbyterian Church, passed the following resolution at its 1899 General Assembly:

There is no warrant for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days, but rather contrary (see Galatians iv.9-11; Colossians ii.16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of the gospel in Jesus Christ.

–Page 430 of the Journal of the General Assembly, 1899  (I copied the text of the resolution verbatim from an original copy of the Journal.)

I agree with Leigh Eric Schmidt:

It is not hard to see in this radical Protestant perspective a religious source for the very secularization of the holiday  that would eventually be so widely decried.  With the often jostling secularism of the Christmas bazaar, Protestant rigorists simply got what they had long wished for–Christmas as one more market day, a profane time or work and trade.

Consumer Rites, page 180

I affirm the power of rituals and church calendars.  And I have no fear of keeping a Roman Catholic holy day and season.  Thus I keep Advent (December 1-24) and Christmas (December 25-January 5).  I hold off on wishing people

Merry Christmas

often until close to Christmas Eve, for I value the time of preparation.  And I have no hostility or mere opposition to wishing anyone

Happy Holidays,

due to the concentrated holiday season in December.  This is about succinctness and respect in my mind; I am not a culture warrior.

Yet I cannot help but notice with dismay the increasingly early start of the end-of-year shopping season.  More retailers will open earlier on Thanksgiving Day this year.  Many stores display Christmas decorations before Halloween.  These are examples of worshiping at the high altar of the Almighty Dollar.

I refuse to participate in this.  In fact, I have completed my Christmas shopping–such as it was–mostly at thrift stores.  One problem with materialism is that it ignores a basic fact:  If I acquire an item, I must put it somewhere.  But what if I enjoy open space?

I encourage a different approach to the end of the year:  drop out quietly (or never opt in) and keep nearly four weeks of Advent and all twelve days of Christmas.  I invite you, O reader, to observe these holy seasons and to discover riches and treasures better than anything on sale on Black Friday.

Pax vobiscum!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/nineteenth-century-evangelical-support-for-a-secular-christmas/

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Adapted from this post:

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/advent-and-christmas-message/

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Christmas Thoughts   1 comment

st-teresas-december-23-2011

Above:  Live Nativity Scene, St. Teresa’s Episcopal Church, Acworth, Georgia, December 23, 2011

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask Thee to stay

Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,

And fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.

–Martin Luther; translated by William James Kirkpatrick

Yesterday I sang in my parish choir’s performance of the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah.  We dropped “His yoke is easy and his burden is light,” culminating instead in the Hallelujah Chorus.  The concert was glorious and spiritually edifying for many people.

There are still a few days of Advent left.  So I encourage you, O reader, to observe them.  Then, beginning sometime during the second half of December 24, begin to say

Merry Christmas!

and continue that practice through January 5, the twelfth and last day of Christmas.  And I encourage you to remember that our Lord and Savior was born into a violent world, one in which men–some mentally disturbed, others just mean, and still others both mean and mentally disturbed–threatened and took the lives of innocents.  Names, circumstances, empires, nation-states, and technology have changed, but the essential reality has remained constant, unfortunately.

The Hallelujah Chorus, quoting the Apocalypse of John, includes these words:

The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.

That is not true yet, obviously.  But that fact does not relieve any of us of our responsibilities to respect the Image of God in others and to treat them accordingly.  We must not try to evade the duty to be the face and appendages of Christ to those to whom God sends us and those whom God sends to us.  We cannot save the world, but we can improve it.  May we do so for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

May the peace of Christ, born as a vulnerable baby and executed as a criminal by a brutal imperial government, be with you now and always.  In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

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Adapted from this post:

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/christmas-thoughts/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  Magnificat

Image in the Public Domain

Why the Birth of Jesus Occurred

DECEMBER 22, 23, and 24, 2014

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that would obstruct your mercy,

that willingly we may bear your redeeming love to all the world,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 1:1-18 (Monday)

1 Samuel 1:19-28 (Tuesday)

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (Wednesday)

Luke 1:46b-55 (All Days)

Hebrews 9:1-14 (Monday)

Hebrews 8:1-13 (Tuesday)

Mark 11:1-11 (Wednesday)

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My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 119

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Stories of and set in the context of angelic annunciations of conception and birth are, of course, appropriate for the days leading up to December 25.  In the previous post I dealt with the story of Samson.  These three days we have Hannah (mother of Samuel) and St. Mary of Nazareth (Mother of God).  To read Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2:1-10) now is appropriate, for it was the model for the Magnificat.

This is a time to celebrate new life.  I mean that on more than one level.  There is, of course, the birth of Jesus.  Then there is the new spiritual life–both communal and individual–available via Christ.  As we celebrate this joyous time of year–one fraught with grief for many people also–may we, considering the assigned readings from Mark and Hebrews, consider why a birth occurred.  The pericope from Mark tells of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.  The readings from the Letter to the Hebrews, after much Greek philosophical language, culminate thusly:

For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

–Hebrews 9:13-14, New Revised Standard Version (1989)

To the passage above I add that we must move along to the Resurrection, or else we will have Dead Jesus.  I serve the living Messiah, not Dead Jesus.  Christ’s Resurrection conquered evil plans, as the Classic Theory of the Atonement states correctly.

We find foreshadowing of the crucifixion in the words of Simeon to St. Mary:

…and a sword will pierce your soul too.

–Luke 2:35b, New Revised Standard Version (1989)

In a similar vein, one can sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” to the tune “Easter Hymn,” to which many people sing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.”  (The Methodist Hymnal/The Book of Hymns (1966) provides this option.)  Advent and Christmas lead to the crucifixion and the Resurrection.

That is why the birth of Jesus occurred.  Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUDENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE VICTIMS OF THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/why-the-birth-of-jesus-occurred/

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