Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I hope that you are all enjoying the wonder of Christmas and are able to reflect on the glory and depth of the Incarnation. In Jesus Christ, our God took on flesh for us and our salvation. Amazing.

For those of you with a more modern ear, I'd like to recommend Sufjan Stevens' "Songs for Christmas" CD set.

Sufjan presents some of his own original Christmas music, which is phenomenal (here's a sample), but he excels in taking many traditional Christian Christmas songs and re-presenting them in new, yea glorious, arrangements. I wasn't able to find many links to these Christmas songs (here's his wonderful rendition of "O Come O Come Emmanuel"), but you'll get a general overview of his style from his renditions of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" (sorry for the cheesy video accompaniment) and "Amazing Grace."

It's already Christmas and you may not want to buy a Christmas album now but, trust me, it's worth it and you will listen to it all year 'round. Merry Christmas to all of you, whether Sufjan is a part of it or not.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Please, Let Them Be There

I know that life in the Millennial Kingdom will be radically different and indescribably greater than it is now.

And I know that the subsequent New Heavens and the New Earth will be utterly different and infinitely greater still.

But one of the few things that I really hope remains a constant from this life to the next are …

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Beautiful, If Non-Traditional, Advent Moment

Our Church in Ukraine has, in the past, discussed acknowledging Advent, but has never followed though once that 4th Sunday before Christmas rolls around. Partly, it’s due to a lack of personnel; the inevitable absence of the majority of our leaders around the holidays makes doing anything out of the ordinary quite difficult. Partly, it's due to the simplistic nature of our services; they're always the same and they've never included Advent before, so it's hard to veer into the new now. All that to say, it's been a while since we've been around a Church that celebrates Advent and puts full focus on the Incarnation for a solid month. I've been anticipating this season for a while.

Our NorCal Church is Morgan Hill Presbyterian, and we love It dearly. They've been very welcoming to us since our return 2 months ago and have given us lots of opportunities to be involved in the life of the Church. And, being Presbyterian, they are fully immersed in the Advent tradition, so Sunday was a great start to what will be a great month worshipping our God in response to the gift of His Son. The highlight was the choir's rendition of Of the Father's Love Begotten, one of my most beloved Christian hymns. But we also sang a song entitled, The Love of God, which didn't seem particularly "Adventy" and which I had never heard before. In the middle of the second verse, I found myself wondering, "Why are we singing this when there are so many better and Adventier songs to sing?" When we hit the last verse, I stopped caring. It is so beautiful, capturing both the immensity of God's love and our complete inability to comprehend it's depth that it could have been sung to the tune of a Beatles song and I would have been overcome by it's simple profundity. So, as this Advent season begins, I wish you God's peace and a fresh perspective on God's love from the following words …

Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, tho' stretched from sky to sky.
O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure — The saints' and angels' song.