Monday, December 18, 2017

Carol Sing-Along

 As has been our custom for the past few years, SPPC held a community carol-sing on Sunday afternoon.  It was well attended and I saw lots of smiling faces while we raised the roof with old favourites like Joy to the World, and Hark the Herald Angel's Sing.

    We began, though, with a quieter carol, one the choir has been using as an introit this month, O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
This ancient hymn originally comprised a series of seven antiphons which would be sung in the monastery on each of the seven days of the week preceding Christmas.  Sometime around the twelfth or thirteen century five of them were put together to form the verses of a single hymn,  Each stanza concentrates on a different Biblical name for Jesus making the whole work rich in allusions to Scripture and thus a fine guide for our meditation.
One of the problems with our Advent hymns is deciding whether they refer to the first advent or to the second coming.  A quick reading of these verses will show that the reference is to the birth of Jesus.  The opening verse compares the Church to "captive Israel" languishing in exile in Babylon, longing for the worship of the temple now lying in ruin.  to these exiles came the word of the prophet Isaiah telling them that a virgin would conceive and bear a son and she would call him "Emmanuel." - God with us. (7:14) as the people of Israel in Babylon longed for the coming of their deliverer, so the Church longs for release from this world and the coming of its rightful King.
This Emmanuel is also the "Lord of might" whose name was proclaimed to the children of Israel at Sanai, where the law was given to the accompaniment of thunder and lightning so that the people were afraid to draw near, and Moses alone went up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone. (Exod. 19: 16-20)
The third verse describes him as the Rod of Jesse.  Isaiah, again, had foretold that a deliverer would appear from the house of Jesse.  This was the family of which David was a member but the promised One would be greater than even David, the greatest of the Israelite kings.  He delivered a lamb out of the mouth of a lion. (1 Sam, 17:34-35) and later rescued his people from the tyranny of the Philistines and other enemies, but before Christ, even death must flee away.
When we think of Jesus as "the Dayspring from on high" (Luke 1:78) a number of pictures come to mind: the dispelling of darkness by light (Isa. 9:2), the  rising of the sun (Mal.4:2), the giving of life (John 1:4).  These are referred to along with the dispersal of the "clouds of night" and the putting to flight of "death's dark shadows".  What a ministry is carried on by our Messiah!
The concluding verse refers to Jesus as the Key of David".  The function of a key is to open or to close a lock.  So Isaiah refers to the placing of the key of the house of David on the shoulder of Eliakim, "he shall open and none shall shut, and he shall shut and none shall open? (Is. 22:22) The same words are used of Jesus by the angel of the church in Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7).  Through the coming of Jesus the way to "our heav'nly home" will be opened wide and "the path to misery" will be closed.  That is good news for a captive people.
The thought and imagery of this old hymn is very remote from our modern approach to religion, but if we take time to think seriously about it, there is so much to encourage us.  Here we see aspects of Christ's work that we might not ordinarily think about.  More than that, if we can look beyond our Lord's first coming, here is a prayer that still needs saying as we await His return.
                                                                 -- devotional by Rev. Dr. Cecil Kirk

We hope all who came enjoyed singing the carols.  A reminder, that the Christmas Eve service at 7:00 pm on Sunday, Dec. 24, is another opportunity to sing the music of Christmas and enjoy the beauty of a candlelight service.

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