HYMNS FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF CHRISTMAS
The Holy Trinity/The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt Among us
This Sunday is between times. None of the stories of Matthew or Luke, simply the grand sweeping version of the Christmas story as given in the Gospel of John. In it we see pictures of the activity of the Holy Trinity. Jesus is God from the beginning. There was nothing, then there was something. God created everything. In the word God speaks we see Jesus, and in the Spirit breathing over the waters, the Holy Spirit. Trinity talk. And all for us. We are at the center of the story since it is a love story. God is the lover, we the beloved. It bowls me over.
This year as the pandemic rolled on, I have been listening on line to doctors and scientists describing how the corona virus attacks the cell and enters it to replicate until it dies, causing inflammations as our immune system rushes to the rescue to clean away the dead virus. Sometime it overdoes the attack creating a cytokine storm that, if not treated, causes our blood to coagulate in the lungs and kill.
During their lectures, the teachers describe what happens in a single human cell. Their description of the process takes hours and is never really done. On seeing all the things working and contesting in that invisible space, the chemical balances there, the exquisite interactions between the systems of our bodies, I cannot get over how design governs in a thing so small, as Robert Frost wrote once. Each cell is a universe, billions of which make up our bodies. There had to be a creator. This was no accident. It should cause us to fall on our knees in worship. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, as the Psalmist sings.
And all this was done out of love. God wanted company. We turned out to be rather bad company. Still, he continued wooing us and coming to save us at the cost of his own Son, there from the beginning. He became like us, he entered into flesh to save us from sin, death and the power of the devil. And he suffered at our hands, while he was saving us. Greater love has never been seen. All the time he was revealing to us who God is: love.
Christ draws all people to himself. There are those who are offended by this love, by the fact they had to be redeemed at such cost. Jesus troubles them even as they are drawn to him. He knew from the beginning he would be an offense and warned us over and over he would have to suffer for us. It is overwhelming. And so in thanks to God for this gift we go forth to tell his good news to all people. This is why Epiphany has traditionally been the month of missions and mission festivals. Jesus, the light of the world has come. People are drawn to him and see God revealed. An Epiphany!
We speak of epiphanies in our own lives when, for some surprising moment, we see into what is true and right. In this season we see the light of Christ—in whom we see God.
That is what the first chapter of John is all about. Here is the glory of the Lord before our very eyes and we could not or would not see it. But we can by faith. Somewhere along the way, as we are reading or hearing his Word, praying, singing, worshiping, even lost in day dreams, something of God’s revelation in Christ might flash before our eyes. We will see his glory, and we will see into this mystery, briefly, and fully, for a moment. And we are promised one day we will see him face to face.
Something to live for indeed. God's glory fully revealed and made known to us in the person of Jesus. Astonishing. Fall on your knees!
This first stanza of the Trinity hymn is a paraphrase of the Apostolic Benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14. The hymn then explores the relationship and work of each member of the Trinity. John R. Kleinheksel, Sr. grew up in Holland, Michigan where he learned to play the piano and learn church music from his grandparents and parents. For him congregational song was always central. He wanted hymn tunes to be "clean, flowing, simple, and singable." And he prefers the settings to be chorally conceived for SATB groups.
Amanda's tune for the Old Testament lesson for this Sunday gives a list to the way in which Jesus draws all people unto himself, even as a baby. Amanda graduated from Concordia Teacher's College in Seward, Nebraska, and studied with Jan Bender. She moved to Brooklyn, NY, in the mid 1960s and did parish work at St. John the Evangelist Lutheran Church where she served for fifty-two years. While she has written music for anthems, and wrote a Requiem with Richard Leech, her hymn tunes, around 300, were her major work. She died last February, a great loss to church music.