Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Infant Priest Was Holy Born

I’m going to miss Advent. Advent is the time of year that the historic Church has focused on eschatological matters. Eschatology as I’ve stated in previous posts is the study of last things or rather the look at the end times. Sounds a little strange, doesn’t it? I mean, shouldn’t we have been focusing on Christmas? Isn’t Jesus “the reason for the season”? Jesus must be the reason for the season because every other church sign I passed during Advent seemed to have a variation of that phrase posted for the entire world to see. And to be clear, I certainly don’t dispute the logic of said signage.

But Advent wasn’t just an opportunity to look back at the Christ child lying in the manger. Advent was also an opportunity for the Church catholic to look forward for Christ’s return.

I notice more and more that many churches seem to treat the miracle at Bethlehem as only a historical event. It was historical and it did happen in a real town, in a real province, during a real census decreed by Caesar Augustus. But to treat the event of God becoming man as history only, takes away from this inaugural eschatological event. This momentous and blessed event fixes the world that we ourselves broke. Did you notice I said fixes, not fixed? To treat the birth of Christ, as only history is to say that what happened, happed long, long ago in a place far, far away.

But that is just not the case for us. The events of two thousand years ago are not in the before times, in the long, long ago. The event that we celebrate is here, and it is now. And no, I’m not speaking metaphorically.

To help explain myself, I’m going to look at one of my favorite hymns, The Infant Priest Was Holy Born written in 1997 by Rev. Chad L. Bird. Pastor Bird is proof that you don’t have to be dead five or six hundred years for me to like your hymns. Rev. Bird’s hymn is found in the section of hymns that focus on the Lord’s Supper, not in the Advent section, in both the Hymnal Supplement 98 as well as the Lutheran Service Book; our newest hymnal. The hymn certainly belongs in the section that focuses on the Eucharist, but I believe it could just as easily be sung with our usual Advent hymns.

Through the use of beautiful words, Rev. Bird rightfully takes us from the manger to the cross and onto the Holy Supper, because they are inseparable. Lying in the manger, wrapped in human flesh, is our High Priest who gives up His own life as sacrifice for our sins. But our Lord doesn’t stop there; He feeds us with His body and blood at the Eucharist. And He promises to continue to feed us with His body and blood to His promised return.

And there we are, full circle, looking at the Word taking on human flesh for sinful man and looking to His return during the Advent season. We looked not to the before times, in the long, long ago, but rather at the manger, in light of the cross, with the promise of Christ’s return.

As I’ve said, I will miss Advent. But through the proper preaching of the Word and the right administration of the Sacraments, those things I enjoyed during Advent, carry on throughout the Church year. Christ’s gifts, administered by His called servants, are in the now, promised for all eternity until His return.

I do hope everyone had a joyful Advent and a merry Christmas. I’ll end this post with Rev. Bird’s beautiful hymn.

1. The infant priest was holy born,
For us unholy and forlorn
From fleshly temple forth came he,
Anointed from eternity
2. This great High Priest in human flesh
Was icon of God’s righteousness.
His hallowed torch brought sanctity;
His hand removed impurity
3. The holy Lamb undaunted came
To God’s own alter lit with flame
While weeping angles hid their eyes,
This Priest became a sacrifice
4. But death would not the victor be
Of Him who hung upon the tree
He leads us to the Holy Place
Within the veil before god’s face
5. The veil is torn, our Priest we see,
As at the rail on bended knee
Our hungry mouths from Him receive,
The bread of immortality
6. The body of God’s Lamb we eat
A priestly food and priestly meat;
On sin parched lips the chalice pours
His quenching blood that life restores.
7. With cherubim and seraphim
Our voices join the endless hymn
And “Holy, holy, holy” sing
To Christ, God’s Lamb, our Priest and King

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