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How our Living Room Glistened and Glowed on Christmas Eve, Advent and Christmas Service at Manteca 12/1/2013 and Oakland, CA 12/15/2013

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Advent- and Christmas Service, 1.and 15. December, 2013

at United Lutheran Church in Manteca, CA

and in Resurrection Lutheran Church, Oakland, CA

How our Living Room Glistened and Glowed on Christmas Eve

Summary:

[Remembering how our living room glistened and glowed becoming transfigured on Christmas Eve still fills me with awe and wonder. The candles were all lit on the Christmas tree and the tinsel sparkled, glistened, and glowed and presents surrounded us all around in the room and under the tree. A verse in German Christmas song goes, “How our room will glisten and glow that night!” God was present as we celebrated the birth of the Christ-child and the way that room became transfigured, that Christmas glow can spread throughout the whole world. The people and the whole world can suddenly be seen in the wonder of that light. Like that Christmas room, the whole world can be seen in that wonder of the mystery of our being, the magic of our reality, in the goodness of God’s creation. That is the basic concept of this sermon and I go through all the Christmas songs and prayers in the German Hymnal to show how all the world lights up and becomes transfigured like our living room in the glistening grace and Christmas glow mentioned in those hymns.]

The Sermon: Even though I’ve preached about it before, I need to preach about how our living room became transfigured in such a special way on Christmas Eve. “O how our Christmas room will glisten!” is the line from a song.

   Children Waiting for Christmas

  (Morgen Kinder Wird’s was Geben)

 

1.Tomorrow, children, such elation!
Tomorrow is the day, oh girl, oh boy.
Jubilation, what a celebration!
Our house will be full of life and joy!
Just try to wait for goodness sake.

  And it’ll be Christmas Day when you awake.

2.  How our Christmas room will glisten,

Because of all the candle light aglow!
To the Yuletide story we’ll listen
About the birth of Jesus here below.
Do you remember anymore, Christmas Eve,
the way it was before?
[1]

On Christmas Eve our living room became transfigured. There was the shimmering tinsel on the Christmas tree, with seventeen candles, one for each family member: 15 for us children and two for my parents. We could really sing, “On the Christmas Tree, the Candles are burning.” Then there were the many presents surrounding us in the room as well as under the tree. We listened to the Christmas story, heard the scriptures read, said prayers, and sang Christmas carols. When I remember the glistening glow of the Christmas room, then I think about transfiguration; the room became changed in a wondrous, holy light. A sacred and holy life was there in our house for the sake of God’s sacred and beloved world. The Christ-child had come and in the baby, God was present and time and space was transfigured. This transfiguration can spread over the whole world through believers, so that suddenly the world and all the people in it can be seen in a new light, the way they and the whole world actually have been wonderfully created.

In the Christmas story, it says that “the angel of the Lord stood before the shepherds and the glory of the Lord shone all around them.”[2] With that we can again see how the Good News of the angels can transfigure this whole world with the light of Heaven, by making the glory of the Lord shine all round us. In our prayer it says,

O God, you have let this sacred night shine in the glow of the true Light. Permit us there in Heaven to take in the joys of that light, whose secrets you have revealed to us here on earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is the true Light of the World.[3]

I wish I were capable of explaining what this glistening light means for us. We could also pray, “O God, on this sacred night you have let this Christmas room shine in the glow of the true light.” So this glow is also a joy that shines through us and inside us. (It can also be a shining faith, grace, love, comfort, and wonder shining from within us.) The glory in which the Christmas room shone came about because the Christ-child, the Light of the World, was present with some of the heavenly light of God.

I want to explore this glow of eternity, this light of eternity, somewhat further, by picking up the allusions to it in the songs of the Evangelical German Hymnal.[4] I read all the Christmas songs for this purpose.

Into our darkness has come the Light of the World. Jochen Klepper sings:

The night is spent and the day is not far off. So let us now sing our praise to the bright morning star. Those who cried during the night, just sing along. The morning star will also shine on your pain and sorrow.[5]

The Christ child drives away the darkness of our sadness with joyful light and new born consolation. In Luther’s songs, the Christ child comes to us in a special way. In “From Heaven Above to Earth I come,” one can think of a small child on tip-toes before the manger and with a shining face, looking into it at the baby Jesus.

Now in a manger-bed, in swaddling clothes,

[lies] the child, who all the earth upholds.[6]

And the Luther song, “We Praise You, Jesus that You’ve Come”:

Asleep in Mary’s lap has lain

one the world cannot contain.

Our God a little child so small

who nonetheless sustains us all. O Lord, have mercy.[7]

In the creation God speaks, “Let there be light and there was light.” In Hebrew it goes, Yehi Or va Yehi Or. (My father used to say that when he switched on a light in a room.) Because of the coming of the Christ child, one does not see Tohu va Bohu, (My mother used to say that when she looked into our rooms.) an expression, which means chaos in Hebrew, instead we see God’s wonderful creation.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.[8]

“Flesh” in Hebrew mean “human being.” So the Word became a human being. The Light of the World became a human being and just think about in what a loving, gentle, and inviting way – as a child, a baby on Mary’s lap. “The Little Jesus, so dear to my heart” Luther sings:

The light eternal enters time,

giving this world a whole new shine.

It brightens up the darkest night

and makes us children of the light. Lord, have mercy.[9]

So in the shining glory of God, we can well sing, “How our Christmas room will glisten!” And also, in the light of our faith, how our whole world will glow and glisten because of the Christ-child. “Because unto us a child is born; unto us a child is given.”[10]

Luther often speaks about a Heaven of grace that is far greater than our sky and stretches out over all believers.[11] In the Christmas songs, the Christ-child is called a shining Sun Full of Grace. This shining glory is also the luminous grace of God over us. In the Christ-child, God’s Sun of Grace shines over us with the light in which we see light. As Psalm 36 says, “With you is the fountain of life and in your light we see light.”[12] If we say, “Come into my heart Lord Jesus. There is room in our hearts for you,” then we can sing with Paul Gerhardt,

Let me be your little cradle,

come and lay down in me, with all your resplendent joy.[13]

How we will glisten and glow when we receive the shining joy of the light of the Christ-child in us! And when we are his cradle, then Jesus becomes born in us, and his sun-shining grace drives away all our worry, sins, sorrows and pain; and the shining glory of the God gives us a Sun Full of Grace for light, life, joy, and bliss. See what love, beloved, our God has shown us!

The Christ-child carries us under the Heaven of Grace, where we can take a deep breath, and take in the radiant beams of our Sun of Grace shining down on us. Our sorrows, even should we be depressed, will lose their hold on us, as Paul Gerhardt sings:

I lay in the deepest night of death,

And you were my sun, shining on me

You brought me light, life, joy and bliss.[14]

While another Christmas song says, “A hundred thousand suns do not equal to the light of Heaven shining on this world.” This verse goes:

This is the night, in which God’s great friendship appeared, the child, whom all the angels serve, brings light into my darkness and this world- and heaven’s light will not be vanquished by a hundred thousand suns.”[15]

Then in the last verse, Jesus is named the Christmas Sun:

Therefore, O Jesus, beautiful Christmas Sun, shine your goodness upon me with your radiant beams of light. Let your light be my Christmas bliss and teach me the art and skill of Christmas: how I can walk in your light and glisten with the glow of Christmas.[16]

Yes, when we walk in that light, how our eyes will glisten! How the children of God will glow and glisten! Just like this whole sacred world will glow and glisten in holiness. I could only remember with awe our glowing and glistening Christmas room, but now we already have a glimpse of how the Christ-child, who is the Sun of Grace, the bright and shining Christmas Sun, can vanquish a hundred thousand shining earthly suns. What a morning star! What a Sun God brings to us in this child born for us, this Son unto us given. And he is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.[17]

The world is full of sorrows, depression, worry, sin, terror and pain, but in this Christ child God has promised to be with us. The angel of the Lord stood before the shepherds and the angel also comes to us with the Good News of Great joy for all people about the birth of little Jesus, the Christ child, who is lying in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. The transfiguring glory of the Lord shone all around them and also all around us and in the darkest night we have a shining Sun of Grace, a Christmas Sun to give us light and life, joy, and bliss. Even in this Christmas time, in the light of faith, the glistening glow of eternity will shine upon us, because our Son Full of Grace is born. In this holy night there breaks a day full of grace and in its radiant beams we will all glow and glisten with the Light of the World within. Amen.


[1] These are my mostly unrhymed translations. I worked on this one, however, translating it from the song we sang as children so that it is singable in English.

[2] Luke 2:9.

[3] From the German hymnal. Evangelisches Kirchen-Gesangbuch: ausgegeben fűr die Evangelische Kirche Berlin-Brandenburg, (Verlag Merseburger Berlin GmbH, 1. Advent, 1951), p. 27. For this hymnal I thank Irmentrud Bronsch.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., Hymn No. 14.

[6] Hymn No. 16 verse 5.

[7] Hymn No. 15 verse 3. My translation from Philip and Peter Krey, eds., Luther’s Spirituality, (New York: Paulist Press, 2007,), p. 250.

[8] John 1:14.

[9] Hymn No. 15 verse 4. Philip and Peter Krey, eds., Luther’s Spirituality, p. 250.

[10] Isaiah 9:6.

[11] Philip and Peter Krey, eds., Luther’s Spirituality, p. 138ff. Luther notes that under this heaven of grace believers are never shut out, because God’s steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 117.

[12] Ps 36:9.

[13] Hymn No. 28 verse 9.

[14] Ibid., verse 3. It continues: “O sun, who configured in me the valued light of faith, how beautiful your radiant beams.”

[15] Hymn No. 32 verse 1.

[16] Ibid. A translation note: In English calling Christ the “Christmas Sun” works pretty well, but not the “Grace Sun,” so I word it “Sun full of Grace” or “Sun of Grace.” Perhaps I should have used “Sun-shining Grace.” Like in Luther’s very meaningful Heaven of Grace, this Sun shines grace; we bask in its radiant beams of grace.

[17] Isaiah 9:6.

Written by peterkrey

December 14, 2013 at 12:43 pm

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