Dear Friends in Christ,
As we quiet the hymns of the Advent Season for another year and begin the Carols of Christmas, there is a thought from one of the most common Advent hymns that keeps coming to my mind. In “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” we sing:
“O come, desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease
And be for us our King of peace”.
The words of this hymn were most likely penned by an anonymous monk before the year 800 AD. One of the seven verses was sung at Vespers on the final week before the celebration of the Lord’s Nativity. Each verse begins with the word “O” – addressing Jesus with an Old Testament image of what the awaited Messiah would do and hailing our Lord as the One who fulfilled those cherished expectations.
Throughout the centuries as Christian voices raised this sung-prayer to God, the phrase “our sad divisions” has referred to many different kinds of conflict. First sung in that time period we now call “the Dark Ages,” at times “sad divisions” referred to the splintering of the Church, the wars of religion, civil wars and wars between city-states and among nations. In 2017, each of us can “fill in the blank” as to what we understand as our sad divisions. Whether you are thinking on the level of your family, our nation, our world or our Church, there are enough sad divisions to go around.
Nonetheless, we believe that the Incarnate Son of God is “our King of Peace” who can “bind in one” our hearts and make our divisions cease – but only if you and I allow Him. We must allow the Christmas Mystery to awaken awe in our minds and hearts by the revelation that the One who holds all creation together in Himself is now being held by His mother; that He who is the Bread of Life is now hungry and fed by His mother; that He to whom all things in heaven and earth belong comes to us in poverty and need. The mystery that the Infinite One becomes infant should cause us to surrender in reverent adoration that the Father loves us this much.
Christmas Day comes and goes so quickly. For us, the Church, Christmas is a season – a series of days to contemplate and celebrate the mystery of the Word Made Flesh. May this season bring us the needed grace to accept and worship “the Desire of Nations” – the newborn King of Peace who fulfills God’s promises to us.
A Blessed and Merry Christmas!
Bishop Ronald Gainer
Click here to listen to a special Christmas radio program with Bishop Ronald Gainer.