There has fallen on earth for a token
A god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or a lover,
For the wine of the world brims over,
Its splendour is split on the sand.
Who is proud when the heavens are humble,
Who mounts if the mountains fall,
If the fixed stars topple and tumble
And a deluge of love drowns all –
Who rears up his head for a crown,
Who holds up his will for a warrant,
Who strives with the starry torrent,
When all that is good goes down?
For in dread of such falling and failing
The fallen angels fell
Inverted in insolence, scaling
The hanging mountain of hell:
But unmeasured of plummet and rod
Too deep for their sight to scan,
Outrushing the fall of man
Is the height of the fall of God.
Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate –
Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.
– G.K. Chesterton
We beseech thee, Almighty God,
to purify our consciences by thy daily visitation,
that when thy Son our Lord cometh
he may find in us a mansion prepared for himself;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
– Book of Common Prayer, 1789
And if you’re wondering why I wished you a merry Christmas, or why Christmas is worth being merry about in the first place, then you’re in luck: there’s a book for that.
In God Rest Ye Merry, Douglas Wilson seeks to rekindle the Christian’s understanding of why Christmas really is “the foundation for everything.” He tears down false reasons for the season (and false objections to it); reflects upon the oddness and beauty of the Incarnation; explains why the first Christmas was “a political event of the first order”; shows us how to celebrate like true Puritans; and examines the theology behind gift-giving. All in less than
one hundred fifty pages.
He’s efficient, this Wilson is.
I’ve got gifts to wrap and halls to deck, so I’ll just cut to the chase: God Rest Ye Merry is a terrific book. I loved it. You should read it. Better yet, you and your family should read it. (The Advent meditations included at the back of the book are perfectly suited to family devotions.) Here are a few standout passages to whet your appetite.
From Lesson Two, The Politics of Christmas:
The message of Christmas is politically incendiary, when you think about it, and it is not for nothing that secularists are trying to get us to forget Jesus with their C.E. (Common Era) and B.C.E. (Before Common Era), and seasonal conifers instead of Christmas trees. Nice try, but we aren’t buying any…
The Anti-Christian Liberties Union (ACLU) knows that getting Christmas trees off public property is well worth fighting for. This is why we as Christians have to learn that saying “merry Christmas” is an act of insurrection. How do we define our lives? More than this, how do we define our lives as a people? Far from retreating into a minimalist celebration, or no celebration at all, we as Christians must take far greater advantage of the opportunity we have in all of this. Now the Lord Jesus is on His throne. And His government will continue to increase. But He works through instruments, and one of His central instruments for establishing His kingdom on earth is the faith of His people. Why is it that Christians shopping at WalMart are being reminded over the loudspeakers that “He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found.” Why are they telling us this? It’s our religion. Why don’t we believe it? But if you believe it, then say merry Christmas to somebody. (pp. 59, 61)
From Lesson Three, Celebrating Like A Puritan:
Some may object to the fact that the suffix -mass is still in the name. But the objectionable doctrine of transubstantiation was not codified by the Roman church until the thirteenth century (A.D. 1215) at the Fourth Lateran Council. The word mass originally came from the fact that in the ancient church catechumens were dismissed from the service before the Lord’s Supper was observed. “Ite, missa est,” which roughly translated means that “you may go now.” We see it still in our word dismissed. (p. 92-93)
From Daily Meditations for Advent, Day Twelve:
We forget that Rachel weeping for her slaughtered children is very much a part of the Christmas story – as much a part of it as the shepherds, and the angels, and the star, and the wise men. This is a story of the infants who were butchered by a tyrannical king, and the one infant who was spared in order to grow up and die for the sins of His people.
This story has death woven through it – the backdrop is death, and sin, and tyranny. We celebrate at this time, not because we live in a sentimentalist paradise where there has never been any evil, but only gently falling snow and the sound of sleigh bells in the distance. We celebrate the birth of the one who overthrew the principalities and powers. This is not a holiday that commemorates the essential sweetness and goodness of man. It is a holiday that commemorates the beginning of the story of how it came about that death finally was killed, and how the Warrior who did this great thing was spared in His infancy.
This is why the continued celebration of Christmas is a standing threat to the secularists who want to remove every vestige of it from the public square. I dare say they do. They understand it better than we do. Merry Christmas really means tyranny is dead. (p. 126)
Stir up thy power, O Lord,
and with a great might come among us;
and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins,
let thy bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost,
be honor and glory,
world without end. Amen.
– Book of Common Prayer, 1789