The Worship Quote of the Week for (12/18/2007):

A Fifteenth-Century Christmas Sermon
Today's WORSHIP QUOTE is an excerpt from a Christmas sermon by Thomas à Kempis, the fifteenth-century author who penned the devotional classic THE IMITATION OF CHRIST. Notice how this intense meditation on Christmas Eve worship pictures the scene in Bethlehem and draws on the language of the entire biblical record. Try reading this out loud.

Seek the Lord, while he may be found; call on him, while he is near” (Isa. 55:6). Arise, all you faithful of Christ: eagerly gather for this reverent observance of the Lord’s birth. For this is the most holy night on which the Redeemer of the world, Jesus Christ, chose to be born of the glorious Virgin Mary. Arise, therefore, all, and watch. Prepare your hearts and pray. The Lord has come. Come and adore. Seek Jesus, and you will find him. Knock at the door and it will be opened to you. Enter the house and you will see. Our King has arrived. Christ has been born to us. Come, let us adore and fall down before him: for he it is who made us. Come, you angels and archangels: chant and rejoice and sing psalms. Be glad, you just in the Lord: sing a hymn to our God. Proclaim his works among the nations. God has come in the flesh. He who is never away from us in the divine is with us in human nature. Come, little and great, old and aged, youths and maidens: sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done wonders this day. Lift up your hearts with your hands to heaven and above all rejoicing give glory to his praise.

The Lord is with us: do not be sad. Put on the garments of gladness and joy, you chosen ones of God. Cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light. As in the light of day, so let us watch this sacred night. Let us rejoice and exult. Let us sing songs and hymns. Let us praise God our Savior. Let us offer him our vows. Let us present him the service of our mouth, The Lord is with us, depart not, weary not, but stand strongly, and sing psalms to him with cheerfulness. . . .

Therefore be glad and rejoice, daughter of Zion. Give praise, O Jerusalem. For this day true peace has come down from heaven to appease and restore the things that are in heaven and the things that are on earth. This day the true Light has shone on the earth to enlighten everyone that believes in him. This day there is great joy in Israel, for Christ is born in Bethlehem. This day throughout the world the heavens are flowing with honey; for from the mouth of the learned comes very sweet speeches by which the weak are refreshed, the devout consoled, the ignorant instructed, the slothful aroused, the faithful strengthened, and unbelievers put to shame.

Today the angels rejoice, the archangels exult, and all the just are expressing adoration and spiritual joy. Today night is turned into day and great brightness, for to those with righteous hearts a light has risen up in darkness, the merciful and compassionate Lord. . . . And when the day shall have dawned, may the Sun of Justice, who is born shine in the hearts of all those who love him, and may fresh devotion again rise in the hearts of all who celebrate. . . .

O blessed and joyful birth, which has changed the curse of our fist parents into blessing and has turned their grief into everlasting joy. This night is truly worthy of the awe and love of all people, the night in which Christ permitted himself to be delivered in order to deliver all.

Blessed therefore be the holy Trinity by, whose goodness and wisdom the dignity of humanity has been restored and the cunning of the devil deceived. I bless you, heavenly Father, who sent your beloved Son into the world for our redemption. I bless you only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, who to redeem us assumed our nature. I bless you, Holy Spirit, the paraclete, who gloriously and wondrously perfected all the mysteries of our redemption from the beginning to the end, To you be infinite praise and glory, to you be honor and empire, O supreme, eternal Trinity, by whose providence and ordering so sweet and solemn a festival has come to us. Amen.

—Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471), from PROCLAIMING THE CHRISTMAS GOSPEL: ANCIENT SERMONS AND HYMNS FOR CONTEMPORARY INSPIRATION. Edited by John D. Witvliet and David Vroege. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004, pages 102-4. ISBN 0-8010-6405-8. [The oldest thing that I own is a Latin version of THE IMITATION OF CHRIST, printed in Venice in 1726. That is old.]

============================================ (“O Come, O Come, Immanuel”) (C. S. Lewis) (Ambrose and Luther) (Dutch Carol) (Ulrich Shaffer) (Dudley-Smith) ("Gathered Round Your Table") ("The Gift of Gifts") ("Of the Father's Love Begotten") (Spurgeon) (Augustine and Lewis)

Have a great week!

Chip Stam
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky

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