Monday, December 5, 2016

Music of Advent - Hail to the Lord's Anointed

Sunday, Second Week of Advent—Psalm 72

Hail to the Lord’s Anointed by James Montgomery, 1821
  Hail to the Lord’s anointed, great David’s greater Son!
Hail in the time appointed, his reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression, to set the captive free;
To take away transgression, and rule in equity. 

The prayer of confession came up during the service.  Since I had not been to a church with a liturgical style of worship before, this was foreign to me.  People of the congregation—even the pastor—were all confessing with one voice that we were less than perfect, that we were repentant and were seeking reconciliation with God and one another.  No one was claiming to be a better Christian than the other.  This was a radical and progressive thought for me. 

I was brought up in a church that seemed to have a congregation of the holier-than-thou folk and the poor degenerates.  I fell in the later category.  Of course, this was my perspective at the time and was perhaps a bit skewed by my age. I found in later years that various congregations regardless of denomination can have those divisions, but during my teen years I felt this acutely.  I could never be “saved” enough.  My rebelliousness in my late teens sealed the deal.  At the tender age of 19, I believed I was doomed to hell.  Yet, in spite of my damnation, here I was in a church that not only conveyed God’s grace in my life, they all said they needed it too.

This is my understanding of breaking oppression and taking away transgression—the unison prayer of confession.  The captivity to the constant reminder of my past failures no longer held me.  I was free, and although I had been raised in church and had attended my whole life, it was probably the first time I felt that freedom in Christ.  This is the kind of relief you feel when you do not know how heavy the burden on you is until it is lifted.  Then you feel awkward by the lightness of your spirit.  Of course, you want to shout “Hail!” and “Blessed be!”  It seems natural at that point. 

If you are one of those who feel that others have put you in the “poor degenerate” category, do not despair.  God doesn’t see you there.  God desires relationship with you and for you to know the pure freedom of forgiveness and the unburdening of your soul. 

After a bit, assured of my life in Christ, the relationship with God (as many relationships go) became stale.  Shouting God’s praises seemed rehearsed and trite.  I looked around at others who seemed to be going through the motions as well.  I realized then this is how “holier-than-thou” starts.  Rather than being authentic about the ups and downs of our faith, we fake it.  If you are in this demographic, I just want to let you know you are not fooling anyone, and no one can fool God.   

It was in an intentional act on my part to remember the joy felt at that first act of radical belief that God’s grace was in my life regardless of what others may think about me.  I found this re-connection once again in the unison prayer of confession.  Only this time I was the pastor leading the congregation.  At this time, it was the words of the assurance of pardon that I get to say, knowing without question that the God I fell in love with, was the God that was in love with me and my congregation.  I fell renewed once again. 

I would invite us all to pray a Prayer of Confession this Advent, recognizing that we often fail God, but God never fails us. 

Lord we confess that we suffer today because of sin, both the sins we have chosen and the sins committed against us. We have done things we should not have done, and we have neglected to do those things we should have done. Save us from ourselves; save us from the forces of Evil in this world.

We do not have the power to undo what has already been done, so grant us grace to bear present burdens and courage to change things that can be changed. Teach us how to live as those prepared to die and dwell eternally with you and your Boy Child, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

SILENT CONFESSION (offer personal prayers of confession)

Jesus has, indeed, come to save us and show us the way to experience God's love. Jesus will strengthen us to the end, so we may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Hear the good news: you are forgiven!

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