The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Maybe the current freezing conditions have triggered some long dormant neurons to fire and warm me with thoughts of an Australian Christmas. I had a similar moment when thinking of an Advent or Christmas song for the ELCE Advent and Christmas SongFest online at the beginning of December – except that no one here knew it. Don’t get me wrong – I do love ‘In the bleak midwinter’ but ‘The north wind is tossing the leaves’ is also special.


  1. The North Wind is tossing the leaves, 2. The tree-ferns in green gullies sway;
      the red dust is over the town,   the cool stream flows silent by;
        the sparrows are under the eaves,     the joy bells are greeting the day,
        and the grass in the paddock is brown;     and chimes are adrift in the sky,
        as we lift up our voices and sing     as we lift up our voices and sing
        to the Christ-Child the Heavenly King.     to the Christ-Child the Heavenly King.     

John Wheeler (1901 – 1984)

The message of the Incarnation is that in Jesus God is with us in our here and our now. This is true whether you are reading this in the UK or another part of the world. But this doesn’t mean that Jesus is an ‘everyman’ character who does not have his own time and place – specifically with Mary and Joseph in their time and place – in their lives. Mary chose to be obedient to Gabriel and accepted God’s will for her. Joseph understood biology and he chose to be obedient to God and accepted God’s will for he and Mary – and the child they would raise. They would raise him in Israel and not in London or Sydney and we remember all this because Jesus ‘suffered and died under Pontius Pilate’ for us – and rose again – for us – and is with us so that we might live with him.

How we sing or draw or paint or dramatise Jesus is linked to us and our time – and whether creating the art or receiving it we should not deny the historicity of Jesus or go counter to God’s Word. Once the Word became flesh, Jesus is the image of the invisible God and the use of the visual arts comes into being all with the goal of supporting the Word (and not supplanting the Word). Whether the ‘red dust is over the town’ or the ‘frost windy made moan’ the performing arts – especially music – also ‘incarnate’ the mystery of God with us in the cold or the heat. I think particularly what we see and are exposed to in childhood shapes us – goes inside of us very deeply – and forms us in and for our time and place. That’s ok – it is how we are made. But let’s always be careful of not making Jesus into our image (of him) and instead see and experience and enjoy and take up the creative arts (let there be more artists, musicians, composers, sculptors!) as windows or moments that don’t define the Word and ‘solidify’ it but express the Word for our here and now. (And the ‘good stuff’ will last long after us!)

Have a safe, warm(!), and blessed Christmas with the joy that the Baby in a manger is your Lord and that dead man on the cross is your Lord and that risen Jesus whose grave will always be empty is your Lord and your Lord is with you through words, water, bread and wine so that we can live now – and perhaps sing or compose or paint or mould or something else the mystery of the Incarnation!