Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be, he is Alpha and Omega; he the source, the ending he, of the things that are, that have been, and that future years shall see, evermore and evermore…
During my preteen years, my school was still doing the classic service of Lessons and Carols every December. The service was conducted in the old wooden chapel on campus, which has acoustics that can only be rivaled by stone. So the first time I heard this medieval chant, the sound seemed to float from above to every direction. And singing it felt like being transported to heaven.
The lyrics come from the 5th-century, making it one of the oldest hymns that we still sing today. It is based upon the language of the Nicene Creed, which was written in the 4th-century. The Creed was one of the earliest descriptions of both the Trinity and the very nature of God. It spoke of how Christ was begotten, not made. In other words, that Christ is God’s own self taking on another form.
The lyricist chose to combine this thought with the wisdom of Augustine of Hippo who also lived in the 5th-century. It was he who described God, the Trinity, as “the Lover, the Beloved, and the Love that unites them.”
This is perhaps the most poignant message of the song: what God begot was love. Not worldly power or physical strength or even some form of other perfection. God chose love. Love is the beginning and the end, the source of everything.
Here’s the key for all of us: we are made in the image of that Love. Think of the profound ways the world might transform if we began to remember that. And that every other person we meet is also made in that image.
During this season of preparation, let us all be mindful of ways that we can better live into God’s image. Let us keep our eyes and hearts open to find that same image in others. And let us join the choirs of heaven that float from the rafters above: Christ to thee with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to thee, hymn and chant and high thanksgiving and unwearied praises be. Honor, glory, and dominion, and eternal victory, evermore and evermore.
Reverse Advent Calendar: As a way of feeding Christ’s sheep, consider collecting one non-perishable food item for every day of the season and then donating them to a local food pantry.