Steve Macchia Blog

O Antiphons – Day 3, 12/19

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O come, O come, thou Lord of might, Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height

In ancient times didst give the law, in cloud and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

In Exodus 3 we see how the angel of the Lord came to Moses in the burning bush, invited Moses to lead the people of God out from their slavery in Egypt and give them the Law, both of which would set them free. The Lord works mightily in their midst and behalf, all of which resounds with shouts of rejoicing and praise. In the Incarnation, Jesus Himself fulfills the Law and comes to set us free!

Let your heart cry out to the Lord today, inviting his strength to reside within you as you face various trials, tribulations, and temptations. Look for the burning bush of his presence there to guide, protect, lead and sustain you. Be free from the inside out as you offer prayers of majesty and awe to Almighty God.



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O Antiphons – Day 2, 12/18

 

 

o-come-o-come-emmanuel

O come, O Wisdom from on high, who orders all things mightily

 

To us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.

 

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

The second “type” of Christ is as Wisdom, also predicated by Isaiah in chapter 11, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord – and He will delight in the fear of the Lord.”

 

We cry out to the Lord, “Come” – “Yes, come even more!” we pray. Come alongside us and abide “with us” and offer to us “wisdom” from on high, and teach us to walk the well ordered path of your will.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Rejoice!

 



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The O Antiphons – Day 1, 12/17

 

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Advent hymns speak to the longing in our hearts for the coming of Christ. We sing them each year during this holy season, embedded with rich and deep significance for all. By far one of the most popular, and my personal favorite, is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” with 7 grand stanzas. Each verse known as one of the “O Antiphons.” Each of the 7 “antiphons” depict 7 “types” of Christ presented to us prophetically in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the first Advent of Christ’s incarnation recorded in the New Testament.

The term “antiphon” literally means “opposite voice” or “responsorial voice” as would occur between a choir and congregation, a call and response. From one to another, the voices call out from side to side, back and forth, to and from. The Antiphons in this hymn are filled with “alternating” voices of meaning, from the Old to the New Testaments, from the prophecies foretold of Christ to the fulfillment thereof. From the prophetic not yet to the present already and onward to the future not yet…a groaning of sorts in anticipation of Christ’s coming, in His incarnational arrival as a child, and in His future coming in yet-to-be-revealed glory.  The antiphonal voices of the prophets are joined responsively by the king himself, Jesus, and his faithful disciples then and now.

This ancient hymn was originally penned in Latin in the 12th century (Veni, Veni Emmanuel). The version most often used today was translated into English in 1851 by John Mason Neale and includes three more verses than Sufjan sings.

The hymn was inspired by the traditional O Antiphons sung at Vespers services during the final seven day stretch of Advent. An antiphon (from the Greek anti + phon meaning opposite + voice) refers to a call and response mode of singing. The seven O Antiphons are comprised of a title for the Messiah from the prophet Isaiah: O Sapienta (Wisdom), O Adonia (Lord), O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (Key of David), O Oriens (Rising Sun, Morning Star, or Day-Spring), O Rex Gentium (King of Nations), and O Emmanuel (God with us).

A fascinating fact from the O Antiphons is that the titles for the Messiah in reverse order Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonia, Sapienta form an acrostic ERO CRAS in Latin, which is translated “I will come tomorrow.” Those monks who wrote and arranged the lyrics to the O Antiphons married theological and artistic creativity in a fabulous way.* We will consider one of the antiphons each day prior to Christmas Eve.

December 17 – Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

This first “type” of Christ, foretold in Isaiah and revealed in the gospel of Matthew, is Emmanuel. The “with us” God is prophesied and fulfilled in Christ Jesus. He came to us in the flesh as a baby boy, and He comes to us and abides with us as Emmanuel. His coming sets the captives free, provides companionship for the lonely, and ongoing hope for all who mourn in places of exile and wandering from God.

Invite Jesus to come into the inner recesses of your heart today to set you free, provide intimate companionship, and convert your anxiety into hope.

*Special thanks to Kevin Antlitz for his excellent blog insights on the O Antiphons (in the introduction above) which can be found at transcendentalish.com – check it out!



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Note to Self: Beware of Advent Noise

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Wow, I’m shocked how many “Advent devotionals” are available this year…many more than in years past.

 

In addition to the many written options available in book format, I’m noticing on Facebook, via numerous e-mail lists, and for whatever reason I’m even auto-subscribed to several more coming into my inbox either daily or weekly between now and Christmas Day. Some I can see already will be excellent; others rather mediocre. Some are by individuals I admire or organizations I support or published by churches I’m connected with or ministries I know and follow. Everyone has very good intentions: helping their reader engage more meaningfully in the Advent and Christmas season. A few have pretty obvious ulterior motives: asking for a donation.

 

But, my fear is that these very devotionals – and their ancillary web pages, resources, events, etc. – will provide so much additional noise to an already over-cluttered, over-committed and over-saturated season of the year that they will contribute more to my/our seasonal exhaustion rather than my/our spiritual invigoration. It’s already feeling a bit like the Black Friday and Cyber Monday chatter of retail…just sayin.

 

My counsel, for what it’s worth…don’t try to do it all. Limit your intake. Focus on what seems most soul-satisfying and relationship-building (as in between you and God, and you and your faith community). Collect and then collate; don’t attempt the status of super Christian in one short month. Instead, and in the midst of all that’s already on your holiday calendar, purpose to focus – yes, really focus – on the true meaning of Advent and Christmas. Which, by the way, is about waiting and wondering, watching and hoping, listening and praying, anticipating and expecting, all wrapped up as one holy season. If you’re in a rush now, you might end up turning the page into the New Year and scratching your head, amazed how quickly it all slipped away amidst the noise and confusion.

 

You can’t enjoy the full beauty of Advent and Christmas if you think you need to do or read or attend or know it all…it simply might be too noisy for your soul. Watch out if you’re more interested in knowing more about Advent than you are experiencing the fullness of Advent. Be sure to behold the coming of the Lord in the love of the Christ Child, and then become what you receive.

 



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Happy Thanksgiving 2014!

 

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Three simple kernels of corn at everyone’s place setting during Thanksgiving dinner… Mom Macchia’s family tradition, when after enjoying our meal we would share the top three blessings we are grateful for from the past year. Today 11/27/14 would have been our beloved Mom’s 99th birthday! We will gather as family to give thanks for our many abundant blessings. May you and yours have a joy-filled Thanksgiving Day 2014!



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When God Speaks – Part 6

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Noah did everything just as God commanded him. Here’s the account as recorded in Genesis 6: 13-22…

 

So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.  So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.  This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks.  I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.  But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.  You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.  Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.  You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

 

Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

 

When God spoke to Noah concerning the upcoming flood, he gave him super specific instructions. Apparently the details of ark construction mattered to Almighty God. And, since Noah loved God, he obeyed him right down to the last cubit.

 

Has there been a time in your life when you knew God had been specific with his intentions for you? Did you follow him to the final cubit? Or, did you take matters into your own hands and follow your self-will instead, cutting corners on the Master’s plan?

 

Listen carefully to God’s Word, for it’s the place where he seems to be the most specific. Then, obey the Word…down to the cubit…and watch how joyful and fruitful and love-full your life will become. May it be so, even today.

 

Fill in the blank…and ___________(your name) did everything just as God commanded.

 

Wow, that’s a faithful life!



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When God Speaks – Part 5

 

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In Genesis 6, the Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” (Gen. 6: 5-7)

 

But, Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord (vs. 8).

 

From the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden, through the envy in the heart of Cain, to a generation filled with wickedness and evil, we see the downward spiral  of humankind. The Lord regretted that he made human beings, for they were disregarding His original intention for them. God’s grief had grown so deep he was preparing for mass annihilation of the human race he had created…but Noah…but (key word in the Scriptures!) Noah (great man of God)!

 

Noah: was a man who had found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Why? Because he was a righteous man, blameless among the evil people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God (vs. 9).

 

Imagine those words on your tombstone: Righteous. Blameless. Faithful. Favored.

 

When God speaks in this pericope he is both filled with anguish about the sinfulness of mankind, and yet delighted with righteousness in the heart of one faithful man.  And Noah was that one faithful man.

 

Consider those words for yourself. Righteous. Blameless. Faithful. Favored. Are these words that you hope are descriptive of your life? If so, then lean into and pray about how these words can become descriptions of your heart and life even today. What will you embrace, release or pray toward as you contemplate these God-fearing attributes?



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When God Speaks – Part 4

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Cain and Abel were the first brothers to be born of Adam and Eve. You’d think that with so few people on planet earth they’d be able to get along fabulously…not so.

 

Jealous Cain was miffed that the Lord favored Abel’s offering of fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock, with Cain bringing some of the fruits of the soil he worked. Makes sense to the common reader that both would be rather equal. But, the Lord preferred what Abel offered, most likely because of his God-fearing heart.

 

Since sin had encroached at the door of Cain’s heart, he conspired out of anger to attack and kill Abel. Out in the field where no one could see this act of irrational man slaughter, he jealously and vengefully murdered his brother. But, when confronted by the Lord after his dirty deed, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain lied and said, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4: 6-9)

 

The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear.  Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” But the Lord said to him, “Not so;  anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. (Genesis 4:10-15).

What do you notice about the Lord’s treatment of Cain?  He confronted Cain with a simple question about the presence (in reality: absence) of Abel. Then, he confronts Cain with the truth of his vicious murder. And, he sends him out as a restless wanderer, no longer able to work the land he was originally created to do. But, what’s so remarkable is that the Lord spares Cain’s life, guarding him from anyone who would seek to kill him. The mark on Cain would be one of sovereign protection.

 

When God speaks he voices truth at all times. He is fully aware of the activities of his children. He brings about justice and discipline for acts of disobedience. But, he always loves with mercy, kindness and grace. Cain deserved the death penalty for so viciously and violently murdering his brother. When in fact he should have been Abel’s keeper, he instead was Abel’s destroyer. Even then, with such a heinous crime coming from his sinful heart, God in his mercy spares his life.

 

What sin are you most aware of that without God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness you would be much worse off today? And, in what way can you be your “brother’s (or sister’s) keeper” and urge another caringly to remain faithful to the Lord?



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When God Speaks – Part 3

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The third place we find God speaking to his children is in Genesis 3 beginning at verse 9. Here he is calling out to Adam, “Where are you?”  Knowing full well where Adam was located, he wanted Adam to attest to the facts, giving voice to his new reality: I heard you in the garden; I was afraid; I was naked; I hid.

 

And then the interchange between God and man is fascinating to watch unfold. Through the use of questions, God inquires of Adam’s heart. Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree I commanded you not to eat from? And to the woman: What is this you have done? Following their answers, God spells out the consequences with specificity and clarity.

 

The bottom line is that the very first man and woman to walk planet earth chose early on to listen to their tempter’s and one another’s voice rather than God’s voice. God spoke with incredible clarity. There was no mincing words from God to his children, either on the front end of direction or the back end of judgment.

 

Speaking out that which has defiled your heart and tempted your will against the clear voice and commandments of the Lord leads us into sin. We don’t generally like the word sin today; it simply seems too harsh in a non-judgmental world. But, the fact of the matter is “we all sin and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). No one is exempt, for no one since Adam and Eve is living a sinless existence.

 

Therefore, what will be your response to your propensity to sin, even today? Will you own your fear, nakedness, and desire to hide from the ever-present reality of God? Will you choose to give voice to your disobedience and your succumbing to the tempter’s voice instead? Because of the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, we no longer have to fear the harsh retribution of God. In Christ, our sins are forgiven, tossed on the dung heap, and remembered no more.

 

May your prayers today be as simple as, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner…” and “Create in me a pure heart, O God” so that you can be “forgiven and set free to forgive another” – in Jesus’ name and for his glory. Amen.

 



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When God Speaks – Part 2

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The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2: 15-18).

 

The Scriptures recount the second and third time that God spoke in Genesis 2. Here he invites Adam to not only enjoy, work and care for the Garden of Eden, but to keep his hands off of one select tree, the one designated as “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  Man’s first job had incredible dignity…the care of God’s abundant creation. Work was to be both meaningful and flourishing; therefore, it would remain untarnished if he kept his hands off that one forbidden tree. One and only one stern warning as he would commence serving as the husbandman of the habitation of paradise.

 

And, it is here that God also promises to provide for his created image bearer a helper suitable to the man he placed in the garden, with empathy of not being left there alone. God’s very specific and remarkable promise showed Adam that working and living in community was the Lord’s priority. How ironic that the tree warning would ultimately be ignored after the suitable helper is provided. How easy it is to convince each other to walk our own path rather than listen and obey the voice of the One who always has our best interests in mind.

 

Since we know “the rest of the story” it’s fascinating that here we find God’s voice spoken with both the clarity of direction and empathy. How true it is for all generations henceforth…when we listen to God’s voice and obey it, we will see firsthand how much the Lord delights to lavish love and empowerment so that we too can fully and meaningfully accomplish his will.
What are the specific ways God has instructed you along the path of life? With whom is God providing accompaniment for you in this journey? How can you help one another to walk the well-ordered way, even in this coming week?



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