The Great Exchange

Christmas is the season of the great exchange. Greeting cards are exchanged, as are social invitations and visits. Gifts are exchanged around the Christmas tree on December 25—and at store counters on December 26. But none of that begins to approximate what is meant here by “the great exchange.” For in the depths of its meaning, Christmas is about the exchange of divinity and humanity, of eternity and temporality, of life and death.

The season’s familiarity and its immense popular appeal obscure the fact that Christmas is a mystery comparable to that of the Pasch and fully dependent on faith in the Paschal victory. The wonder of Christmas is not, as might be supposed, “How can a virgin bear a child?” The virginal conception of Jesus is not in itself the mystery but is rather one way of pointing to the mystery, of indicating that what occurred at Bethlehem is outside the bounds of both human experience and explanation. The marvel is that the creator of the cosmos comes as creature for the purpose of setting right all that has gone wrong on this tiny planet. The wonder is that the Eternal One who can be neither created nor destroyed willingly becomes subject to both birth and death.

—Laurence Hill Stookey,  Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 105

O Come, Let Us Adore Him! (2)

1 O du fröhliche, o du selige,
gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit!
Welt ging verloren, Christ ist geboren:
Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit!

O du fröhliche, o du selige,
gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit!
Christ ist erschienen, uns zu versühnen:
Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit!

1 O thou joyful,
O thou wonderful,
grace-revealing Christmastide!
Jesus came to win us
from all sin within us;
glorify the holy child!

2 O thou joyful,
O thou wonderful,
love-revealing Christmastide!
Loud hosannas singing,
and all praises bringing,
may Thy love with us abide!

1 ¡Oh santísimo,
felicísimo,
Gratio tiemp de Navidad!
A este mundo herido,
Cristo le ha nacido:
¡Alegría, alegría, cristiandad!

2 ¡Oh santísimo,
felicísimo,
Gratio tiemp de Navidad!
Coros celestiales
Oyen los mortales:
¡Alegría, alegría, cristiandad!

—Johannes Daniel Falk, Heinrich Holzschuher

Acts 3:1-10, in the spirit of the season!

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

The following whimsical musical version was prepared with classmates for an assignment by Professor Howard Hendricks in his Bible Study Methods class at Dallas Theological Seminary in December 1977: we were to fashion a creative retelling of Acts 3:1-10, and since it was the Christmas season, carols seemed to be an appropriate vehicle!

(sing to tune of “It Came upon a Midnight Clear”)
It came about in Jerusalem,
At the ninth hour of the day,
That John and Peter, our heroes,
Went to the temple to pray.
A beggar, lame from his mother’s womb
They met along the way;
This man would daily sit by the gate
To beg for what he may.

(sing to tune of “The First Noel”)
He look-ed up and asked them for alms,
With the old classic gesture, the open palms.
But that preachers are all poor, we need hardly to tell;
An experienced beggar, you’d think he’d know well,
Know well,
Know well,
Know well,
Know well,
An experienced beggar, you’d think he’d know well.

(And Peter said:)

(sing to tune of “Away in a Manger”)
“I’m living on faith and I ain’t got* no bread;    [*fisherman jargon]
The apostle business is still in the red;
And taking an off’ring’s not yet invented.
But how ‘bout a miracle maybe instead?”

(to tune of “Joy to the World”)
“All praise to God, I now can walk!
Just see them stand and gawk!
I’ll walk and leap and praise His name,
And all will see and shout His fame.
I used to sit and wait
Down by the temple gate—
For signs and wonders how does that rate?”