Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Christ's Mass

We are still savoring the richness of a Gift-filled Christ Mass down south of the Magnolia Curtain.

On the eve of His Nativity the children and adult choirs combined to sing the Quempas (LW 54) following the celebration of the Mass. For those unfamiliar with this hymn, four choirs sing station themselves in four corners of the church. The prelude to each verse is sung by these choirs in alternating parts. The choirs rotate throughout the church. This signifies the Gospel being preached throughout the four corners of the earth.

On Christ Mass Day, Christ's Nativity was celebrated with Luther's German Mass (DS 3). Frankincense and myrrh filled the air as we sang "Isaiah, Mighty Seer Of Old" (LW 213). While censing the altar is a means to remind the people of Christ's Real Presence, at Christ Mass it also serves to remind us of the gifts given at Epiphany. Frankincense and myrrh are used at death to prepare bodies for burial. So, as Pr. Sawyer preached, "It is not Jesus' birth which saves."

The smell of incense at the celebration of Christ's birth also directs attention to Good Friday, the day when salvation was accomplished for our sakes as Christ's Body was torn and His Blood was shed. That very Body and Blood was on the altar for us once more. Further, incense recalls the first Easter, for these were most likely the spices the women brought with them when they found the empty tomb of the risen Lord.

To speak of Easter is to remember Good Friday services when we will again see our Christ Mass tree. By then the Epiphany bonfire will have consumed its branches. Its trunk will be formed into a cross. Another Mass will be celebrated that night, during which pastor will carry the cross to the four corners of the church and say, "Behold the life-giving cross on which was hung the Salvation of the whole world!"

Thus, the by Quempas and the carrying of the Christ Mass cross on Good Friday, Christ's birth and death is re-enacted liturgically. One is completed in the other; each is built upon and anticipates what comes before, and after (Eph 1, Rv 13.8). This is not only a "re-presentation." This Christ who comes to us in His Word and Sacrament. This is the very Christ who is seated at the right hand of the Father and lives among us.

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