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Ponder Nothing Earthly Minded

2021-12-14 | Pastor Stacey Littlefield

This Sunday will be the last Sunday of Advent. We are in the home stretch of the season and headed for the Main Event. Hopefully, we’ve journeyed through this season with intention and an openness to the Holy Spirit. Hopefully, we are ready to receive anew the Christ Child on Christmas Day.

 

But that, of course, is only the beginning of what God has in store for us.

 

After all, the Word did not become flesh and remain an infant. No. The Word-Made-Flesh grew and “matured in wisdom and years, and in favor with God and with people.” (Luke 2.52) He walked among us for 33 years, give or take, and there is much to see and know and learn of God in the life he lived.

 

One of my favorite hymns that gets at the mystery of God becoming one of us is one we rarely sing in any context in which I’ve worshiped. It is not a cheery song. It is haunting and profound. It is not even a Christmas carol, per se. Its roots go all the way back to the 4th century AD, and its words are borrowed from an ancient communion liturgy. The opening verses of the hymn read,

 

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,

And with fear and trembling stand;

Ponder nothing earthly minded,

For with blessing in His hand,

Christ our God to earth desdendeth,

Our full homage to demand.

 

It is dark and somber, sad almost. At least it seems so to me. Perhaps that is because its composer (Ralph Vaughan Williams) recognized the profundity of the verses before adding music to them. The opening words are borrowed from a couple of places in the Hebrew prophets (Habakkuk 2.20; Zechariah 2.13).

 

This Sunday, as we prepare to leave the season of Advent behind, we will begin a new sermon series on the Gospel of John, entitled, Word Made Flesh.

 

John, the fourth gospel, was likely written later in the first century AD, and is therefore the more intentionally theological. The author has had time to think and reflect on Jesus’ life and ministry and its impact on his followers and the Universe, in general. Consider, for example, that in the verse most of us have heard countless times (or know by heart), John writes, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3.16). However, the word translated as “world” is the Greek word, kosmos. God so loved the cosmos, the whole created order—people, animals, rocks, trees, moon, planet, stars, dark matter, and dark energy—all of it, that he gave his one and only Son.

 

I invite you to read along with us in daily readings in John and in other companion passages that will help us to better grasp John’s telling of the life of Jesus. You can do so by signing up for our Daily Scripture Email. Each day I will send you a passage to read and a few brief questions to consider as you do. Sign up with the form below.

 

My prayer for us as we journey once again through John’s gospel is that we will, in a sense, “ponder nothing earthly minded,” but rather that we will worship him and adore him. More than anything, that our adoration of the Word-Made-Flesh will inspire and move us to follow him more faithfully than ever.

 

I will leave you with the full lyrics of the hymn and a link to watch and listen to it on YouTube. Take some time right now to listen, to watch, and to adore.

 

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,

and with fear and trembling stand;

Ponder nothing earthly minded,

For with blessing is His hand,

Christ our God to earth descendeth,

Our full homage to demand.

 

King of kings, Yet born of Mary,

As of old earth He stood,

Lord of lords, In human vesture,

In the body and the blood;

He will give to all the faithful.

His own self for heavenly food.

 

Rank on rank the host of heaven

spreads its vanguard on the way,

As Light of light descendeth

from the realms of endless day,

That the powers of hell may vanish

as the darkness clears away.

 

At His feet the six-winged seraph,

Cherubim, With sleepless eye,

Veil their faces to His presence

as with ceaseless voice they cry:

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Alleluia! Lord Most High!

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