Before last week I had never heard of the “O Antiphones”. So called, because each piece starts with the call “O”, these little advent hymns are built around the names of Messiah found in the book of the prophet Isaiah – O Wisdom, O Lord, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Dayspring, O King, O Emmanuel. It was through following an advent series of blog posts by Maggi Dawn that my eyes were opened and my heart touched by these treasures. Let me give you one example of what you will find here.
Referring to one antiphone entitled O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations), Maggi (@maggidawn) tweeted:
King? Judge? is that a good name for God in a democratic society?
In her blog post she answers the question like this:
Authoritarianism is ugly, but authority is good; Judgemental is ghastly, but someone who ushers in true justice would surely be welcomed by the vast majority of people.
Isaiah’s words suggest that the Messiah qualifies as Rex Gentium [ King of the Nations] precisely because only he can handle power and authority without becoming corrupt; only he can be a judge who is unbiased in his concern for true justice, and not open to coercion. He is a counsellor, an arbitrator, the prince of peace, under whose governance war will end and true peace be established. He does not favour the rich over the poor, but lifts up the needy from the ash heap.
I have found the whole series a wonderful experience. You will find a brief introduction to these little gems in this post. This type of ancient music and the liturgical background is not something I have had any experience of before, other than the occasional attendance at Eucharist at the Church of England Teacher training College where I studied (though I was not a believer at that time).
The words are simple and profound; the music is unadorned (I think it is plain song); the style of singing encourages reflection on the words, rather than admiration of the musical ability of the singers – though they are very good! If, like me, Latin is not one of your languages, Maggi has provided helpful translations.
What I enjoyed about her commentaries in this series is the way she refers to several Scriptures to draw out the meaning of each antiphone. But what appeals to me most is the way that she encourages us to ponder the role and nature of Jesus Christ, who is central to each piece.
This is an advent series and it expresses the longing which must surely be in the heart of every Christian, that King Jesus will return and take up his throne. As Maggi says:
He is a counsellor, an arbitrator, the prince of peace, under whose governance war will end and true peace be established
“He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
How would you respond if your children asked, “Is Santa a real person?” Do you keep the legend going, or do you tell the truth? One father’s response to this dilemma is found in the blog Modern-Day Joseph ( a site under the umbrella of AWANA children’s ministry).
Author Jeff Smith is editorial manager of Awana. He and his wife have two children and it was in response to their questions that he dealt with the Santa issue.
You will find his very thoughtful and interesting post entitled If Your Kids Ask ‘Is Santa Real?’ Tell Them the Truth.
Twenty Christmases had come and gone, yet I had never known the true meaning of the season. The lights had entranced me as an infant; the gifts had enthralled me as a child; but as an adult, Christmas was little more to me than a time for the family to be together.
So, what made my twenty-first Christmas so different? It was Christ!
During the previous year I had told him my life was a mess and that I needed him to clean me up. I had repented of my sin and trusted Jesus Christ to forgive me. He had become my Saviour and my special Friend. Now I saw Christmas through new eyes. I wept as I sang the old carols, realizing for the first time in my life their true meaning and pondering in awe the miracle of “God contracted to a span”.
Do you find yourself wearying of the annual round of jollity, the spending spree and all the pressure? Are you fed up of the same music and TV programmes?
Maybe for you Christmas has always been a time of arguments, pressure at work, depression and many other unpleasant emotions and experiences. It need not be.
I have discovered that the way to get a new perspective on Christmas is to receive as my Saviour the one who came to that stable long ago.
Why not listen extra carefully to the carols sung this year and to the Bible readings? If you prayerfully seek for him, like the wise men, you, too, will find Christ.
A few years ago I wrote a little piece for the magazine I edit for The Faith Mission. As I have seen a lot of comment already in blogs and on Facebook, about the use of the word Xmas, I thought it apt to repurpose the article for Slices of my Life.
The Xmas or Christmas?
There are few things more joyous than seeing children playing in the snow! Making a big X with their little bodies, while lying down, many enjoy making the imprint of “snow angels”. But it was another ‘X’ which vexed one of my friends recently.
She remarked: “Every time I see Xmas, instead of Christmas, I cringe. X stands for something unknown. Christ is royalty, not an unknown.”
Another echoed the feelings of many: “With that X, it is as if they are crossing out Christ from Christmas.”
I used to feel exactly the same. But then I learned something which changed my feelings. Now, whenever I see ‘Xmas’ I say: “Jesus IS in this, even if the people who wrote it are too rushed to write the full word, or do not understand.”
This became my perspective when I learned about the Greek lettering that makes up Christ’s name.
X is the first letter of the Greek word “XPICTOC” (pronounced Christos – Greek: Χριστός), which means “Christ”. This letter is called “chi”.
It would have been understood by early Christians as a sign meaning ‘Christ’, especially when it was combined with a P shape (the Greek letter Rho) which was the second letter in ‘Christ’ in Greek. The Chi-Rho symbol (P with an X across the vertical stalk) has for centuries reminded Christians of the one who died to save us.
So now, when you see the word Xmas, don’t let your spirit sink. Instead of focussing on the thought that so many appear either to regard Christ as “X – the unknown”, or to cross him out of Christmas, think of Christos our Redeemer! The word Xmas need not be a stumbling block. Turn it into a stepping stone, to lift you to higher praise of our wonderful Jesus!