Monday, December 15, 2008

Once in Royal David's City

Christmas Carols are a wonder to me. They are such a great example of truth and beauty gathered together in worship of God, while giving joy to people.

The beauty and joy of singing these in worship comes together in this season, particularly in the Service of Nine Lessons & Carols started at King's College, Cambridge a century ago, and celebrated at Christ Church yesterday. The good theology of carols is somewhat overlooked, and so for the next few days, I hope to post on a number of Christmas carols that have special meaning for me, and convey wonderful truth.

Sometimes I am asked, "when did you decide you wanted to be ordained?". That question can be asked with curiosity, hostility or admiration, depending on a person's response to the Gospel, to me, or to clergy or a church in their own past. But my answer is this: As a child, I wasn't really sure exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. But ordained ministry was not a negative idea for me as it is for many people, because I had such good models in the ministers at my home church. Particularly the men like Dan Sullivan and Laurie Thompson, and even Joe Hess who was a bit cranky but all of them were both gentle and strong Christian men and clergymen in my earliest years.

So there wasn't as much to "get over" in terms of thinking about being an Anglican clergyman for me as others experience. Neither did I have a sentimental view that all I ever wanted to do was full-time ministry. But in the end, sentiment played a big part in how God grabbed my attention. I was ushering at Trinity College's Lessons & Carols my senior year, and had a profound sense that I should be in leadership in the Church. The singing of Once in Royal David's City (click on title post to listen) stood out to me. The last verse captured what I thought (and still think) about ministry -- introducing Jesus Christ to people so that they may long to spend eternity with Him:

Not in that poor lowly stable
with the oxen standing by
we shall see him, but in heaven,
set at God's right hand on high:
there his children gather round
bright like stars, with glory crowned.

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