Christmas Carols: Of the Father’s Love Begotten
Time is, at one and the same time, rigid, unmovable, but also elastic, even porous. It marches on whether we like it or not. What is behind us is ever behind us, what is before us ever before us. Which doesn’t stop us from bucking against it. The Advent season is that time when we seek to, in a manner of speaking, mute our memory of what has already happened, that we might brighten our joy that it happened. We leave the already of His advent to taste the bitter of the not yet. We, in short, go back, that we might look forward to His coming.
The Advent is when we look back to look forward to what is likely the greatest of all miracles, the Incarnation. God became man, took on flesh, and dwelt among us. What I love most about Of the Father’s Love Begotten is how it deals with time. It’s title, and opening line point us to that time before time, reminding us that in a great mystery, the Son of God is eternally begotten of the Father, the very essence of Trinitarian love. Out of that love that Father begets the Son. He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He, of the things that are, that have been, and that future years shall see,.
From Him the very worlds were framed. Time began, and from Adam’s failure, we waited. We, the race of Adam’s children, doomed by law to endless woe, heard the promise of the child, the seed of the woman. And we, and He, waited. For thousands of years we waited. We waited for Him, He Whom seers in old time chanted of with one accord; Whom the voices of the prophets promised in their faithful word.
We are, of course, able to enter into the anticipation of advent because He is coming again. We too, like our fathers before us, wait. We too long. We are better able to taste that past longing because of our present longing for a coming future. We, however, long with the greater confidence. We wait to see His kingdom consummated, but we wait having seen it inaugurated. Because we know Christ has died, Christ is risen, we know that Christ will come again. We know that He is ascended- Righteous judge of souls departed, righteous King of them that live, on the Father’s throne exalted none in might with Thee may strive; Who at last in vengeance coming sinners from Thy face shalt drive.
We do not, then sing Christmas carols because we sing and it’s Christmas. Instead it is because of Christmas that we ever sing. Song did not birth Christmas, but Christmas song- Thee let old men, Thee let young men, Thee let boys in chorus sing; matrons, virgins, little maidens, with glad voices answering: let their guileless songs re-echo, and the heart its music bring.
When we sing praises, whether it is advent season or not, we not only look back, not only look forward, but we actually enter into eternity. For what is eternity but the praising of the the Father who begat, the Son who was begotten, and the Spirit whom they send? Christ, to Thee with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee, hymn and chant with high thanksgiving, and unwearied praises be: honour, glory, and dominion, and eternal victory, evermore and evermore!
This is the song that begins at the beginning, that tells the story of our Lord, that looks to the end. This is the song sung by our fathers, that will in turn be sung by our children, our children’s children, and as many as are afar off. This is the song that reminds us that He is the Lord of Time and eternity, evermore and evermore.