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 descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.
King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on 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 the 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 wingèd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Lord Most High!
My favourite Advent hymn! Along with Veni Emmanuel! And not forgetting It Came Upon the Midnight Clear - I'm not against all sentimental hopefulness! And Adeste Fidelis - especially the verse that plagiarises the Nicaean Creed!!
The sense of transcendent wonder in the first line cuts through all the theology, sentiment, self-indulgence and our anthropocentric worldviews and tells us plainly to shut up! This isn't the usual headlines at six, and is a universe away from our reality soaked celebrity culture. This is God whose Reality exposes the emptiness of all other virtual realities. This is God in the God-like poise of Eternal Light, Loving Creator, Kenotic Redeemer. This is God embracing mortal flesh, speaking into the mute silence of a fractured creation that same Word through whom all things were made and still exist. The wonder and worship of heaven intersect with the mundane self-absorption of a humanity lost in its own sense of self-sufficiency, its horizons limited by the myopic sense of its own importance. Into a world oblivious of the self-destructive urge to power comes the All-Powerful in the vulnerability of love. No wonder angels veil their faces, and gasp in the disbelief of wondering worship, before singing the praise of the One through whom the mystery of the ages is made known, as the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us - and we beheld his glory -full of grace and truth.
And sometime in the Christmas Eve service there should be some moments of silence, when all mortal flesh with fear and trembling stands, and ponders, and wonders, and worships.