Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Oh come, oh Key of David.

An antiphon is a short sentence sung or chanted before the psalm or canticle in certain liturgical traditions. The seven "O Antiphons" date back to the ancient Church and are used to celebrate the final seven days of Advent, the last week before Christmas. Each O Antiphon is a name of Christ or one of his attributes described in Scripture. You probably recognize them as from the verses of the popular Christmas hymn "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel;
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Isaiah had prophesied:

"I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open." Isaiah 22:22

"His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and for evermore." Isaiah 9:7

"...To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house." Isaiah 42:7.

The Key.

Who among us hasn't promised as a child, "I'll never do it again!"?

Heck, I still promise that. I promise myself, my husband, my boss, my friends. I'll never put off to the last minute prepping for my meeting. I'll never not plan our week's dinners again. I'll never gorge myself silly on candy cane Hershey's kisses again.

And then--I do. I do all of that. I break my promises over and over again. The door to all those things I'm never going to do again?

It just opens right back up.

Don't you wish you could stop repeating your mistakes? I mean, maybe you've figured out the secret, but I sure haven't.

I'm so glad I'm not in charge of making sure the door to heaven stays open and the door to hell stays shut. I would be terrible at that job. I'm a prisoner of my own repetitive idiocy.

And that's just me and my own first world problems. So many doors in this world are shut that shouldn't be. So many people are prisoners: of addiction, of illness, of injustice, of hatred, of oppressive regimes, of circumstance.

I try and help open as many of those doors as possible. I try to be the Key of David in this world. I send money to the Charis project and Lutheran World Relief. I bought some bunnies through World Vision as presents this year. I bring hats and gloves for the homeless shelter and blankets for Emergency Infant Services and food for the food bank. I serve dinner at the day center and carol at the nursing home.

But it's never enough. It all just needs doing over again. We send money and some are helped and some places heal from this year's disasters--but disasters will strike other places next year. My bunnies will grow and multiply and feed one family, or two, but how many more families go hungry still? We collect hats and blankets and food every year, and every year there are more in need. The homeless need dinner every day, and every year there are new dying faces at the nursing home.

It's too much. I can't do it all. Even all of us, together, we can't do it all. "The poor you will always have with you" rings so, so true no matter how hard I slam the door on as much poverty as I can.

Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Come, O Key of David. Lead forth your people and shut these doors, the doors of poverty and injustice and pain and addiction and sorrow, shut them so they will never open again.

Until He comes, I'll do what I can. Well--not ever all I can. My efforts are never good enough, and far too often I choose my own comfort and pleasure over the well-being of others. But sometimes I try. Won't you join me?

Oh, come, O Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav'nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

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