Tuesday 15th December – This is the Truth Sent From Above
The origins of this carol are unknown but it tells the history of salvation in verse form. It’s more often sung by choirs than congregations.
Genesis 2:7, 15-18, 21-25
Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being….
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’
Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’…
So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
‘This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man this one was taken.’
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.
This is the Truth Sent from Above
You can hear this carol here
This is the truth sent from above,
The truth of God, the God of love;
Therefore don’t turn me from your door,
But hearken all, both rich and poor.
2. The first thing, which I do relate,
That God at first did man create
The next thing, which to you I tell,
Woman was made with him to dwell.
3. Then after this, ‘twas God’s own choice
To place them both in Paradise,
There to remain from evil free
Except they ate of such a tree.
4. But they did eat, which was a sin,
And thus their ruin did begin;
Ruined themselves, both you and me,
And all of their posterity.
5. Thus we were heirs to endless woes,
Till God the Lord did interpose
For so a promise soon did run
That He’d redeem us with a Son.
At some stage in my theological and vocational formation, I recall someone suggesting that the entirety of salvation history should be represented in the prayer of thanksgiving whenever the Church celebrates the sacraments of Baptism or of Holy Communion.
Many published prayers do exactly that, which is why at a Baptism or Communion service the person presiding might refer to the beginnings of creation, to Adam and Eve or Noah, to the covenant with Abraham and Sarah, to the prophets ending with John the Baptist. The story often culminates in the birth of Jesus, his life and ministry, death, resurrection and ascension and then shifts again to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. These themes are echoed in a traditional progression through Advent with the lectionary readings on each successive week including these themes ending with one of the annunciation stories to Mary or Joseph on the Sunday before Christmas Day. There is a sense in which the whole of Advent is one long Great Prayer of Thanksgiving that comes to a crescendo in the birth narratives of the gospels of Matthew and Luke and in the Prologue of the Gospel of John.
This reading from Genesis, an example of myth being used to communicate a truth, and this carol spark the story of salvation into being. There is a sense in which Advent is about judgement and death, heaven and hell, and it is a season in which we remember while creation and humanity as a part of it started perfect it did not remain that way. We know that the world is broken. If we are honest we acknowledge our own brokenness and our tendencies to ruin ourselves and that which is good.
As we remember how God has been active in creation and continues to be so, we both remember and look forward to the coming of the Christ; the incarnation of the One who will make us, and all things, new.
We offer you thanks….
From the beginning you have made yourself known…
Yet from our first days we have disobeyed your will.
Long ago you called to yourself a people
to shine as light to guide all nations to your presence.
You led them to freedom;
you revealed to them your Law
and taught them through your prophets.
Finally you sent your promised Son, Jesus Christ,
who shared our human nature and understood our weakness…
[from, ‘First Order of Holy Communion’ in Worship from The United Reformed Church, London, The United Reformed Church (2003) p. 9]