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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

O Holy NIght!

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!  Isaiah 9:6-7. (These are the visions that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. He saw these visions during the years when Uzziah, Jothan, Ahaz, and Hezekiah were kings of Judah. Isaiah 1:1).
As I read this prophecy of Isaiah from the 8th Century concerning the birth of Jesus Christ, I am assured our God is real.  He lives beyond time. How can mere mortals tell the story of the birth of Jesus? 
From the time I was a child, we heard Luke 2 read each Christmas Eve during our family time.  And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered… was the beginning.
In 1847, in France, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure penned the lyrics for ‘O Holy Night’ upon the request of a priest. He, too, turned to the gospel of Luke as his guide and imagined himself witnessing the birth of Jesus. Placide was known for his poetry.  As he traveled to the capital of France in a bumpy carriage ride, he had completed “Cantique de Noel”. The poet’s friend, Adolphe Charles Adams, was asked to put the words of the poem to music. This poem captured his desire to write, even though as a Jew, Adolphe did not celebrate Christmas.
Legend tells on Christmas Eve, 1871, fierce fighting, a French soldier jumped out of his muddy trench and began singing all three verses of O Holy Night in French. A German soldier jumped up on the other side, and began singing, “Vom Himmel noch, da komm ich her…”, beginning Martin Luther’s “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come.” The war was stopped for twenty-four hours while men on both sides observed peace in honor of Christmas Day in the name of Jesus.
An American writer, John Sullivan Dwight, felt this wonderful Christmas song needed to be brought to America.  He translated the lyrics into English. 

O! Holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
Is is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error, longing
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was Born;
O night, O holy night, O night divine!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

What do these words say?  What was the response of Mary and the shepherds at the birth of Jesus?  But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. Luke 2:19-20.

         Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
         With glowing hearts by His cradle, we stand.
         O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
         Now come the wise men from out of the Orient land
         The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger;
         In all our trials born to be our friend
         He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
         Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
         Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains He shall break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name All oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we
Let all within us praise His Holy Name.
         When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him and the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8:3-4.
Yet, O Lord God, of the old,  the new, and that which is to be, the God who loves and chooses each of us to be holy, this is our prayer.  Not once a year, but each moment of each day… Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.  Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:11.
            Ephesians 1:2-4 - May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.  All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.
            1 Thessalonians 5:8-10 - But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.  For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever.

            Luke 2:12-14 - And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Joy To The World!

         That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.” Luke 2:8-10.
         Thanksgiving is recognizing and celebrating the ultimate Joy coming through the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, so long ago.  Thanksgiving is a celebration of celebrating the gifts given by our Most High God.  Abraham Lincoln declared, the recognition of ‘the peace and productivity of our land are the gracious gifts of the Most High’. ( He proclaimed the first Thanksgiving on October 3, 1863 for the following 4th Thursday of November.  Giving thanks for the gifts God gives of His Glory to His children.  Thanksgiving leads directly to the Joy of Jesus and His Birth. The ‘Amen’ of Christmas is found in the joy of Thanksgiving to those belonging to the Family of God.
         Although the hymn was not written as a Christmas carol, it is usually sung at Christmas time.  The 98th Psalm is the focal point for the verses of this hymn.  Sing a new song to the Lord, for He has done wonderful deeds. His right hand has won a mighty victory; His holy arm has shown his saving power! The Lord has announced His victory and has revealed His righteousness to every nation! Psalm 98:1-2. His right hand, His holy arm, His victory, and His righteousness is the wonder of these two verses. He wrote Joy to the World, in 1719, as he sat under a tree near London.
         As I pondered which hymn to choose for this blog, my daughter, Anna, suggested this hymn.  Who wrote these verses?  Isaac Watts.  As a young man he told his father that the church hymns were too difficult to sing. His father suggested to his son, “Maybe you can make them better!”  What era did Isaac Watts live? 1674-l748.
         George Handel lived from 1685-1759, writing the oratorio, Messiah, in 1741 fifty-six of age. It was first performed in Dublin, Ireland. Handel longed to write something meaningful. He prayed and meditated, and then wrote the entire oratorio in twenty-three days.  The lyrics proclaim – And He shall reign forever and ever, HALLELUJAH! King of kings and Lord of lords, FOREVER!”
         Astounding music – a new song! Another man writes from his heart these verses at about the same time. “Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven, and heaven and nature sing. Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns. Let men their songs employ, While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.”
         God’s purposes are not thwarted. In His Time, He combines the two together through another man, one hundred years later.  Lowell Mason, a music publisher, wanted to publish the beautiful poem of Isaac Watts.  He needed a musical setting.  When Mason heard the beautiful melody in Handel’s “Messiah,” he knew this would enhance the lyrics to praise God.
         “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen.” Jeremiah 29:11-12.
         As the season approaches to be thankful…I ask, why only one season? With eyes open, I see God’s Gifts of Life and Love all around us every moment of every day.
         Psalm 100:1-5 - Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness.  Come before him, singing with joy.  Acknowledge that the Lord is God!  He made us, and we are his.  We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.  For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.
         Colossians 3:14-15 - Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
         2 Thessalonians 1:15-17 - Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
         Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
         Psalm 9:1-2 - I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.  I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.
         Psalm 144:15 - Yes, joyful are those who live like this! Joyful indeed are those whose God is the Lord.
         Psalm 37:4 - Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.