Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

"And it came to pass in those days that a decree
Went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world
Should be registered. This census first took place
While Quirinius was governing Syria.
So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city
Of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of
The line and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary,
His betrothed wife, who was with child.
So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed
For her to be delivered. And she brought forth
Her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths,
And laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them
In the inn.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the
Fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them,
And the glory of the Lord shone around them,
And they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings
Of great joy which will be to all people.
For there is born to you this day in the
City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be a sign to you: You will find a Babe
Wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the
Heavenly host praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them
Into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another,
"Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing
That has come to pass, which the Lord
Has made known to us."
And they came with haste and found Mary
And Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
Now when they had seen Him, they made
widely known the saying which was told them
Concerning this Child. And all those who heard
It marveled at those things which were told
Them by the shepherds.
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."
Hey everybody! Merry Christmas! May you and your family have a blessed and joyful day! Let us remember our Lord's heart and love for us during this wonderful time of celebration!
"Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace,
Goodwill toward men!"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Silent Night

This is our Advent log with all of the candles but the white one lit.

"Silent night, holy night.
All is calm, all is bright.
'Round yon virgin mother and Child.
Holy Infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Sleep in heavenly peace."
Silent night, holy night.
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar.
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia.
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born!"
Hey everybody. Merry Christmas Eve! Wow. I don't know about you all, but this Fall and Advent season seems to have blown right by. Before I get on with tonight's post, I just want to thank all of you for reading, for your comments, and for allowing me to share some of the joy and blessing that we have with Advent. I hope it has been enjoyable for you guys too. Okay, here we go. As I thought about what song to do tonight, I was thinking about doing one that Matthew had requested [no I didn't blow you off- I couldn't find anywhere to listen to it. I'm not saying which one it was in case you decide to do one more :), but I kept coming back to Silent Night. Of all Christmas songs, this has to be one of the absolute best known ones. The simplicity and truth of the words and tune is very beautiful. It almost sounds like a lullaby that Mary might have sung to her new-born baby on that Christmas night over 2,000 years ago. Despite all of the cosmic, earth-shattering, amazing, unfathomable, glorious news and implications wrapped up in the birth and life of this Child; He came on a regular, silent night. It was the night that fulfilled God's promise to Abraham, it was the "on-switch" to the amazing plan of Grace, it was God - coming in person, it was the Ultimate Christmas gift, it was overwhelming, it was Christmas. As I think about the story of Jesus's birth, with all of its facets and implications and glory, I find myself completely overwhelmed and dumbfounded and humbled by the unending love that our Lord has for us. These few weeks of Advent posting [though I obviously didn't make it every day ;), have really been a blessing to me because it has caused me to really think on and about the glory of Christmas, and the time of celebration and eager excitement called Advent. I pray that for each and every one of us these thoughts and truths would not leave our hearts and minds as we clean up the wrapping paper tomorrow morning, but that they would launch us into a year of living and abiding in the Joy and Love and Grace and Peace of our Lord. May God bless you all, and give you a very merry Christmas!
"Silent night, holy night.
Son of God, Love's pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of Redeeming Grace.
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth!
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth!"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

O Holy Night

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine,
O night when Christ was born!
O night! O Holy night!
O night divine!
Hey everybody. Sorry it has once more been too long since my last Adventish post. I have been, getting home pretty late this week, and that hasn't been conducive to writing Advent posts. Oh well, so now let's get on with it. You are probably pretty familiar with "O Holy Night", but it, like some of these other songs we've been through, has [to me] a much more mysterious, joyful, and wonderful, message than we might normally realize. The beginning of this song starts out simply enough be describing the "night of our dear Savior's birth". The next sections here are my favorite parts: "long lay the world in sin and error pining", ever since sin entered the world, we live in a place of sin, broken hearts, broken lives, and lost and confused people desperately trying to make sense of it all and find a place of rest and comfort. Too often, we are deceived into looking everywhere and trying everything to feel good about ourselves, or to "get it right", and we miss the Lord's heart for us and our lives; in fact, what we miss is the whole heart of Christmas. Jesus knew all about this world of sin and error, and then some. He knows how distraught and distressed we feel when we are trying to jump through enough spiritual hoops to reach that ever-elusive place of "okay-ness". While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And to do that; while we were yet sinners, Christ was born for us. All of this is because; while we were yet sinners, Christ desperately loved us. That's why we have Christmas. Still, it is a very realistic assessment of us and this world to describe us as, "in sin and error pining". If this song ended right here, it would be more depressing than "Auld lang syne"; and we wouldn't have much to celebrate. We know, however, that this is only setting the scene for the most glorious story ever heard of. Take a look at the at the next part of the song, "'til He appeared and the soul felt its worth". What's that talking about? Well, we were at a Chris Tomlin concert last week, and Louie Giglio was talking about this very line. Basically, he made the very good point that our fallen souls have never felt "worth" anything [if anything, we'll tend toward a dooming sense of worthlessness in our own fears and failures], until we hear of the amazing, incredible, unending love of our Savior Jesus Christ. We certainly want to be worth something, some of us dare to hope we are, but we can have no concept of our true worth to until we come face to face with the wonderful reality of God's love. When you begin to understand even a little glimpse of this astounding truth, what can you do but "fall on your knees, oh, hear the angel voices!" and know that this was indeed a Holy Night.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Child Is This?

"What Child is this
Who, laid to rest
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Hey everybody. How's it goin? Sorry I haven't posted for a good while now, alot of you probably know that we just had my graduation last Sat. [which I'm going to do a post about, I just was thinking I might wait for the pictures that are coming], and we've been real busy getting back into the routine of work, house, etc. Anyways, I'm back and excited to continue with this Advent post series! O.k., the verses that you see above come from the classic hymn, "What Child is This?". Though we can sometimes get caught in the "hymn-sing mode" [where we just kind of rattle off the song without taking in the words], this song has a very powerful and beautiful message. The events surrounding the birth of Jesus were anything but ordinary; pregnant women are not usually visited by angels, fiancees are not usually given divine dreams, old women are not usually told that they are going to have babies who will prepare the way for their Savior, shepherds are not usually visited by the hosts of heaven on otherwise silent nights, enormous stars are not usually used as birth announcements, newlywed taxpayers are not usually housed in stables, eastern kings are not usually prompted to travel miles to bring expensive gifts to small children, but, on the other hand, I guess the Lord and Savior, the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor, coming down to live with us in our sin-ridden, hopeless [without Him] world, is anything but usual. What Child is this? This Child is the long-awaited answer to a promise hundreds of years old. What Child is this? This Child is the Son of a carpenter. What Child is this? This Child is the Son of God. What Child is this? This Child is the Creator of all time. What Child is This? This Child is your maker, who loves you enough to die for you so that you could have peace and be with Him forever. What Child is this? 

"This, this is Christ the King;
Whom shepherds guard 
 and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary." 

Friday, December 4, 2009

O Come All Ye Faithful

"Yea, Lord, we greet Thee
Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be all glory given;
Word of the Father,
now in flesh appearing.
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!
Hey everyone. Sorry I didn't get to knock out a post last night; but things are very busy [in a good way:) Anyways here I am now. Okay, the lines above are the words to the second verse of the well-known Christmas hymn, "O Come, All Ye Faithful". After the greeting of the verse, it says, "Jesus, to Thee be all glory given;". So this seems to lay out the idea that Jesus is [of course] worthy of all glory. I think that we all believe that, but what struck me was the next statement in this song. "Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing." Jesus was God's Word that had been promised centuries ago. The fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham and Sarah, the True King of Israel, the "Savior, who is Christ the Lord". This promise had been in the hearts of the nation of Israel for years and now, in the strangest and most wonderful of ways, it had been fulfilled. Who could have ever guessed that the King of Kings would make His "royal debut" in a small-town shed? Jesus is the "Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing"! We call the birth of Jesus the Incarnation- God in human form. It follows that he is also the incarnation or missing piece, or outcome, or whatever you want to call it, of the holy promise of God to send a Savior to His people. Our God is the definition of "Faithful". He never once "re-considered" or "thought better of" His promised plan. No. It was His Joy, His favorite thing to do, to come and rescue us from the pit we had jumped into. This Advent, may we remember this; and just as a Christmas dinner brings together family, as a pile of presents around a tree bring children with eyes full of excitement and expectant wonder, I pray that the manger would irresistibly draw our hearts, minds, and thoughts to the Wonder that it holds.
"O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Joseph's Lullaby

"Go to sleep, my Son;
This manger for Your bed.
You have a long road before You.
Rest Your little head.
Can You feel the weight of Your glory?
Do You understand the price?
Or does the Father guard Your heart for now
So You can sleep tonight?"
Hey everybody. I think it was last year that I heard this wonderful song by MercyMe for the first time. During Advent, I love thinking about how the Christmas story would look through a given person's eyes. Just imagine what sort of thoughts and questions were racing around in Joseph's head on that night. Here he was, a newly married man to a young lady who had just had her first baby. The events of his courtship and marriage were filled with angels, miracles, and dreams from Heaven. Could either Mary or Joseph even begin to fathom the meaning of where God's plan would take Jesus? As Jews, this couple had heard from the time they were little of the promised Messiah who would be their Savior. What did that mean? When would that be? Who would that be? These questions probably were about as clear to them as all the details of Jesus's second coming is to us; we've heard and studied and thought and talked about it, but still, there is still a certain air of mystery about the whole thing. This Jewish couple were just your average, everyday, kind of people, who loved God and served Him with their lives. Who could have ever imagined that Gabriel -who Mary had grown up hearing about from back in the story of the prophet Daniel- would visit this young girl to give her the message that she would be the mother of God's Son, the Messiah. This would be mind-blowing! Then think about it from Joseph's side of things. Even after he's assured that he should still go ahead and take Mary for his wife, there were still so many unanswered questions. How in the world could you parent God's Son?! Not only that, but the One who created you?! Was the Messiah sent to drive out the Romans, or was it alot more than that? If Joseph was well versed in Old Testament Prophecy, he may have known more of what kind of Savior the Messiah would be. If so, would he have ever thought that visiting shepherds and wise men would one day be traded for crowds that screamed, "Let Him be crucified!", that those same tiny hands would one day be pierced by nails, that the wood of the manger would one day be replaced by a criminal's cross, that the baby cries would one day be exchanged for, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?", that a borrowed stable would be traded for a borrowed tomb, but then, even if Joseph could have imagined a glimpse of those things, could he have have ever dreamed of the glorious outcome of this mission? When three days later Jesus Christ would walk out of that tomb as the Savior of the world who had conquered the Enemy, and Death, and made a way for our
Forgiveness, and Hope, and Peace, and Safety, and Rest? Amen.
Alot had happened since Bethlehem.
"Go to sleep, my Son;
Baby, close Your eyes.
Soon enough You'll
Save the day,
But for now, dear Child of mine,
Oh, my Jesus,
Sleep tight."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

"Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn king."
Good evening everybody! During our Advent time tonight, we sang this well-known hymn. Once again I was struck by the way it so beautifully encapsulates the heart of the Christmas story. Though all the verses are wonderful, the second verse [above] really stuck out to me. Basically, in about four sentences, it tells us who Jesus is [Christ the everlasting Lord], how He came into this world [offspring of the virgin's womb], Jesus's "secret identity" on this earth; as well as a recognition of His being all God while still being fully human [Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity], and then, [probably my favorite part], this song reminds us of how Jesus felt about this whole plan, [Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel]. Note that it doesn't say, "Tolerates being a man and dwelling with men", or, "Is resigned to coming to the earth", or "Does it because it's the right thing to do" or anything like that. The truth is, even after being fully aware of the cost of being our Savior, Jesus took pleasure in giving us this gift. I suppose we could almost compare it to the pleasure that we get when we buy or make the perfect gift for someone; as we watch them open up the package we aren't usually thinking, "I can't believe I paid $27.95 for that little thing", but rather we experience almost more joy than the receiver of the gift in our excitement to bless them. [Now I know that what Jesus did is way out of comparison, but I'm just noticing a down-the-line parallel]. This Advent, I hope that we will all come more and more to the realization that the gift of Salvation [indeed, the gift of Christmas], is not at all one given begrudgingly, or out of a "I guess I have to" spirit; but it is given out of the heart of a Father who loves His children enough to lay down His life, and the tenderness of a Shepherd who protects His sheep, the security of dad who will fight off the bullies, the mercy of a loving King to His subjects, and yes, the meekness of a Baby born on a silent night.