December 23 – Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

December 23

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

When the story of 18th century western church history is told, there are three names that simply must be included:  John and Charles Wesley and George Whitfield.  Growing up within the Church of England, these three men each came to a genuine faith in Christ later in life.  After their conversions, these men followed Christ in a radical way, spreading the knowledge of Christ to the common people.  These three men were some of the early fathers of American Evangelicalism because they had an interest in taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people wherever they were.  Instead of staying inside large stone cathedrals, these men took to the open air, holding outdoor revival meetings and church services where thousands were in attendance.  In a day before microphones and high tech audio/visual equipment, Whitfield alone preached to as many as 30,000 people in one audience!

Given their common threads, it is not a surprise that these men were friends and had a great deal of respect for each other’s ministry, even though they had some theological differences.  Charles Wesley wrote over 7,500 hymns in his lifetime.  Some of these hymns were incorporated into Whitfield’s open air revival meetings.  One of Wesley’s hymns that Whitfield used was a hymn Wesley titled, “Hark, How the Welkin Rings!”  (The word “welkin” means “vault of heavens”.)  This song had the same tune as another famous Wesley hymn, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today!”  Whitfield loved the song, but did not care for the opening line.  He changed the opening line to further connect this song with the birth of Christ.  His new first line was the now famous, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing!”  Whitfield made this change, but never asked his friend Wesley for permission to do so.  This outraged Wesley.  Even after Whitfield’s version grew in popularity and became very well know, Wesley refused to acknowledge or sing the Whitfield abridged version of his song.  Can you imagine that?  The author of one of the most famous Christmas songs ever written never sang it!  About 100 years later the tune was changed to the current form by Felix Mendelsson.

What are your Christmas traditions?  What do you do every year at Christmas time that you would be very upset if it changed?  For some it is the day and time that presents are opened.  For others it is the songs that you “should sing” in church or on Christmas Eve.  For others it is a particular service (and time) that must be attended or a particular passage of Scripture that must be the text for that service.  Whatever it is, there are somethings that just “have to happen” in order for it to be Christmas for you.  What happens if your form changes?  What happens if you open presents on Christmas day instead of Christmas Eve?  What happens if you sing “Manger Throne” instead of “Silent Night”?  What happens if the “wrong passage” is preached at the Christmas service?  If these changes happen, will you refuse to sing?

May we learn something from Wesley’s folly.  May we learn that most of the traditions we embrace today have evolved over time.  Santa Claus has not always been at the mall, Candles weren’t always a part of Christmas Eve services, and at one time, it was the “Welkin,” not the “Herald Angels” that were ringing/singing.  At one time, maybe the greatest Christmas hymn in existence today sounded like an Easter song to our modern ear.  The key is not the form, but the spirit behind it.  Whitfield and Mendelssohn improved Wesley’s hymn.  Is it possible that God might be using some of the changes in your Christmas worship celebrations to increase your soul’s rejoicing this season?  Don’t refuse to sing.  Join the angel chorus and worship Christ the new born King!

I have attached below the original lyrics of Wesley’s hymn, “Hark How the Welkin Rings!”

Hark, How All the Welkin Rings! – Charles Wesley

“Hark, how all the welkin rings,

“Glory to the King of kings;

Peace on earth, and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled!”

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,

Join the triumph of the skies;

Universal nature say,

“Christ the Lord is born to-day!”

Christ, by highest Heaven ador’d,

Christ, the everlasting Lord:

Late in time behold him come,

Offspring of a Virgin’s womb!

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see,

Hail the incarnate deity!

Pleased as man with men to appear,

Jesus! Our Immanuel here!

Hail, the heavenly Prince of Peace!

Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!

Light and life to all he brings,

Risen with healing in his wings.

Mild He lays his glory by,

Born that man no more may die;

Born to raise the sons of earth;

Born to give them second birth.

Come, Desire of nations, come,

Fix in us thy humble home;

Rise, the woman’s conquering seed,

Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

Now display thy saving power,

Ruined nature now restore;

Now in mystic union join

Thine to ours, and ours to thine.

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface;

Stamp Thy image in its place.

Second Adam from above,

Reinstate us in thy love.

Let us Thee, though lost, regain,

Thee, the life, the inner Man:

O! to all thyself impart,

Form’d in each believing heart.”

 

 

 

To access all 31 days of “The Christmas Carols” Devotional, click here.

To access playlists for all 31 songs, visit:

 

December 22 – Angels We Have Heard on High

December 22

Angels We Have Heard on High

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angels said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you:  You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.’  When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’  So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” – Luke 2:8-16

Imagine that you were the shepherds that first Christmas night.  You were gathered out on the hillsides surrounding Bethlehem watching your livestock.  You were bundled up to keep warm.  Having never been a rancher or taken care of any animal larger than a Beagle, I have a hard time imagining what they were doing.  My best guess is that they were sitting by the fire . . . maybe singing a song.

As the they sat there, these shepherds saw an impressive sight.  It is hard for me to imagine what shepherds were doing on that Christmas night, but it was even harder for the shepherds to imagine the sight they were getting ready to behold.  Out of no where angels appeared in the sky singing a new song.  They were singing “Gloria in Excelies Deo!”  For me today, it is easy to imagine the shepherds seeing the angels . . . this is a story I have heard since I was born . . . but for the shepherds, this was a very “out of the ordinary” situation.  It was not normal for them to see angels on the hillside.  This was a unique event!  The angels told the shepherds to go to Bethlehem and see a baby which was the Savior of the world.

The shepherds quickly took off for Bethlehem.  Can you imagine the conversation they may have had with each other all the way to the stable?  “I wonder what He looks like?  What could this all mean?  I wonder if everyone got this same announcement . . . if so, I wonder how long we will have to wait in line?!?”  The questions would have no doubt fired back and forth throughout their walk/run to the manger.

Upon arriving on the scene, however, I am sure the shepherds were probably scratching their heads a bit.  There was no line outside the stable filled with government and religious dignitaries and local celebrities.  Upon entering the stable, the place smelled more like a barn full of animals than the temple incense.  As they approached the baby in the manger, no halo circled His head, and the child was probably crying for His mother to give Him more milk.  While the text does not say it, I am guessing that the shepherds were probably wondering (either aloud or to each other) if they had heard the angels correctly.  Given the disparity between what they saw and what they had heard, these old school cowboys were placed in a spot that is very familiar to us . . . they were being asked to take God at His Word.

I walk through this story today because many times as I read the Christmas story I think, if only all people could see what the shepherds saw then all people would believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world.  To my old way of thinking, the shepherds, based on what they had seen, would not have needed a lot of faith to believe in Jesus as their Savior.  The reality, though, is that I still think it took LOTS OF FAITH for the shepherds to believe.  In fact, they did not have some of the benefits that we have.

When the shepherds saw Jesus in Bethlehem, they had never heard Jesus preach; they had never seen Him work miracles; they had never imagined the cross;  they had never conceived the empty tomb.  While they had an angel declaration, there were many facts of the story that they did not have.  Based on what they knew, they were asked to take God at His Word (through the angels) and trust Him with the rest.  As people today, we have record of His preaching, miracles, death and resurrection.  We have the testimony of  2,000 years of Church History, and the corroborating evidence of ancient historians.  Given that, however, we have never seen Jesus face to face, and angels have not visited us on hillsides.  Based on what we know, however, we are asked to take God at His Word (through the Bible) and trust Him with the rest.  When we do this, great blessings come our way.

The Apostle Peter wrote a letter to the first generation of Christians who were growing up in our present reality . . . people who had the testimony of eye-witnesses and the Scripture, but had not physically seen Jesus.  To this group (to us) Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:8-9, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  Peter celebrates the faith of those who have not seen Jesus, but still love and believe in Him.  This verse of Scripture is talking to you and me!

1 Peter 1:8-9 further indicates that when we believe in Jesus based on what we know (but have not seen), we reap the same benefits that His first followers experienced, “an inexpressible joy” (“Good news of Great Joy”) and “the salvation of our souls” (“a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord”).

At first glance, it appears that we have very little in common with the shepherds that first Christmas night, but in the end, we have something big in common . . . we are both being asked to embrace by faith that the child born in Bethlehem is our Savior, Christ the Lord.  Upon hearing this announcement this Christmas will you run to the manger as the shepherds did?  Will you believe in Him based on what you know and trust Him for the things that are harder for you to understand?  If you will, then joy and salvation await.  Those are two Christmas gifts that are on everyone’s list.

Today, sing “Angels we Have Heard on High” and remember the story of the shepherds and what we share in common with them.

Angels We Have Heard on High

Angels we have heard on high

Sweetly singing o’er the plains

And the mountains in reply

Echoing their joyous strains

Gloria, in excelsis Deo

Gloria, in excelsis Deo

Shepherds, why this jubilee?

Why your joyous strains prolong?

What the gladsome tidings be

Which inspire your heavenly song?

Gloria, in excelsis Deo

Gloria, in excelsis Deo

Come to Bethlehem and see

Him whose birth the angels sing,

Come, adore on bended knee,

Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

Gloria, in excelsis Deo

Gloria, in excelsis Deo

See Him in a manger laid,

Whom the choirs of angels praise;

Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,

While our hearts in one we raise

Gloria, in excelsis Deo

Gloria, in excelsis Deo

 

To access all 31 days of “The Christmas Carols” Devotional, click here.

To access playlists for all 31 songs, visit:

 

December 21 – It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

December 21

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

Great music is timeless.  Some songs are as powerful and contemporary today as they were when they were written hundreds of years ago.  Great music transports us to a place beyond time, where lyrics and melodies can speak to many generations at once.  This is one of the great things about music.  However, because of music’s timeless quality, sometimes we forget that songs are written inside of time.  The setting and context into which a hymn is written often times gives us great insight into the song’s meaning.  Today we are going to look at a Christmas hymn whose message was prompted by the setting out of which it was written.

“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” was written in 1849 by a pastor from Massachusetts, Edmund Sears.  As Sears wrote this song, he was reflecting on the tensions that were rising around him.  The United States was just 12 years from the Civil War, and trouble was already brewing.  Out of this context, Sears drew comfort from the words that the Angels spoke to the shepherds on the night of Jesus birth declaring “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests (Luke 2:14).”  In the dark of night, a new light shone that would provide peace for the people on the earth.  This song begins 2,000 years ago with the angels, “bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold.”  It continues to talk about the contemporary experience of mankind who are “beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low.”  The song climaxes with a look at the future where “the whole world sends back the song which now the angels sing.”  In other words, the promise of the angels of peace on earth will ultimately be fulfilled when Christ returns.

Think of all the wars that have been fought all over the world since the time of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem.  Sears saw the Civil War, but billions more have seen many others.  The earth has hardly been a peaceful place for the last two millenia.  However, the promise of the angels will ultimately be fulfilled.  Peace will fill the earth for those who trust in Christ upon His second coming.  We look forward to that day . . . and we sing.  May the latest U.S. conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq not obscure the reality that the Prince of Peace will one day reign, and earthly armies will forever enter parade rest. Sing “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” as a cry for peace this year.

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

It came upon the midnight clear,

That glorious song of old,

From angels bending near the earth,

To touch their harps of gold;

“Peace on the earth, good will to men,

From Heav’n’s all-gracious King.”

The world in solemn stillness lay, To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come

With peaceful wings unfurled,

And still their heav’nly music floats

O’er all the weary world;

Above its sad and lowly plains,

They bend on hov’ring wing,

And ever o’er its Babel sounds The blessed angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife

The world has suffered long;

Beneath the angel strain have rolled

Two thousand years of wrong;

And man, at war with man, hears not

The love-song which they bring;

Oh, hush the noise, ye men of strife And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,

Whose forms are bending low,

Who toil along the climbing way

With painful steps and slow,

Look now! for glad and golden hours

Come swiftly on the wing.

Oh, rest beside the weary road, And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hast’ning on,

By prophet seen of old,

When with the ever-circling years

Shall come the time foretold

When Christ shall come and all shall own

The Prince of Peace, their King,

And saints shall meet Him in the air, And with the angels sing

 

To access all 31 days of “The Christmas Carols” Devotional, click here.

To access playlists for all 31 songs, visit:

 

The Christmas Carols Week 4 (Sermon Preview)

While the rest of the neighborhood is busy anticipating the arrival of the Christmas holiday, Charlie Brown is depressed.  Expressing his despair to his pal Linus, elicits this classic response, “Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you are the Charlie Browniest!”  This “encouragement” aside, our round-headed protagonist sees little in the world around him to change his mood.  His dog only wants to win the cash prize for a decorating contest.  His sister only wants piles of presents.  His co-director for the Christmas pageant wants only personal acclaim and an aluminum Christmas tree.  Surrounded by commercialism and self-centered ambition, Charlie Brown eventually exclaims, “CAN ANYONE TELL ME WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ALL ABOUT?”

Can you relate to this classic setup from the 1965 classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas”?  What is Christmas all about?

As Linus tells Charlie Brown, Christmas is all about the birth of a Child:  Jesus Christ.  Christmas is a “birthday” celebration.  This is reflected in both the words “Noel” and “nativity” (words of both Latin and French origins meaning “arisen by birth”).  Christmas is about the celebration of life that arises from Jesus’ birth.


At Christmas, though, we do not simply celebrate the birth of Jesus, we are reminded of many, many other “re-births” made possible by Him.  As the third verse of the Charles Wesley song, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” says, “Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings.  Mild He lays His glory by, born that men no more may die.  Born to raise the sons of earth.  Born to give them second birth!”

What is this “second birth” spoken of in this song?  How can we celebrate the birth of Jesus AND the re-birth of millions (including our own lives) this Christmas?  We will take a look at that this Sunday at Wildwood Community Church in our 8:30, 9:45, and 11:00 worship services.  We will be in part 4 of “The Christmas Carols” series, focusing on the song “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and its roots in Luke 2:8-14, John 3:1-16, and 1 Peter 1:3-9.  Make plans to worship with us as we open the “present” of new birth this Sunday morning.  See you there . . . and bring your friends and family with you!

December 20 – Angels from the Realms of Glory

December 20

Angels  from the Realms of Glory

Journalist James Montgomery wrote a poem that ran on Christmas Eve 1816 in his London paper.  This poem (“Angels from the Realms of Glory”) would later be set to music by a blind organist, and the song has been sung for over 200 years now in churches all over the world. 

Given that the music was written by a blind man, I love (in particular) the third verse of this song that says, “Sages, leave your contemplations; brighter visions beam afar; Seek the Great Desire of Nations; Ye have seen His natal star.”  Of course the direct reference of the lyric points to the Magi (the sage foreigners) who saw the brighter vision of the Christmas star and went to check it out (see Matthew 2:1-12).  However, this brighter vision need not be confined to only the first century.

A very common miracle that Jesus worked was giving sight to the blind.  This is both a physical miracle, but also a picture of what He would do for you and me — giving us spiritual eyes so we can see who He really is (Matthew 13:10-17).

2,000 years after the birth of Jesus, Jesus wants us to see Him for who He really is . . . the Son of God, and the Savior of the World.  May the eyes of our hearts be enlightened so that we may know Him (and the blessing He gives to us) more this year (Ephesians 1:18). 

Take a moment today and sing Montgomery’s song, and pray for a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ this Christmas season.

Angels From the Realms of Gory

Angels from the realms of glory,

Wing your flight o’er all the earth;

Ye who sang creation’s story

Now proclaim Messiah’s birth.

Come and worship, come and worship,

Worship Christ, the newborn King.

Shepherds, in the field abiding,

Watching o’er your flocks by night,

God with us is now residing;

Yonder shines the infant light:

Sages, leave your contemplations,

Brighter visions beam afar;

Seek the great Desire of nations;

Ye have seen His natal star.

Saints, before the altar bending,

Watching long in hope and fear;

Suddenly the Lord, descending,

In His temple shall appear.

Sinners, wrung with true repentance,

Doomed for guilt to endless pains,

Justice now revokes the sentence,

Mercy calls you; break your chains.

Though an Infant now we view Him,

He shall fill His Father’s throne,

Gather all the nations to Him;

Every knee shall then bow down:

All creation, join in praising

God, the Father, Spirit, Son,

Evermore your voices raising

To th’ eternal Three in One.

 

 

To access all 31 days of “The Christmas Carols” Devotional, click here.

To access playlists for all 31 songs, visit:

 

December 19 – Hope was Born This Night

December 19

Hope was Born This Night

Hope is a necessary thing.  It is not a luxury.  It is not an option.  We may need water and food and air to survive, but we need hope to thrive.  So how do we have hope?  Where is our hope found?  In this dark world, is there a light at the end of the tunnel, or is that flicker an oncoming train?

In Psalm 42:5a, the Psalmist asks a very important question, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”  In other words, life is hard!  My spirit feels crushed!  I am prone to discouragement!  Under the tree of my life today I can see more hardships than blessings.  What am I to do?  Is your soul cast down today?  Are you in turmoil?

The Psalmist continues with the solution to our down cast soul, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.”  The solution for our spirit today is hope for tomorrow.

Hope for tomorrow means that we do not believe that today (or yesterday) was the best things will ever be.  We are tempted to think that our past was the “good old days.”  As we age, we are also tempted to think that the end of our lives will only be about loss:  loss of health, deaths of friends and families, activities we can no longer enjoy.  With this perspective, our past or our present are the pinnacles of existence, and everything else is simply downhill.  If our perspective is only earth bound, then there may be some truth to this existential depression.  However, if we know the God of the universe, we have access to an unending hope . . . because our hope is anchored to something OUTSIDE this life.

God is eternal.  When we “hope in God” we connect our perspective to Him.  In eternity, we are saved.  In eternity, our broken and breaking bodies are upgraded to an imperishable sort.  In eternity, God richly provides for all our needs.  In eternity, we do not sin or struggle.  With this eternal perspective, we can have hope now!

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, God demonstrated His intimate connection between the world in which we live and His eternal order.  Jesus came here to give us a tangible and living hope, to provide a way for us to enter eternity.  When we place our faith in Christ, we can have a hope today based on what He has promised us tomorrow.  And Christmas is a reminder of that.

The Psalmist ends 42:5 by reminding us to demonstrate our hope in God by praising Him.  To help with that, listen to the contemporary Christmas song, “Hope was Born this Night” by the Sidewalk Prophets, and hear “the echoes of grace of our Savior’s embrace because hope was born this night.” 

Hope was Born this Night – Sidewalk Prophets

Tonight I can see a star shine

And its splendor fills up the sky

It’s the same that appeared

And the wisemen revered

When Hope was born this night

Out upon the snowy fields

There’s a silent peace that heals

And it echoes the grace

Of our Savior’s embrace

Because Hope was born this night

Glory to God in the highest

Peace on earth

Goodwill to men

Let all of the world

Sing the chorus of joy

Because Hope was born this night

I can hear the Christmas bells ringing

As softly a church choir sings

It’s the song used to praise

The Ancient of Days

When Hope was born this night

There are angels in this place

And my heart resounds in the praise

Like a shepherd so scared

I’ll rejoice and declare

That Hope was born this night

Glory to God in the highest

Peace on earth

Goodwill to men

Let all of the world

Sing the chorus of joy

Because Hope was born this night

 

To access all 31 days of “The Christmas Carols” Devotional, click here.

To access playlists for all 31 songs, visit:

 

December 18 – Away in a Manger

December 18

Away in a Manger

A “manger” is an animal’s feeding trough.  After Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph placed Him in one such trough.  This reality is sung about in the song “Away in a Manger.”  This fact is so commonplace to us since the Christmas story is so familiar.  However, have you ever stopped to wonder exactly WHY God had Jesus placed in a manger that first Christmas day?

While certainly the repurposed manger helped symbolize the humility of Jesus, Luke 2:12 gives us the specific reason for the trough. “And this will be a sign for you, you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloth and lying in the manger.” These words (spoken by the Angels to the shepherds, inviting them to visit Jesus after His birth) indicate that the manger crib was the sign to let the shepherds know which baby Jesus was.  In others words, there were other babies in Bethlehem that night, but only one was wrapped in cloth and lying in an animal’s feeding trough.  That One was Jesus.

Since every Jewish mom would wrap their child in cloths, it was the manger that highlighted Jesus’ identity as the Son of God.  The Angels basically used the manger as a spotlight.  The shepherds would go house to house until they found the baby in the feeding trough.  When they found THAT child, they would worship Him.

I think it is important to reflect on the BED Jesus lay in being the distinguishing factor as to His identity.  This lets us know that He otherwise LOOKED like a normal child.  He was not glowing in holiness . . . He looked normal.  He was not talking in perfect language . . . He sounded like a normal baby (meaning He probably was crying, despite  what the lyrics of the Christmas Carol might suggest).  Everything about Jesus looked normal, so the Angels could not identify Jesus to the shepherds through His physical appearance.  So they described the bed He lay in.

Friends, this simple point helps remind us that the Son of God really did become the Son of Man.  Jesus really did become fully human, identifying down to all the sights and sounds of “normal.”  This reminds us that, “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)” Jesus knows what it means to live a normal human life.  He lived a “normal” human life in every way . . . except that He did not sin.  Therefore, He can help us and forgive us as we deal with the sin in our own life as well! 

As you sing “Away in a Manger” this Christmas season, be reminded that Jesus’ bed (not His body) revealed His uniqueness that first Christmas night.  He knows normal, and so He can help normal people – like you and me.

Away in a Manger

Away in a manger

No crib for a bed

The little Lord Jesus

Laid down His sweet head

The stars in the sky

Looked down where He lay

The little Lord Jesus

Asleep on the hay

The cattle are lowing

The Baby awakes

The little Lord Jesus

No crying He makes

I love Thee, Lord Jesus

Look down from the sky

And stay by my cradle

Till morning is nigh

Be near me, Lord Jesus

I ask Thee to stay

Close by me forever

And love me I pray

Bless all the dear children

In Thy tender care

And fate us for heaven

To live with Thee there

 

To access all 31 days of “The Christmas Carols” Devotional, click here.

To access playlists for all 31 songs, visit:

 

December 17 – Silent Night

December 17

Silent Night

“You have found it!  The right song!  God be praised!” said the organist to Priest Joseph Mohr at a Catholic Church in the Austrian Alps just before Christmas 1818.  The organ had broken down, and the Priest and his musician were trying to compose a song that would be fitting the majesty of Christmas, but would not require the booming sound of the organ.  The simple song that was written (to be accompanied by a guitar), was “Silent Night.”  This Christmas, this song celebrates its 200th birthday!  What a gift born out of necessity.

Two things come to mind when I learned of the origin story for this song:

  1. “Contemporary” styled Church music (with guitars and other instruments) have been around a long time!
  2. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Just think, if the organ had not broken, this song might never have been written.  As a Pastor who has planned a lot of Christmas services, I can only imagine that the broken organ was a major inconvenience and potentially a discouragement during the holiday season.  But God took this challenge and (in the midst of it) gave the church an enduring gift.

Romans 8:28 reflects on the sovereignty of God by saying, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”  God is able to take the broken instruments in our lives and work through them to make a beautiful song.

As you sing “Silent Night” this year, remember where it came from.  Think about the things in your life right now that seem out of tune.  Trust the Lord to work through them for good.

Silent Night

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!

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!

 

 

To access all 31 days of “The Christmas Carols” Devotional, click here.

To access playlists for all 31 songs, visit:

 

“What Child is This” Sermon Audio

On Sunday, December 16, 2018 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on Matthew 2:1-10 (and select other passages).  This message was part 3 in “The Christmas Carols” series and highlighted the hope behind the song, “What Child is This?”  Below is the audio from the sermon to listen to or share.

 

To listen offline, click the link below to download:

The Christmas Carols #3 12.16.18

 

To listen online, use the media player below:

 

To view the livestream of the service on Facebook, visit:

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“What Child is This” – Sermon Questions

On Sunday, December 16, 2018 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on Matthew 1:1, 2:1-2, 10-11.  This message also focused on the chorus of the song “What Child is This” and was part 3 in “The Christmas Carols” sermon series.  Below are a set of questions related to the message for personal reflection or group discussion.

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read Matthew 1:1, 2:1-2, 10-11
  3. Jesus is “the Christ.”  What is your best understanding of what this title means?
  4. Jesus is the promised One who brings victory over Satan, righteous rule among the nations of the earth, and forgiveness from our sins.  In the past 30 days, brainstorm some challenges you have faced.  Then take a moment to thank God for how (in Christ Jesus), these challenges are addressed.
  5. What is the revelation that you have received about Jesus Christ.  Make a list.
  6. In what ways do you need to reorient your life to make your relationship with Jesus Christ a priority for you?
  7. What are some tangible ways in which you can “bow before Jesus” this year?
  8. What is one particular application you took away from this message?

To access these questions in pdf format, click here.