December 31 – Evermore

December 31

Evermore

Today is New Year’s Eve – the last day of 2018.  At midnight tonight, you will say goodbye to the pervious year.  Now, this may be a positive for you.  You may be ecstatic to see this year go by.  The divorce, chemotherapy, break-up, job loss, etc. may be great to put in the rearview mirror as you drive into 2019.  However, for others, the thought of this year going by may bring sadness.  This may be the last year you have your kids at home with you, the last year before retirement or graduation, the last year before the deployment, the last year in your current town before you move . . . there are a number of reasons why you may want to tap the breaks before celebrating the dawn of a new day.

Whatever your frame of mind on the transition to 2019, we must face the reality – we cannot stay in today, we must walk into tomorrow. 

As we do that, there is a perspective that I think is helpful regardless of our feelings of excitement or regret as 2018 draws to a close.  That perspective is this:  regardless of your feelings, there is one thing that is true today that will be true tomorrow . . . and every other tomorrow that follows.  That “thing” is that God reigns and is sovereign over all.  His rule knows no end and will persist forevermore.  We can take comfort in that security!

This viewpoint is sung beautifully by Phil Wyckham in his song, “Evermore,” where the chorus says, “He shall reign forevermore, Humble King, Sovereign Lord, He shall reign forevermore!” 

As you enter into the new year, may this song remind you of the solid rock our future rests on if we know Christ.

“As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.  But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him . . . The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all.”  (Psalm 103:15-17a, 19)

Evermore – Phil Wyckham

Of the Father’s love begotten

‘Ere the world began to be

He the source of all that has been

And all the future years will see

Evermore, evermore

He shall reign forevermore

Humble King, Sovereign Lord

He shall reign forevermore

Oh, that birth forever blessed

When the chosen virgin go

By the Holy Ghost conceiving

Bore the Savior of our world

Evermore, evermore

He shall reign forevermore

Humble King, Sovereign Lord

He shall reign forevermore

He is found in human fashion

Death and sorrow here to know

That the race of Adam’s children

Doomed by law to endless woe

Need not henceforth die and perish

In the dreadful gulf below

But forever rest in beauty

In the lights of Heaven’s glow

 

 

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

To access playlists for all 31 songs, visit:

 

December 30 – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

December 30

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

Over the past month you probably had the opportunity to wrap a lot of presents.  Some presents are easy to box up, fitting neatly under the paper or in the gift bag.  Other presents, however, are hard to package.  Due to their unique size or shape, you were not sure how to cover them. 

I was thinking about that reality as I listened to today’s song, “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery” by Matt Boswell, Michael Bleecker, and Matt Papa.  This song describes a number of the truths about Jesus that are hard for us to wrap up inside our logical minds.  Just a few of the “mysteries” of Jesus mentioned in this song:

  • “The theme of heaven’s praises robed in frail humanity.” – The Son of God being hungry. The Son of God needing a nap.  The Son of God needing His mother’s care.  These realities are hard to imagine.
  • “In His living, in His suffering never trace nor stain of sin.”  – We do not know any person who is without sin . . . yet Jesus was perfect!  What must that have been like to be around in His earthly ministry!
  • “In the stead of ruined sinners hangs the Lamb in victory.”  – Calling the embarrassment and pain of a public crucifixion a victory seems crazy . . . until we think of what Jesus accomplished through that act  – the salvation of His people!
  • “Slain by death the God of life.” – How does the eternal Son of God die?

These realities are rightly called a “Wondrous Mystery” by the hymn writers.  They also remind us that our brains are not smart enough to wrap up all of who God is in neat and logical paper.  God is so great, that His actions and identity simply are beyond our ability to completely package.  Rather than throwing out the gift of Jesus because it does not fit in our box, we are encouraged through this song to wonder at it – to embrace it by faith, and draw comfort from the fact that He is truly an awesome God.

Where are you having a hard time reconciling God’s actions or identity today?  Does His timing seem off, His plans seem unwise, His identity seem illogical to you?  Rather than throwing Him away, sit in the mystery and worship the One who is greater than you.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – Matt Boswell

Come behold the wondrous mystery

In the dawning of the King

He the theme of heaven’s praises

Robed in frail humanity

In our longing, in our darkness

Now the light of life has come

Look to Christ, who condescended

Took on flesh to ransom us

Come behold the wondrous mystery

He the perfect Son of Man

In His living, in His suffering

Never trace nor stain of sin

See the true and better Adam

Come to save the hell-bound man

Christ the great and sure fulfillment

Of the law; in Him we stand

Come behold the wondrous mystery

Christ the Lord upon the tree

In the stead of ruined sinners

Hangs the Lamb in victory

See the price of our redemption

See the Father’s plan unfold

Bringing many sons to glory

Grace unmeasured, love untold

Come behold the wondrous mystery

Slain by death the God of life

But no grave could e’er restrain Him

Praise the Lord; He is alive!

What a foretaste of deliverance

How unwavering our hope

Christ in power resurrected

As we will be when he comes

 

 

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

To access playlists for all 31 songs, visit:

 

December 29 – Born to Die

December 29

Born to Die

John 1:18 tells us Jesus came to the earth so that He might “make known” to us who God really is.  In the miracles Jesus worked, we see that God is both powerful and compassionate.  In the sermons Jesus preached, we hear that He is wise and authoritative.  In the interactions with His disciples, we see Jesus’ interest in growing us and using us in His work.  Truly, we learn so much about who God is by looking at Jesus’ life.

However, Jesus did not just come to explain God to people . . . He also came to reconcile people to God.  In Mark 10:45 Jesus says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His live as a ransom for many.”  By giving His life for the many, Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice on the cross to pay the ransom (the price necessary to set sinners like you and me free).

The death Jesus died was not a tragic accident, but an intentional plan.  Jesus was not the victim of a vicious plan by the Jewish leaders or Roman officials.  If Jesus had wanted to avoid the cross, He could have.  The fact that He can do anything, knows everything, and can go anywhere meant that at any time Jesus could have slain His enemies, outsmarted their plans, or avoided their pursuit.  But He chooses not to do that.  Instead, knowing what lay before Him, He walked directly to Jerusalem to offer His life on the cross (see Mathew 16:21-23, 17:22-23, 20:17-19). 

Seeing all this, reminds us that Jesus was “Born to Die” as Bebo Norman said in today’s Christmas song.  We cannot rightly understand the birth of Jesus without reflecting on His death on the cross.  As Philippians 2:8 says, “And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  That is the full extent of the incarnation.

Jesus was born to die.  And His death was a beautiful expression of God’s love for us.  “But God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)  Will we receive His love this Christmas?  This gift has been specially given just for us.  Don’t return or reject this, but embrace our loving God and allow His death to be the ransom to pay the penalty our sins deserve.

Born to Die – Bebo Norman

They never knew a dark night

Always had the Son’s light on their face

Perfect in glory, broken by the story

Of untold grace, come that day

Majesty had come down, glory had succumbed now

To flesh and bone

In the arms of a manger, in the hands of strangers

That could not know, just who they hold

And the angels filled the sky

All of heaven wondered why

Why their King would choose to be

Be a baby born to die

And all fell silent for the cry of an infant

The voice of God

Was dividing history for those with eyes to see

The Son would shine from earth that night

And the angels filled the sky

All of heaven wondered why

Why their King would choose to be

Be a baby born to die, be a baby born to die

To break the chains of guilt and sin

To find us here, to pull us in

So we can join in heaven’s song

And with one voice around the throne

All the angels filled the sky

And I can’t help but wonder why

Why this King would choose to be

Be a baby born for me, be a baby born

Be a baby born to die

December 28 – Hallelujah Light Has Come

December 28

Hallelujah, Light Has Come

Have you ever noticed that we live in a world that everything is dying to get out of?  Think about it:

  • How many house plants have you seen die in your place?  
  • How many gold fish did your kids win at the carnival that you had to flush down the toilet two days later?
  • How many trees in your yard could not weather the storm?
  • How many dogs or cats have come and gone?
  • How many funerals have you attended in your life?

We live in a world where everyone and everything is dying.  This is one of the impacts of living in a fallen world, and it causes much sorrow on its inhabitants.

Additionally, we live in a broken world:

  • What is the life span of the last computer you purchased?  4 or 5 years?  
  • How often do you have to replace light bulbs at your house?
  • How many of you have had to replace your roof from weather related casualties this year?

Things once shiny and new are breaking all the time.  Lights that once shown brightly are extinguished with alarming frequency.

But . . . at Christmas time, we celebrate life and not death.  At Christmas time, we celebrate light and not darkness.  Why?  Because of Jesus.

Listen to what John 1:4-5 says: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  This verse tells us that Jesus came as a giver of life, not a dispenser of death.  In a sense, Jesus was the anti-Grim Reaper.  In a world of death, Jesus brings eternal life.  The Bible tells us that one day Jesus will return to the earth again and set up a kingdom that will never end, filled with people who are eternally alive, and inhabiting a world that is protected from decay.  Why?  Because “In Him was life.”

Additionally, Jesus was a light in this dark world that would never be “overcome.”  That means He would never break or be extinguished.  We have a living and bright future because Jesus will sustain it.

So to all of us who are living in a dying and broken world, there is good news of great joy this (and every) Christmas season.  Jesus’ birth brought Life and Light into the world.  Faith in Christ is more than a decision to follow a new religion. . . it is a step out of your dying and broken destiny into an eternally living and luminous future.  That is why we can sing today’s song aloud, “Hallelujah, Light has Come!”

Hallelujah, Light Has Come – Barlowgirl

Heaven sent you to me

All the world’s been praying

Who will Save?

But who am I

That here tonight

I hold the one

Who’ll Bring us life

Hallelujah,

We’ve been found

A child is born

To save us now

Hallelujah light has come

A Savior who will set us free

A Promise for those who believe

Do you hear the Angels

Sing for you my baby

Men and kings have come to

Bow to you

But here in my arms

So close to me

The son of God

Now all can see

Hallelujah We’ve been found

A child is born to save us now

Jesus Hallelujah light has come

A savior set us free

So praise to God on high

He has heard our cry

 

 

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

To access playlists for all 31 songs, visit:

 

December 27 – This Baby

December 27

This Baby

All month long we have been reflecting on the miracle of the incarnation – when Jesus (the Son of God) took on flesh and was born in Bethlehem.  It is remarkable to think of the humility it took for the independent and Sovereign God to become a fetus, dependent on an umbilical cord!  But as amazing as that is, it is also wild to imagine the commitment God showed to the incarnation AFTER Jesus’ birth.  He did not simply jump from birth to full grown man . . . No, He grew up in real time, just like any other child.

Jesus had a mother and father; siblings, and friends.  Jesus learned a vocation.  Jesus went through puberty.  The One who walked on water, once had a “first step.”  Jesus was once a Middle Schooler.  Amazing to imagine, right?  Taking some imagination to this notion, Steven Curtis Chapman wrote the song “This Baby” to flesh out the full implications of the 30+ year duration of Jesus’ life.

This notion is confirmed by Luke 2:40, 52, as it says, “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.  And the favor of God was upon Him . . . And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”  Matthew and Luke’s Gospel’s jump from the birth of Jesus to His public ministry.  Mark simply begins with Jesus’ baptism.  The lack of what was written about Jesus’ growing up years should not trick us into thinking that Jesus did not have an adolescent period.  The “Major” was a “minor” at one point.  But why?

Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “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.”  This verse reminds us that Jesus can fully identify with us in our human experience, and can provide the help we need in every stage of life. 

Take a moment today to listen to Chapman’s “This Baby” and reflect on the full implications of Jesus’ birth .  . . and life.

This Baby – Steven Curtis Chapman

Well, He cried when He was hungry,

Did all the things that babies do;

He rocked and He napped on His mother’s lap,

And He wiggled and giggled and cooed.

There were the cheers when He took His first step,

And the tears when He got His first teeth;

Almost everything about this little baby

Seemed as natural as it could be.

But this baby made the angels sing,

And this baby made a new star shine in the sky.

This baby had come to change the world.

This baby was God’s own son, this baby was like no other one.

This baby was God with us, this baby was Jesus.

And this baby grew into a young boy,

Who learned to read and write and wrestle with dad;

There was the climbin’ of trees and the scrapin’ of knees,

And all the fun that a boy’s born to have.

He grew taller and some things started changing,

Like His complexion and the sound of His voice;

There was work to be done as a carpenter’s son

And all the neighbors said He’s such a fine boy.

But this boy made the angels sing,

And this boy made a new star shine in the sky.

This boy had come to change the world.

This boy was God’s own son, this boy was like no other one.

This boy was God with us. This boy became a man,

And love made Him laugh and death made Him cry.

With the life that He lived and the death that He died,

He showed us heaven with His hands and His heart,

‘Cause this man was God’s own son.

This man was like no other one,

Holy and human right from the start.

This baby was God with us, this baby, this baby was Jesus!

 

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

To access playlists for all 31 songs, visit:

 

 

December 26 – We Three Kings

December 26

We Three Kings

Each nativity set in our house is arranged similarly.  All the pieces are crowded together around the baby Jesus . . . as they should be.  After all, Jesus was at the center of it all that first Christmas night.  However, what is sometimes lost in nativity sets is how those pieces ARRIVED at the manger scene.  Unlike the pieces that adorn our mantles, the participants at the first Advent did not all come out of the same box.

Most nativity scenes include 3 “wise men” or “magi.”  Sometimes they are riding on camels and most every time they are carrying three neatly wrapped gifts.  They are often painted the same color as the other pieces in the set.  In our nativity scenes, they look like they totally belong.  However, those familiar with first century Jewish culture would have been quite surprised at their inclusion in the story.

By the first century, the Magi were considered to be more “wise guys” than truly wise.  The Magi were an ancient order of star-gazers from Babylon who made a living interpreting dreams and foretelling the future.  While there were certainly some honest men among them, their reputation had deteriorated toward “snake oil salesmen” – people who would tell you what you wanted to hear just as long as they could make a buck.  Most people did not view them as honorable, and certainly, no one viewed them as godly.  Metaphorically, these Gentile heathens were about as far away from the birth of the Jewish Savior as you could possibly be.  The Christmas song, “We Three Kings” talks about them traveling far to see Jesus, but their distance was even further spiritually than physically.  For the wise men to look the part in our nativity sets, we should paint them contrasting colors and place them at the beginning of December in the garage while the rest of the pieces nestle together in the living room.

Yet in God’s mercy, those who were far off are brought near by the birth of Jesus.  Further, they were brought near INTENTIONALLY.  The Magi made it to the manger at the end of a very long and well thought out plan:

• 1400 years before the birth of Jesus, Balaam issued a prophecy about a star rising for the Messiah.  This led Jews to a belief that a real star would one day be a sign that Messiah had arrived.

• 700 years before the birth of Jesus, Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in the little town of Bethlehem.

• 600 years before the birth of Jesus, the Jews were taken captive by the Babylonians.  The Babylonian foreign policy of the time was to take the best and brightest people of the lands they conquered back to Babylon to work for the improvement of their culture.  

One of the Jews exported to Babylon in this captivity was Daniel.  After demonstrating his ability to interpret dreams, Nebuchadnezzar promoted Daniel to become the overseer of (you guessed it) the Magi – see Daniel 2:48.  Daniel would have been in a position to influence this group with his understanding of Jewish prophecy, which would have included the idea that one day the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and a star would mark his arrival.  This story was passed on from generation to generation of Magi until the birth of Jesus.

  • At the time of Jesus’ birth, God sends a special star in the sky to guide the Magi from Babylon/Persia to Israel to see the newborn king (see Matthew 2:1-12).

For 1,400 years, God had prepared a plan to invite those who were far off to come near and into a relationship with Himself.  The night Jesus was born, the star rising in the sky made sense to the Magi because of years of divine planning.  The pieces that began in the garage were brought into the living room by God’s grace.

Contrast the response of the Gentile Magi with the response of the Jewish religious elite.  In Matthew 2:1-12, we see the chief priests and scribes correctly answer the question, “where will the Messiah be born?” BUT, they do not do anything with that knowledge.  Though the Savior of the world was right down the road from them, they were too busy or preoccupied to go check Him out!  The absurdity of the Jewish leaders’ actions might be best reconstructed in script form:

  • HEROD:  Hey Jewish religious leaders . . . there are some Magi out here who have traveled hundreds of miles over hard terrain following a special brand new star that they believe is leading them to see where the Savior of the world was born.  Do you know where the Savior of the world is supposed to be born?
  • RELIGIOUS LEADERS:  Yeah, the Savior will be born in Bethlehem.  The town directly underneath that brand new and bright shining star.
  • HEROD:  Oh really?  Should we go check it out?
  • RELIGIOUS LEADERS:  Nope. Can you pass the pretzels?  We are busy watching some paint dry.

The religious leaders of Israel WERE in the same box as Jesus.  They were painted with the same colors.  They did look like they belonged in the same room . . . however, the story of Matthew 2 shows us that sometimes those who look near are really VERY FAR away spiritually.

The contrast between the Magi and the Scribes and Priests is shocking.  Those who were far are brought near while those who looked near are revealed to be very far away.  The implications of this are extremely important to us at Christmas time.

Are you someone who is currently very far away from the Savior?  Someone who is painted a totally different color than most church people?  Maybe your life is marked by addiction, abuse, or sensuality.  Maybe you are known by your peers for your marginalized business ethics or immoral lifestyle.  Maybe you even follow another religion and do not own a Bible.  Because of the sin in your life, you appear to be in another zip code compared to Jesus, much less in the same room.  This Christmas, are you someone who is far from Him?

Or, are you someone who has grown up inside the church.  You were dedicated at First Baptist Church, confirmed in the Catholic Church, and attend a non-denominational church . . . you just want to make sure your bases are covered!  Do you have multiple bibles in your house, never miss a History channel documentary about the historical Jesus, and have a set of Jimmy Stewart “It’s a Wonderful Life” morals.  Do you realize that it is possible to have all these things . . . to look like you belong . . . yet to never really have begun a real relationship with God?

The beauty of the Christmas story is that there is hope . . . for people who are both FAR AND NEAR.  If you feel very far away from the Savior today, know that God has been working since the foundation of the world to get the message of salvation to you.  The combination of the life of Christ, the preservation of God’s Word, the sending of the Holy Spirit, and your network of friends, family, and opportunities have served as a “star” to invite you to the manger this Christmas.  The same set of signs have also been shared with those who are “near” the church.  The big question is: will you (like the Magi) follow the signs God has given and worship the Savior this year, or will you simply enjoy some pretzels and ignore the real reason for this season (like the Jewish religious leaders)?

To those who are far or near, Jesus is the “good news of great joy for all the people.”  He is our Savior, so come let us adore Him.

We Three Kings

We three kings of orient are,

Bearing gifts we traverse afar

Field and fountain, moor and mountain,

Following yonder star.

Oh, star of wonder, star of night,

Star with royal beauty bright.

Westward leading, still proceeding,

Guide with thy perfect light.

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain,

Gold I bring to crown him again

King for ever, ceasing never

Over us all to reign.

Frankincense to offer have I,

incense owns a Deity nigh

Pray’r and praising, all men raising,

Worship him, God most high

Myrrh is mine: its bitter perfume

Breathes a life of gathering gloom

Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,

Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

Glorious now behold Him arise,

King and God and sacrifice;

Alleluia, Alleluia!

Sounds through the earth and skies.

 

 

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

To access playlists for all 31 songs, visit:

 

December 25 – Go Tell It On the Mountain

December 25

Go Tell it On the Mountain

From a secular, United States culture perspective, Christmas is a marketers dreamland.  Beginning sometime in mid-October or early November, marketers begin their work to convince us what we “need” this holiday season.  Our desire to be festive, drives us to ask the question, “What trinket, toy, bling, or do-dad really says ‘I love you’ most effectively?”  Marketers representing virtually every product begin a targeted blitz to get the word out for their product.  After two months of being worn down by the marketing machine, we all realize NEEDS, we never knew we had, so we go out to purchase the product.

Most people have negative views of marketing because they have had a bad experience with it.  Virtually all of us have bought (at some point) what marketers have been selling.  Many times, we thought we were buying happiness, but instead we were just buying a bill of goods.  In the end, it is amazing how few of the “needs” marketers sell that we actually have.

The very first Christmas gift ever given was given by our Heavenly Father to mankind.  The gift was the baby Jesus, born in Bethlehem.  When God gave this gift to men and women, He also launched a “marketing campaign” to announce His arrival.  Angels appeared in the sky to speak to “certain poor shepherds in fields where they lay,” advertising the birth of Jesus and telling them why it was Good News for them.  About the same time that the Father sent His Angels to talk to the shepherds, He also placed a marquee in the sky, illuminating the way to the Savior for those in the East.  This star would be a cosmic press release announcing His coming to a set of gift-bearing star gazers.  On the night of Christ’s birth, God launched a media blitz to remind the people of their need and illustrate how Jesus was the One who could bring them joy.

Now, because of our past experience with marketers, the language I used above might have made you furrow your brow.  It seems rather crude and insincere to think of God’s announcements in this way.  In some respects, I agree with you, and it certainly is not my intention to dumb down Advent as a result.  However, I think it is important for us to think through the illustration provided above, because marketing a product that is actually necessary is not self-serving, but loving.

Since the needs Christ addresses are not imagined but actual, and since Jesus provision delivers all it promises and does not disappoint . . . the marketing of the coming of Christ is a blessed thing!  Can you imagine if someone came up with the cure for cancer but never told anyone about it?  That would be crazy.  You would want them to market that cure because its provision is so important and its need is so real.  In the same way, the arrival of the Savior of the world is not a truth to keep quiet, but something that should be shouted from the mountaintops.  God did that through the media blitz on the night Christ was born.

Think about that this year as you consider what God wants you to do with the good news that the baby in Bethlehem is the One who saves you from your sins.  God does not want you to conceal that information . . . He wants you to be a part of His marketing campaign, spreading the good news to all who you interact with.  He began this campaign on the first Christmas, and is continuing it through us today.  Today, let us “Go and Tell it on the Mountain!  Jesus Christ is born!”

Go Tell it on the Mountain

Go, tell it on the mountain, Over the hills and everywhere;

Go, tell it on the mountain, That Jesus Christ is born.

While shepherds kept their watching

O’er silent flocks by night,

Behold, throughout the heavens

There shone a holy light.

Go, tell it on the mountain, Over the hills and everywhere;

Go, tell it on the mountain, That Jesus Christ is born.

The shepherds feared and trembled,

When lo! above the earth

Rang out the angel chorus

That hailed the Savior’s birth.

Go, tell it on the mountain, Over the hills and everywhere;

Go, tell it on the mountain, That Jesus Christ is born.

Down in a lowly manger

The humble Christ was born,

And God sent us salvation

That blessed Christmas morn.

Go, tell it on the mountain, Over the hills and everywhere;

Go, tell it on the mountain, That Jesus Christ is born

 

 

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

To access playlists for all 31 songs, visit:

 

December 24 – O Holy Night

December 24

O Holy Night

In 1847, a French Catholic Priest commissioned a Christmas poem from local winemaker Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure.  This local poet penned the words to “O Holy Night” while traveling to Paris.  After writing the poem, Cappeau believed these verses would do well set to music.  Not being a musician, Cappeau approached noted composer Adolphe-Charles Adam to add music to his message.  After Adam added song to Cappeau’s words, the finished product was first sung by the choir at the Christmas Eve Mass in 1847.  The song quickly became popular and was sung all over France.  After time, however, Cappeau left the Catholic Church to become a socialist.  Adam (the song’s composer) was actually Jewish and did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God.  Once the church saw the exodus of Cappeau and learned of Adam’s religious beliefs, they banned the song from being sung in churches.  In fact, the church’s official stance on the song was that it embodied a “total absence of the spirit of true religion.”

Because this song was blackballed in its home country, it may have never reappeared had it not been for American John Sullivan Dwight who heard the song and fell in love with it.  On top of the fact that Dwight loved the total message of the song, he had a special affinity for the third verse that says of Jesus, “Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease.”  Dwight was an abolitionist and found in Cappeau’s words a hymn that resonated deep within his soul.  Dwight translated the song into English and on the verge of the United States Civil War, introduced the song to American Churches.  The song gained quick acceptance in the North due to its anti-slavery message.  Once inside the American Church, the song exploded around the world and is one of the most famous Christmas songs today.  Eventually, the French Catholic Church reintroduced the song because of the deep love people had for it.

As I reflect on this story today, I am reminded of a couple of interesting passages of Scripture.  In Philippians 1:15-18 the Apostle Paul says, “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.  The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.  The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.  But what does it matter?  The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.  And because of this I rejoice.”  Also, Mark 9:38-40 says, “‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw a man driving out demons in Your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’  ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said.  ’No one who does a miracle in My name can in the next moment say anything bad about Me, for whoever is not against us is for us.‘”  These two passages of Scripture remind me that God does not use perfect people to accomplish His plans.  In fact, He does not always even use believing people to accomplish His plans.  God can call forth praise for Himself from any vessel He chooses to use.  In the case of “O Holy Night,” God used a Socialist French poet and a Jewish composer to inspire praise and worship among His people.  Now THAT is sovereignty.

Sometimes we begin to think that God only chooses those with the most pristine resumes to accomplish His plans, but the fact is that God will do His work through whoever He chooses to use.  This is good news for those of us with less than perfect resumes (read: all of us).  If God can call forth praise from those who reject Him, how much more can He use those of us who (though imperfect) are looking to Him for direction and leaning on His grace for daily strength!  If you are a believer in Christ rejoice this Christmas as you hear “O Holy Night” sung.  On top of the great truth this song puts forth, the story behind it reminds us of God’s gracious intentions of using fallen people to accomplish His grandest plans.

One last note about this great Christmas song . . . in 1906,  Chemist Reginald Fessenden (working with Thomas Edison) turned on a microphone on Christmas Eve and spoke into it, reading the Christmas story from Luke 2.  After reading the story, Fessenden picked up his violin and played the hymn “O Holy Night” into that mic.  What makes this significant was that Fessenden’s performance was the first ever broadcast of music over the new technology of radio.  Telegraph operators on ships and in newspaper offices around the country, instead of hearing their usual codes of clicks and pops, heard clearly the words of the Bible and the beautiful tune of Cappeau and Adam.  If you ever get asked the trivia question, “What was the first song played on radio,” you now know the answer!  From its very beginning, radio (like the printing press before it) was being used to spread the knowledge of Christ to all the people!

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,

Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!

O night divine, O night when Christ was born!

O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,

With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.

So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,

Here came the wise men from Orient land.

The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,

In all our trials born to be our friend!

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!

O night divine, O night when Christ was born!

O night, O holy night, O night divine

!

Truly He taught us to love one another;

His law is love and His Gospel is peace.

Chains shall He 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!

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!

O night divine, O night when Christ was born!

O night, O holy night, O night divine!

 

 

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

To access playlists for all 31 songs, visit:

 

“Hark the Herald Angels Sing” Sermon Audio

On Sunday, December 23, 2018 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a message based on Luke 2:6-14, John 3:1-16, and 1 Peter 1:3-5.  This message was part 4 in “The Christmas Carols” series and highlighted the meaning behind the song “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”  Below you will find the sermon audio to listen to or share.

 

To listen offline, click the link to download:

The Christmas Carols #4 12.23.18

 

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The Christmas Carols Week 4 (Sermon Questions)

On Sunday, December 23, 2018 at Wildwood Community Church, I  preached a sermon based on Luke 2:6-14, John 3:1-16 and 1 Peter 1:3-5.  This message was part 4 of “The Christmas Carols” series and was also based on the carol, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”  Below are some questions related to the message for personal reflection or group discussion.

 

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read Matthew Luke 2:6-14, John 3:1-16, 1 Peter 1:3-5
  3. If “Charlie Brown” were to ask you “Can you tell me what Christmas is all about?” how would you answer him?
  4. The Angels declarations from Luke 2:10-14 serve as a summary of the Christmas story.  How would you summarize their message in your own words?
  5. Imagine your WORST moment from the past 7 days.   If Angels showed up in your room shining the glory of God at that moment, would you expect their message to be “good news of great joy” or some form of judgment?  Do you know how to have peace with God ALL the time, that would allow you to long for His appearing?
  6. Have you ever heard the term “born again”?  Before this morning’s message, what did you think the term meant?  Have you been born again?  If not, read John 3:15-16 again and consider the provision of God for your “re-birth.”
  7. What is one particular application you took away from this message?

To access these questions in pdf format, click here.