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Monday, December 24, 2018

Inspired by . . . I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

December hasn't gone as planned. Between one thing or the other, my Dreamer and I have been sick since the 1st. Instead of the twelve days of Christmas, it's been 21 days of sickness.

I hesitate to even mention our situation since I know this time of year is difficult for so many. Those mourning losses and sitting in cancer wards certainly didn't plan that for their holiday.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the author of today's hymn focus, didn't plan to be despairing over an injured son and a dead wife on Christmas day in 1864 but it was that despair that inspired him to write these words:

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace of earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th'unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Yet, Longfellow was not lost in his despair and neither are we. The message of Christmas is the message of hope. Not a pie in the sky hope but a hope sure and fixed in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Messiah. Savior. Redeemer. 

Prince of Peace.

This is the Spirit of Christmas that resounds loudly in the second half of Longfellow's poem.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

5 Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

May the wonder of His love fill your hearts this Christmas and may the hope that is Christ with us give you peace.

Happy Christmas
from our family to yours,

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Inspired by . . . What Child Is This?

We've all laughed over those cute videos of children singing the wrong words to popular songs and Christmas carols. 
"While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground, a cake of "Velvet" soap came down and clean socks shone around!"
Misunderstood lyrics actually have their own name; mondegreens. This term was coined back in 1954 by Sylvia Wright after, you guessed it, a lyric she had misunderstood as a child.

While I'm sure some of the lyrics in today's carol have been misunderstood there is no mistaking the message or the answer to the title question: 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.

The words are clear enough, once you get past "laud" which means: praise, but what of their meaning?

The Christmas miracle - God made man. Omnipotence and weakness.
The mind of God contained in human flesh and bone. Tiny hands that hold the power to heal and raise the dead.

This is a lot for anyone to grasp, whether you're one or ninety-two.  Dare we believe it? God's promise. Here, now, among us?

A Savior.

Yes. Believe.

The hope of the ages fulfilled. Yet not completely. Has has come. He IS come. He will come again. This time there will be no lap to lay on. Only knees that bow. The wonder we have now, at His birth will be quite different when the trumpet blows, calling us home.
"He became incarnate to have a life to live in our place and to have a life to give in our place. That is what Child this is."
Our hope remains.


Saturday, December 1, 2018

In this world of instant gratification, none of us have to wait very long for anything. And when we do, we don't like it very much. But some of us have waited. We've waited for things more important than a cup of Starbucks or a driver's license.

We've waited for love. A place to call home. A loved one to come to know Christ.

Or a baby.

The children of Israel had been waiting, too. For a very, very long time.

They had been waiting for a Savior. A Redeemer. A King.
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
This ancient advent hymn, translated for us by John Mason Neale, was once part of the medieval Roman Catholic Advent liturgy. On each day of the week leading up to Christmas, one responsive verse would be chanted, each included a different Old Testament name for the coming Messiah. We sing this hymn with the already-but-not-yet sense of waiting. We wait as the exiles did, yet our wait is different.

For He has come.

To the manager . . .  the Word made flesh.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
As we wait for Christmas, as we wait for God's help in the trials and tribulations of this life, we can sing this carol with hope and with confidence. Because we know He is returning . . . 

. . . as King!


1 O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

2 O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who ordered all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in its ways to go. Refrain

3 O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain

4 O come, O Branch of Jesse's stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o'er the grave. Refrain

5 O come, O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death's abode. Refrain

6 O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light. Refrain

7 O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace. Refrain