Category Archives: Christmas

For that Child . . . Is our Lord in Heav’n

Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little Child.

He came down to earth from Heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.

And, through all His wondrous childhood,
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.

For He is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love,
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in Heav’n above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in Heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.

Words by Cecil F. Alexander, 1848
Music by Henry J. Gauntlett, 1849

 


And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
John 17:5

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Philippians 2:6 – 7

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
Hebrews 4:15

They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
Revelation 22:4

“This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND
Acts 2:32 – 34


 

We all have those people we admire. People who have made an impression on us for some reason. It might be a parent. Perhaps it is a teacher who went out of their way to help their students. Sometimes it’s someone we have not met but we look up to them as an example such as historical figures or famous people who we see as an example of what we can do or be.

Now stop and think about the fact that these people were once children. They were born into this world just like each of us. From their birth the potential was in them, but no one could have seen what they would do, who they would become. In a nit unfamiliar way the Savior was born into this world and grew just as each of us. He entered into this world as an infant child. This is the theme of “Once In Royal David’s City.”

In her hymn Cecil Alexander reminds us that Jesus began his life in this world like each of us, through birth. The reality of the matter is that he was born in a more humble circumstance that most any of us. Born in a stable and laid in a manger for his bed.

Before going any further though, Alexander reminds us that while Jesus was born into this world, he existed before. She writes, “He came down to earth from Heaven, Who is God and Lord of all.” This Jesus who was laid in the manger, is God who existed before the world began. (John 17:5) Yet he came to dwell among us (John 1:14) that we might know Him.

Yet, though he was God he set aside what was rightfully his and was born a baby. (Philippians 2:6 – 7) The hymn then proceeds to remind us that Jesus experienced life in the same way we do. “Day by day, like us He grew; He was little, weak and helpless, Tears and smiles like us He knew; And He feeleth for our sadness, And He shareth in our gladness.” Jesus, God who existed before the world, experienced all the joys, sorrows and temptations that we know. As a result he know our struggles. Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”

When we turn to Him as our High Priest. When we put our faith and trust in him, we can find confidence in knowing that we will one day see His face. (Revelation 22:4) “Not in that poor lowly stable, With the oxen standing by, We shall see Him; but in Heaven, Set at God’s right hand on high.”

 

 

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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 Heaven’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 heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever over its Babel sounds
The blessèd 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;
O 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.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet-bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Words by Edmund H. Sears, 1849
Music by Richard S. Willis, 1850

 


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 angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, 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 heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2:8 – 14

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28 – 30

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7


 

There are few things as beautiful as looking at the stars on a clear winters night.  Yes, there is a scientific explanation for why the stars appear brighter in the winter. But when you look upon them that doesn’t seem to matter. It is in this setting that Edmund H. Sears places his song, “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear.”

Sears paint for us the picture of the angels in the sky.  The same angels who proclaimed to the shepherds the birth of the Savior.  Now before we go on, it is worth noting that when you look at the words of this Christmas hymn, there is one thing that seems glaring for its absence.  Nowhere in these verses do we find a reference of Christ birth. Now our first reaction may be that this is unacceptable, however if we honestly look at the hymn we realize that Christ birth is a given that need not be addressed.

So the hymn focuses not on the birth of Christ, but on the message of the angels, ““Peace on the earth, good will to men, From Heaven’s all gracious King.”These words are familiar to anyone who has heard the Christmas account found in Luke 2, specifically verse 14.

The message that was given to the shepherds rings with the truth that all the earth anxiously awaited hearing.  For the world is filled with strife and struggles and needs rest. In this light the midnight clear spoken of in the hymn, becomes a visible image of the peace proclaimed by the angels, the peace so desperately desired by the world. So the hymn continues, “The world in solemn stillness lay, To hear the angels sing.”

We are presented with an interesting thought when the song continues, “And ever over its Babel sounds the blessèd angels sing.” The message still rings today, but the question is, do we hear the message?  There are so many things that seem to get in our way.  Our own trouble, our busy schedules and our own foolish beliefs become an obstacle to the joyous news the angels brought.  But if we heed the words of the hymn, “O hush the noise, ye men of strife And hear the angels sing.” it still speaks to us today.  “In the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
It is finally, in the fourth verse, that we hear the call that our hearts long to hear.  The verse says, “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. O rest beside the weary road, And hear the angels sing!” Let us set aside the burdens we carry and find rest in Christ of whom the angels sing.  It is Jesus himself who told us in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

When we place our trust and faith in the one of whom the angels sang, we can know a peace that surpasses understanding. (Philippians 4:7) It is through this peace that we can then “send back the song, which now the angels sing.”

 

 

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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.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Words by William C. Dix, 1865
Music: 16th Century English Melody (Greensleeves)

 


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. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
Luke 2:15 – 21

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5

Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus away . . . to the place called Place of the Skull . . . There they nailed him to the cross . . . when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead . . . One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out.
John 19:16 – 17, 33 – 34

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.
1 Peter 3:18


 

When I grew up, the end of the business day was 6:00 pm. At that time the whole town would shut down. The stores would close, all the businesses were done for the day and everyone would head home. If you would walk through the streets in the evening, unless there was a home ball game or it was church night, you would see little sign of activity.

On the other hand, this meant that when something would happen it caught everyone’s attention. Everyone was curious what was going on. Now Bethlehem was a small rural town similar in size to the one I grew up in, so I find myself wondering if a normal day or evening was not unlike what I knew, where something out of the ordinary caught everyone’s attention. Now even if you do not come from a similar background it does not matter. Even if you are in a suburban or urban neighborhood you know when something unusual happens it becomes “the talk of the town.” It is this disruption to the ordinary that launches the Christmas hymn, “What child is this?”

Imagine what the people of Bethlehem must have been thinking at the commotion caused by the shepherd’s that night. Luke 2:17 – 18 tells us ” When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”

This was no ordinary day as the Shepherds traveled through the streets spreading the news of this child who was sleeping in a manger. Luke tells us the people were amazed. This very out of the ordinary activity caught their attention. Surely they are no different from us. They wanted to know what this was all about. And so William Dix presents a question that may have been on their lips, a question that echoes down through the ages, “What child is this?”

Who is this child that the shepherd’s were compelled to proclaim? Who is this child that people have celebrated, declared and worshipped down through the ages? What child is this?

The response is immediate, proclaimed in power, “This, this is Christ the King.” Christ, Messiah, the anointed one. He is the long-awaited Savior. He is the Light of the world. (John 8:12)

Now if we seemed confused before, how much more so are we now. This is Christ the King? Then why is he in a stable? It is this question that the hymn picks up next when it says “Why lies He in such mean estate, Where ox and ass are feeding?” This is no place for a King. A king should be in a palace where his birth could be heralded to all.

But Jesus is born in a stable. A foreshadowing of the life he would lead. A life that flies in the face of what we believe a King should be. So the hymn continues, “Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, The cross be borne for me, for you.”

This Anointed King, who was born in a stable, would go on to suffer in our place as Isaiah wrote in chapter 53 verse 5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” He would hang on a cross, nails in His hands and feet, a spear thrust in His side, and die in our place. (John 19:16 – 17, 33 – 34) No, this is not the King we expect, but the King we need. One who would humbly pay our penalty that we might come before God. (1 Peter 3:18)

This truth demands our response. This is why the hymn continues, “So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, Come peasant, king to own Him; The King of kings salvation brings, Let loving hearts enthrone Him.” He has given us everything, can we do any less for Him.

The question has been asked and answered. What child is this? He is Christ, the King who brings salvation to the world. When we realize this, our heart will cry out with the final words of this hymn, “Joy, joy for Christ is born, The Babe, the Son of Mary.

 

 

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There’s A Song In The Air

There’s a song in the air!
There’s a star in the sky!
There’s a mother’s deep prayer
and a baby’s low cry!
And the star rains its fire
while the beautiful sing,
for the manger of Bethlehem
cradles a King!

There’s a tumult of joy
o’er the wonderful birth,
for the virgin’s sweet boy
is the Lord of the earth.
Ay! the star rains its fire
while the beautiful sing,
for the manger of Bethlehem
cradles a King!

In the light of that star
lie the ages impearled;
and that song from afar
has swept over the world.
Every hearth is aflame,
and the beautiful sing
in the homes of the nations
that Jesus is King!

We rejoice in the light,
and we echo the song
that comes down through the night
from the heavenly throng.
Ay! we shout to the lovely
evangel they bring,
and we greet in his cradle
our Savior and King!

Words by Josiah G. Holland, 1872
Music by Karl P. Harrington, 1904

 


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 angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, 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 heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2:8 – 14

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13

And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved
Joel 2:32, Acts 2:31


 

We have all most likely heard the expression, “music in the air.” It means that there is a sense of joy, excitement and anticipation that seems almost tangible. It is as if there is and electrical energy that is flowing through everything. It is this idea that Josiah Holland uses to launch his hymn, “There’s a song in the air!”

With this in mind Holland paints us a picture of the source of that song. He writes, “There’s a star in the sky! There’s a mother’s deep prayer and a baby’s low cry! . . . for the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!” Contrast this with many of the Christmas songs that we hear this time of year. We hear songs of love, caring, family and friendship. The world can sense the song in the air and feel the effects, but in the end they miss the source. The true source of the song in the air is the birth of the Christ, the King in the Manger.

Holland continues, “There’s a tumult of joy o’er the wonderful birth, for the virgin’s sweet boy is the Lord of the earth.” This child born so long ago, is the reason for the song. Just as the joyous song filled the air through the voices of the angels declaring “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14), so the song echoes through ages and down to us today. The Lord had come to earth.

This Christmas hymn then reminds us that the song which was began that first Christmas, this song that has echoed through the ages, has also reach around the world. The hymn declares, “and that song from afar has swept over the world.” The message was intended not for a select group but for all people as the angel said “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)

At Christmas, and all through the year, “There’s a song in the air” It is a song that can be sensed by all, but to those who truly listen to the song, to those who look for the real source, there is a joy beyond comprehension. For God has promised in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” For those who seek Christ, He is waiting. As Joel 2:32 tells us and Luke quotes in Acts 2:21, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” So for those who know the Savior born that night, let us join together this Christmas season to “greet in his cradle our Savior and King!”

 


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Come And Worship

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:
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations;
Ye have seen His natal star.
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

Saints, before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear;
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear.
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

Sinners, wrung with true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence,
Mercy calls you; break your chains.
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

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:
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

All creation, join in praising
God, the Father, Spirit, Son,
Evermore your voices raising
To th’eternal Three in One.
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

Words by James Montgomery, 1816
Music by Henry T. Smart, 1867

 

 


The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
Genesis 22:15 – 18

This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty.
Haggai 2:6 – 7

God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.
Psalm 47:8

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left
Matthew 25:31 – 33

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9 – 11


 

 

Most of us are very familiar with our little world, but far to often we can not see beyond our world. We fail to think about people in the next house over, let alone the other side of the world.  We simply see others as different and figure we share very little with them.

But as Christians, we begin to realize that our world is not so small.  That as we travel around the world we will find those with whom we share the most important thing.  We are brothers and sisters, fellow members of God’s family.  A family made of those called from around the world.  This theme is found in the Christmas hymn, “Angels From the Realms of Glory.”

The hymn begins by  discussing the ever familiar story of the angels proclaiming the birth of Christ.  We of course know that they appeared to the shepherd to declare the news of Christ birth as found in Luke 2.  But James Montgomery presents us with an interesting thought.  He writes, “Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth.” Montgomery presents us with a vivid image of the fact that the birth of the Messiah was not just for  Israel.  He was born for “all the earth” as a fulfillment of Genesis 22:18 where God told Abraham, “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed”

As we continue through the hymn, we find more that we know. Just as the shepherds are a familiar part of the Christmas story, so are the Magi, whom the hymn refers to as Sages. The Magi came, not from Israel, but from a far land to the east. They came to worship the newborn king, following the star they had seen. So the hymn continues, “Seek the great Desire of nations; Ye have seen His natal star.” Yes, Israel had anxiously awaited the coming messiah, but the gift of peace with God that He would bring “is desired by all nations” as found in Haggai 2:7.

Montgomery continues this theme when he writes, “He shall fill His Father’s throne, Gather all the nations to Him; Every knee shall then bow down.” Jesus, the King, will sit on His Father’s throne over all the nations. (Psalm 47:8) This is the vision that Jesus Himself presents to us in Matthew 25:31 – 32 were we read, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him.” Jesus is the King of the nations, and one day all people will bow before Him.  (Philippians 2:9 – 11)

Yes, Jesus is a gift that God gave to the whole world.  (John 3:16) A gift that would lead to salvation and forgiveness.  A gift that would bring peace between God and man.  When we accept this gift given that first Christmas, we can then with “All creation, join in praising
God, the Father, Spirit, Son.”

 

 

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O Little Town of Bethlehem

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

Where children pure and happy pray to the blessèd Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

Word by Phillips Brooks, 1867
Music by Lewis H. Redner, 1868

 


“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
Micah 5:2

“No longer will you have the sun for light by day, Nor for brightness will the moon give you light; But you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And your God for your glory. “Your sun will no longer set, Nor will your moon wane; For you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And the days of your mourning will be over.
Isaiah 60:19 – 20

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:5


 

I grew  up in a small town, (Well, technically, I grew up on a farm outside of a small town) and while it was under 1,000 people, it was a booming metropolis when compared to the town my wife’s parents were living in during the fall 1997.  The town consisted of roughly 45 people.  There was a Church, a grain elevator, an elementary school and houses, all located on 5 or 6 streets.  We visited them at their house for Christmas that year and one evening I decided to take a walk around town. Understand, we had been living in the suburbs of Chicago for the better part of 9 years, so what struck me was how peaceful it was.  I could freely walk the streets, literally down the middle of the street, enjoying the quiet time to myself. As I walked through that sleepy little town at Christmas I could not help find thoughts of the Christmas hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” running through my head.

This Christmas hymn by Phillips Brooks begins with the words, “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.” Bethlehem was certainly a small town with a population of roughly 300 – 750 people. additionally, it was not a place of major significance. This is why it seems surprising that Micah prophesied in chapter 5 verse 2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” This simple small town held a great promise of hope.

So the hymn continues, “Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light.” This light was promised in Isaiah 60:19. where we read “you will have the LORD for an everlasting light.” God promised that He would come to a world lost in darkness and so Jesus is the light shining in the darkness.  (John 1:5) He is the answer to “the hopes and fears of all the years.”

Yes the darkness of this world can seem overwhelming, but Jesus’s everlasting light shines forth that we may see. So it is from this simple seemingly insignificant town, that light came to a dark world. It is a light that shines the way to Christ, who alone as our source of salvation. We, therefore, can humbly come before Him with the prayer, “O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.

Traditional American Version

Traditional British Version (Forest Green)

 

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Good Christian Men Rejoice

Good Christian men, rejoice with heart and soul, and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say: News! News! Jesus Christ is born today;
Ox and ass before Him bow; and He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today! Christ is born today!

Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye hear of endless bliss: Joy! Joy! Jesus Christ was born for this!
He has opened the heavenly door, and man is blest forevermore.
Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!

Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye need not fear the grave: Peace! Peace! Jesus Christ was born to save!
Calls you one and calls you all, to gain His everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!

Words by Heinrich Suso, 14th Century
Music is a 14th Century German Melody

 


Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Philippians 4:4

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
Matthew 1:21

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Luke 15:8- 10

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:56


 

A couple of years ago my son was working on his Eagle project for Boy Scouts. Now while it was his project, meaning he did the planning and overseeing, there were a lot of us who did the physical work. Part of the job involved landscaping. Well, after a day of digging in the dirt and putting in new plants, I looked at my hands and had an alarming realization. I no longer had my wedding ring on. Needless to say, I was more than a little panicked .

I began retracing my steps to everywhere I had been. The problem is, I had been everywhere.  One of the scouts called his dad who had a metal detector.  He brought the detector and we continued to search to no avail.  I was becoming greatly worried.  I decided to run to the rental  store and pick-up a stronger metal detector for one last shot.  Finally after a total of about three hours of searching, we struck gold (literally). My son located the ring buried under a hasta I had planted. I was overjoyed with relief.  I had reason to rejoice because we had located something of great value, both financially and more importantly personally.  This feeling of rejoicing that comes from receiving something so important is a theme found in the old Christmas hymn, “Good Christian Men Rejoice.”

The hymn begins by calling us to “rejoice with heart and soul, and voice.” In other words, we need to rejoice with our whole being, rejoice in all we do, or as Paul puts it in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it always!”   Yes, we are to rejoice, but lest we wonder, why is it that we are to rejoice, the author answers immediately with, “Give ye heed to what we say: News! News! Jesus Christ is born today.”  Our rejoicing is in the birth of Jesus.

It was Jesus’s entry into the world that is the source of joy that drives us to rejoice. As the hymn continues, “He has opened the heavenly door.” It is through His birth that we can have what we could never find on our own . . . Salvation (Matthew 1:21).  It is through His birth that we may enter into God’s very presence. So the hymn continues, “Now ye need not fear the grave: Peace! Peace! Jesus Christ was born to save!”

We rejoice not that a baby was born, but because God gave us the only means of knowing him.  The only means of salvation.  A precious unmatched gift. This is the rejoicing found in Luke 15:8 – 10 were we read, ““Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Our call to rejoice is not simply within us, but it is a reflection of the rejoicing in heaven itself.  For it is through this babe in the manger, that salvation came to earth. It is through Him that we have victory over sin (1 Corinthians 15:56). In light of this great truth, it is us who should truly “rejoice, with heart and soul and voice.”

 

 

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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
Christ 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 love we raise.
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Words and Music are a traditional French Carol translated by James Chadwick, 1862

 


Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion.
Psalm 103:20 – 22

Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights above. Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Psalm 148:1 – 2

Let the rivers clap their hands, Let the mountains sing together for joy. Before the LORD, for He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness And the peoples with equity.
Psalm 98:8 – 9

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 angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, 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 heaven, and on earth peace to those 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. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Luke 2:8 – 20


 

What is the best news you have ever received?  It may have been when you received an acceptance letter to that one college you wanted to attend more than any other.  Maybe it was news that a loved one was coming home from being away for a long time.  For some it may have been news that your medical test had come back clear.  For others it might have been the birth of a first child or grandchild. Whatever the situation, the joy of receiving good news seems unparalleled. This is why the proverb found in Proverbs 25:25 says, “Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.”

Now while each person will have a different answers of what that good news they received was, the joy and excitement of receiving the news is very similar. Yet they pale in comparison to the joy of the greatest news ever received.  This is the theme found in the Christmas carol, “Angels We Have Heard On High.”

In this carol we find presented the events surrounding the presentation of the Good News (or Gospel) of Christ birth given by the angels to the shepherds.  It begins with the line, “Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing or the plains.” The very name “angel” means messenger, and so the angel brought the message. The message referred to is found in Luke 2:10 – 12 were we read, “the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'”

This was a source of unmatched joy. Now ask yourself, what has been your response to the good news you have received?  You may have shouted with joy, had tears of happiness or been silent, unable to utter a sound.  The Heavenly host are no different, as Luke 2:13 – 14 tells us, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.'” In response to the great news that Jesus had been born, the angels in heaven could not restrain their joy and declared, “Gloria, in excelsis Deo!” That is “Glory to God in the highest!”

Now it was the shepherds turn to respond to the good news shared by the angel. Luke 2:15 – 20 tells us that ” 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. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” They were so filled with joy from the news that they could not contain it. These simple shepherds now proclaimed the gospel to others. This leads to the carol’s reflection on what the others must have thought of the shepherds. “Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong? What the gladsome tidings be which inspire your heavenly song?”

So we ask ourselves, what is our response to the birth of the Savior? Do we respond with the uncontainable joy of the angels and shepherds? Or do we respond with a sense of bewilderment as the carol suggest the towns people may have? In either case let us seek to find the Savior who was born, and experience the joy that comes from this revelation,  that we might join with the Heavenly Host, raising our hearts in love declaring “Gloria, in excelsis Deo!”

 

 

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How Great, Our Joy

While by the sheep we watched at night,
Glad tidings brought an angel bright.
How great our joy! Great our joy!
Joy, joy, joy! Joy, joy, joy!
Praise we the Lord in heaven on high!
Praise we the Lord in heaven on high!

There shall be born, so He did say,
In Bethlehem a Child today.
How great our joy! Great our joy!
Joy, joy, joy! Joy, joy, joy!
Praise we the Lord in heaven on high!
Praise we the Lord in heaven on high!

There shall the Child lie in a stall,
This Child who shall redeem us all.
How great our joy! Great our joy!
Joy, joy, joy! Joy, joy, joy!
Praise we the Lord in heaven on high!
Praise we the Lord in heaven on high!

This gift of God we’ll cherish well,
That ever joy our hearts shall fill.
How great our joy! Great our joy!
Joy, joy, joy! Joy, joy, joy!
Praise we the Lord in heaven on high!
Praise we the Lord in heaven on high!

Words & Music are a traditional German carol

 


Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.
Psalm 47:1

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 angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, 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 heaven, and on earth peace to those 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. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Luke 2:8 – 20

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13


 

Have you ever stopped to consider what was the happiest moment in your life. What one event has given you the greatest joy. I know that for me, I am hard pressed to narrow it down to one event. It could be the day I was married, the birth of my children, or many other events.

But as great as these events are, I think I am missing something. Having been raised in a Christian family and coming to faith at a very early age I have a tendancy to overlook one important event. Now don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change this for anything. But I can’t help but think I missed the joy of Jesus being revealed to me for the first time.

When I hear the words of the old Christmas Carol, “How Great, Our Joy” I begin to get a glimpse that joy. Imagine what it wound have been like to be there when that news was declared for the first time.

The writer begins to recount the events of Luke 2:8 – 20 with the words, “While by the sheep, we watched at night. Glad tidings brought, an angel bright.”

Imagine you are sitting there on an ordinary night when all of the sudden an angel appears out of no where, and not simply an angel but he is surrounded by the very glory of God. From this startling sight came the news that had been so long waited for, the promised Messiah had been born. The joy must have been unmatched. To know that the long wait was finally over, the Savior had come.

Now as great as this joy is, it does not stop there. This same joy goes out to the whole world. This is why the angel declared, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” So the carol continues with these words, “There shall the Child lie in a stall, This Child who shall redeem us all.” It is a joy for all people, calling us to the words of Psalm 47:1 “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.”

Wht is the greatest joy? In this Christmas season take time to remember the magnificent truth. That we have been given the good news. The news that we have not been forgotten. The news that God came to earth. The news that Jesus was born to save the world.

When we truly understand this, we shall find the greatest joy of all. Then we can join our voices with all who know this joy declaring, “Praise we the Lord in heaven on high!”

 

 

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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,
But 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 fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there.

Words for verses 1 & 2 were written anonymously, Verse 3 by John T. McFarland (19th Century)
Music: Two common tunes, 1st by James R. Murray, 1887; 2nd by William J. Kirkpatrick, 1895

 


and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2:7

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
Luke 24:50 – 53

The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121:5 – 8

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5

in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith
Galatians 3:26

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18


 

Sometimes the simplest things are really the best. You know, when you strip aware all the glitz and glamor, when all the unnecessary extras are removed, you are left with what really matters.

Hymns are no exception. Some hymns are powerful with grand scores that draw you in. Some have profound teachings in their deep theological truths. But sometimes, the simpler the music and message, the more moving and profound the song. This is the case with the dearly loved hymn, “Away In A Manger.”

“Away in A Manger” is often thought of as a children’s hymn, taught to them from a young age. But this hymn with it gentle lullaby tune (no matter which of the two tunes you prefer) leads us to sit calmly and listen to the words, no matter our age.

In the first verse we sing, “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.” It is a poetic restating of Luke 2:7 where we read, “. . . She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”

In the second verse, the poetic picture continues to be draw of the infant Jesus. As a result, we have a picture drawn within our minds that we can not help but be moved by. But to often we think of Jesus at Christmas and picture only the infant child. We need to remember that this child born that first Christmas is the same Jesus who “. . . was taken up into heaven,” (Luke 24:51)

So the hymn continues, “I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.” The request is that the Jesus who ascended into Heaven, watch over and protect. We are drawn to the words of Psalm 121:7 where we read “The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life.”

Finally, in the third verse, introduced by John McFarland, we read, “Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.” It is a simple prayer of commitment, reflecting the prayer of a new believer, expressed in the simple words of a young child. It is committing ones life to Christ and trusting that he will never leave. (Hebrews 13:5)

McFarland then writes, “Bless all the dear children, in Thy tender care.” All the dear children? Our first thought is that this is a children’s hymn, so he is speaking to the children. But when we stop to look more closely we are reminded in Galatians 3:26 that “in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” In this light we are reminded that it is those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, who are the dear children in His care.

McFarland concludes with the words, “And fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there.” It is this same Jesus who guides and directs us. It is through him that we “. . . are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. ” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

This may be a “children’s hymn”, but we are the children for whom the hymn is written. It is a simple message, set to a simple tune, but in it we find profound truths and comfort. The truth that a child born into this world through humble circumstance, is the Savior of mankind who ascended back into heaven. The truth that He will watch over those who trust in him, and that he will never leave. The truth that we are children of God, and that He transforms us into His likeness.

So we join in the prayer, “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 fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there”

 

James R. Murray Melody

 

William J. Kirkpatrick Melody (Cradle Song)

 

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