Tag Archives: Christ

Rise Up

Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.

Rise up, O men of God!
The kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.

Rise up, O men of God!
The church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task;
Rise up and make her great!

Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O men of God!

Words by William P. Merrill, 1911
Music by William H. Walter, 1872

 


“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:13 – 16

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Luke 10:27


 

It’s an old idiom, “rise up.” To rise up means to come to the surface. It is what happens in a bucket of water when the water has been stirred. As the water comes to a stop, the lighter debris floats to the top. It separates to become evident. The phrase can also be applied to people. It describes the underlying thoughts of people coming to the surface. It is used to describe, taking part in a rebellion or to take a stance in support. The people rose up against the tyranny of the King, They stood up for what was right seeking to change the status quo. It is the meaning behind this idiom that we find presented in Wiliam P. Merrill’s “Rise up, O Men of God.”

The hymn begins, “Rise up, O men of God! Have done with lesser things. Give heart and mind and soul and strength, To serve the King of Kings.” Here we find the phrase “rise up” applied to the people of God.  But what is it to which we are taking a stance of support and what in the world does,  “have done with lesser things mean”? The answer to both of these questions is found in the remainder of the this stanza.

Our stance of support is “to serve the King of Kings.”  This is not always an easy stance.  It is a stance that we take in the face of a culture that does not stand for God, but for its own selfish interest. We are called to rise up, to make a difference.  Matthew 5:13 – 16 tells us, “You are the salt of the earth . . . You are the light of the world . . . let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” We are to rise up and impact the world around for God, that He might be glorified.

So what about, “have done with lesser things.” It is an odd phraseology, but the key to understanding it is found in the statement, “Give heart and mind and soul and strength.” You see, we might understand our call to “rise up” but how much do we put into it. Too often we find ourselves giving an  insufficient effort.  We split our energies between several things.  We go through the actions, with out the commitment.  We have not risen up, we have done with lesser things.  But we are to give our all in standing for Christ. This is the greatest commandment that Jesus gave us.  In Luke 10:27 we read, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.'”

Rising up to stand for God is not something for the timid or the faint of heart.  It for those who are willing to put themselves out on a limb. Those who are willing to risk everything for Him. For those who will give every last bit of their being to see the world changed for God. When we rise up we each serve our part to “bring in the day of brotherhood and end the night of wrong.”

 

 

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There is a Name I Love to Hear

There is a name I love to hear,
I love to speak its worth;
It sounds like music in mine ear,
The sweetest name on earth.
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me!

It tells me of a Savior’s love,
Who died to set me free;
It tells me of His precious blood,
The sinner’s perfect plea.
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me!

It tells me of a Father’s smile
Beaming upon His child;
It cheers me through this little while,
Through desert, waste, and wild.
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me!

It tells me what my Father hath
In store for every day,
And though I tread a darksome path,
Yields sunshine all the way.
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me!

It tells of One whose loving heart
Can feel my deepest woe;
Who in my sorrow bears a part,
That none can bear below.
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me!

It bids my trembling heart rejoice;
It dries each rising tear;
It tells me, in a still small voice,
To trust and never fear.
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me!

Jesus, the name I love so well,
The name I love to hear!
No saint on earth its worth can tell,
No heart conceive how dear.
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me!

This name shall shed its fragrance still
Along this thorny road,
Shall sweetly smooth the rugged hill
That leads me up to God.
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me!

And there, with all the blood-bought throng,
From sin and sorrow free,
I’ll sing the new eternal song
Of Jesus’ love to me.
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me!

Words by Frederick Whitfield, 1855
Music: Traditional 19th Century American Melody

 


Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:12

We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:19

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace
Ephesians 1:7

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
1 John 3:1

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

After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19:12


 

I’ll be honest with you, I hate using the telephone.  I always have. You make a phone call to relay information. When the information has been relayed there is no point to staying on the phone.  Now I am not alone, my Grandmother was very much the same way. This doesn’t mean that I don’t know proper phone etiquette of that I don’t like talking to people, I do.  I simply do not like talking to people on the phone. That having been said, there are exceptions.  When my mom or dad call I am more than willing to spend time with them on the phone. It of course does not take the place of spending time with them in person, but sometimes it is the best you can do. But I love to hear from them.  There is something truly comforting to hear their voices. In my mind I picture them and the next thing you know I am with them.  Just the simple thought of Mom and Dad brings a warmth to my heart. This same theme permeates through Frederick Whitfield’s hymn, “O How I Love Jesus.”

The hymn begins, “There is a name I love to hear, I love to speak its worth; It sounds like music in mine ear, The sweetest name on earth.” The name of Jesus brings comfort and joy to the heart of the believer.  He is the hope for the sinner who has lost his way.  He is the comfort of those who find themselves mourning. He is the joy of new life to those who have put their faith in him.  It is music in our ears for “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

In light of this, the chorus rings out, “O how I love Jesus, because He first loved me!” The music rings so wonderfully in our ears as we realize the love He has for us. A love that came to us before our love for Him. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) A love we did nothing to deserve.  A love that came to us when we were far from Him. Romans 5:8 tells us that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

It is in Jesus Christ that we find salvation. This is why the hymn continues, “It tells me of a Savior’s love, Who died to set me free; It tells me of His precious blood, The sinner’s perfect plea.” Jesus shed His very blood for our forgiveness. In his love, He died for us.  This is why Ephesians 1:7 tells us, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”

This love does not end with simply forgiving our sins.  It goes beyond mere redemption. It allows us to call God our Father.  1 John 3:1 tells us, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” We are children of God and our Father pours His love out upon us.  This is why Whitfield writes, “It tells me of a Father’s smile Beaming upon His child.” Yes, the Father’s love is poured down upon us.

So the name of Jesus reminds us “of One whose loving heart Can feel my deepest woe; Who in my sorrow bears a part, That none can bear below.” Jesus is the one who knows what we face. He is the one stand beside us and leads us to the father as our advocate.  This is what the writer of Hebrews is speaking of in chapter 4, verse 15 where we read, “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.”

So at the name of Jesus we are filled with joy as we listen for His voice.  The hymn says “It tells me, in a still small voice, To trust and never fear.” So God calls to us, not in the loud booming voice, but in the still small voice.  A voice that we can only hear when we choose to listen, just as Elijah did in the wilderness.  (1 Kings 19:12)

Yes, at the mere mention of the name of Jesus our hearts are filled with joy.  At the sound of His voice, we are drawn into His presence. It is at this time that we must declare His praise.  So we join with our brothers and sisters in Christ as we “sing the new eternal song, Of Jesus’ love to me.”

 

 

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Near To The Heart of God

There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God.
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee
Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of comfort sweet,
Near to the heart of God.
A place where we our Savior meet,
Near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee
Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of full release,
Near to the heart of God.
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee
Near to the heart of God.

Words and Music by Cleland B. McAfee, 1903

 


The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Mark 6:30 – 31

“He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart.”
Isaiah 40:11

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
James 4:7 – 8

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:3 – 4

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 16:11


 

I have spent the last 27 years living in suburban Chicago.  It is a great place. I live far enough out of the city that I need only drive a few miles to find farms and yet when I feel compelled to go to into the city (which is few and far between) I can be there in 45 minutes. Now I do like where I live and all three of my children call it home, but ultimately as nice as it is, my home will always be in rural Iowa.  We all have those places that we feel ultimately comfortable. In a hectic, high pressure, stress filled life, where we face trials and struggles on a daily basis we need those places where we can find refuge, those places where we can renew and refresh.

I know that for me personally, I love to get away into the woods and to enjoy nature.  Whether it is a walk in the forest preserve, a hike through a canyon or a camping trip away from everything. It is an opportunity to escape from the things that seem, at times, to overwhelm my life. But as great as I find those times, there is only one place that truly fits the bill. This is the message found in Cleland B. McAfee’s hymn, “Near to the heart of God.”

The hymn begins, “There is a place of Quiet rest, Near to the heart of God.” Quiet rest is something we far to often forget to think about.  We get so caught up in what we are doing, what we think we have to do, that we forget to rest.  Sometimes these things are distractions that we put in place in our lives and sometimes they are things beyond our control.  Sometimes, we may put things out there that are good things in and of themselves, but we sacrifice our opportunities to find rest because we think we are doing something more important.

Perhaps we far to often let work get in the way. Yes, we have responsibilities, but how often do we let our work begin to dominate our lives. We find ourselves thinking about it all the time, going in odd hours because something has to get done.  Perhaps it is ministry commitments that begin to dominate our lives.  What can be wrong with that, we are serving God, right? But we may find ourselves putting in extended hours, cutting our sleep short to get things done, going to a Sunday school event here, a church outing there, leading a small group.  Before we know it we find ourselves busy every night of the week and weekends.

While these things may be good in, and of, themselves, they can begin to wear us down and wear us out, if we fail to take time to find a quiet place to rest.  Jesus himself understood this as we see in Mark 6:30 – 31 where we read, “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'”

The place of true rest and restoration that can be found for the believer is “near to the heart of God.” What does it mean to be near to the heart of God. Isaiah 40:11 give us the image of a shepherd caring for a lamb. When he finds the lamb that has been lost and wandering the shepherd, “gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart.” He carries them safely and securely back to the fold.  They have found comfort and safety being held close to the heart of the shepherd, so the image carries over to the believe who can find rest near to the heart of God.

So the hymn draws for us a picture of what it is like to be near to the heart of God.  It is “a place where sin cannot molest.”  For as James tells us in 4:7 – 8, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.”  When we draw near to God, when we find ourselves near to the heart of God, we can find the strength to resist temptations that come our way.

It says, “There is a place of comfort sweet.” When we face troubles in our lives, when we face the struggles that come our way, we can find comfort near to the heart of God. This is what Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:3 where we read, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction”

The hymn tells us that it is “a place where we our Savior meet.” When we draw near to God, we will find opportunity to grow in Christ.  It is “a place of full release”, “A place where all is joy and peace.” Psalm 16:11 tells us, “you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

In a world where we face so many struggles, where we face temptation on a daily basis, where we place so many things  in our way, we need to find time to step back.  We need to find opportunities to refresh.  We need to draw near to the heart of God.  When we take this time, we will find our faith growing and we will find ourselves refreshed and renewed. So we sing out, “O Jesus, blest Redeemer, Sent from the heart of God, Hold us who wait before Thee, Near to the heart of God.”

 

 

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Lead On, Oh King Eternal

156234_572903450925_1750536026_nLead on, O King eternal, The day of march has come;
Henceforth in fields of conquest Thy tents shall be our home.
Through days of preparation Thy grace has made us strong;
And now, O King eternal, We lift our battle song.

Lead on, O King eternal, Till sin’s fierce war shall cease,
And holiness shall whisper The sweet amen of peace.
For not with swords’ loud clashing, Nor roll of stirring drums;
With deeds of love and mercy The heavenly kingdom comes.

Lead on, O King eternal, We follow, not with fears,
For gladness breaks like morning Where’er Thy face appears.
Thy cross is lifted over us, We journey in its light;
The crown awaits the conquest; Lead on, O God of might.

Words by Ernest W. Shurtleff, 1888
Music by Henry T. Smart, 1836

 


For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.
Ephesians 6:2

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

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57

So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.
Zechariah 4:6

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
Titus 3:5

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
1 Timothy 4:7 – 8


 

Remember when you were a kid, all the games you used to play. Duck, Duck Goose, Red Rover and of course, Follow the Leader.  My son used to play a version of follow the leader that he loved when he was little.  I would say, “Hey, do the dance.” He would jump up and proceed to walk me through the steps. He would call out the move and do it, then wait for me to repeat it.  Every time it was done, it varied slightly but had the same basic moves.  It was loads of fun and he would be so excited to lead. And why not? Everyone likes to be the leader.  The catch is that not everyone can be the leader.  Someone has to follow.

It really doesn’t change that much when we grow up. Yes, many of us will have the opportunities to be a leader, but all of us are followers at some point in time.  Now we really should not look down upon following, because that is how we learn and grown in our skills and roles in life. So it is to with our walk with Christ.  Christ is the leader that we have been given the opportunity to follow and learn from so that we can grow to be more like Him.  This is the theme found in Ernest W. Shurtleff’s “Lead On, Oh King Eternal.”

The hymn begins by presenting us with what appears to be a theme of war.  “The day of march”, fields of conquest” and “our battle song.” Is this really a song of war? Well to begin with the concept of a battle is not foreign to the Christian faith but we do need to see it in context.  Ephesians 6:1 says, “For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” As followers of Christ we are in a battle, a spiritual battle.  As Paul states in this passage, there are indeed evil spiritual forces that come against us.  But we are not alone, Christ himself faced these battles as described most clearly in Matthew 4.  Hebrews 4:15 tells us that He “has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” Christ is our example in the battle that we face each day against temptation, again the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” By following His lead, we can find the strength and guidance to stand strong in the face of these battles.

No the message of this hymn is not war, but that we can stand strong in the face of attacks that come our way when we follow the lead of our King.  So the hymn continues by not focusing on the battle, but the victory that we can have in Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57) So we read, “Lead on, O King eternal, Till sin’s fierce war shall cease, And holiness shall whisper The sweet amen of peace.” While we may be in a battle, we can look forward to the day when peace shall reign. We can look forward to the day when the struggles are gone and we can rest in God’s presence.  It is a victory we can not achieve through our own strength in battle.  As Zechariah 4:6 says, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.”

No the victory does not come through our strength, but through God’s Spirit which he bestows on all those who believe. So we do not set out looking for a fight, but to live by Christ example, to follow his lead “with deeds of love and mercy.” For Christ Jesus has saved us through His love (John 3:16) and mercy (Titus 3:5).

Yes, God leads us through the struggles and battles of this life.  He leads on to a day when we will can rest in the peace of His presence. And we can know that if we follow Him, “there is in store . . . the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award . . . on that day.” (1 Timothy 4:8) So as we look toward that day, we continue to call out, “Lead on, O God of might.”

 

 

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Brian Olson is a graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ having worked with both youth and adults.

Eternal Father, Strong To Save

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who biddest the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy Word,
Who walked on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!
Our family shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect us wheresoever we go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

Words by William Whiting, 1860
Music by John B. Dykes, 1861

 


Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
Isaiah 40:28

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
Proverbs 8:29

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
Matthew 8:23 – 27

Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.
Matthew 14:23 – 25

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Genesis 1:1 – 2

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Matthew 28:19

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.
Psalm 28:7

the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121:8


 

As long as man has walked the earth, the sea has served as a source of fascination and fear, a source of dread and delight. The sea can be a sight of beauty that seem to go on forever with an endless horizon. It can also be a sight of unparalleled terror as the great storms roll in filling that same horizon. They can be the purest image of peace and tranquility. And they can be a source of unimaginable power. Man has set out time and again to conquer the sea, some times to safely return and other to never be heard from again. It is this incredible image of the sea that William Whiting draws upon in his hymn, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save”, also known as “The Naval Hymn.”

The hymn begins with the words, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.” The use of the name Eternal Father draws our minds to the book of Isaiah where we read in 40:28 of the “everlasting God” and in 9:6 of the “Everlasting Father.” It is to the Eternal Father that the first verse is addressed. Whiting expounds his discussion of the Father when he says “Whose arm hath bound the restless wave, Who biddest the mighty ocean deep Its own appointed limits keep.” It is God the Father who formed the seas and set their boundaries. As Proverbs 8:29 says, “he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command.” It is the Father who put everything in its place, and the power of the sea is within His command.

The hymn now moves from the Father to Jesus Christ, the Son when it says, “O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard And hushed their raging at Thy Word,” Immediately our minds are drawn to Matthew 8:23 – 27 where we find the account of Jesus having fallen asleep on the boat as a great storm arose and when alerted through the fearful cries of the disciples “he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” The hymn continues on to say, “Who walked on the foaming deep.” Again our minds are drawn to the book of Matthew, but this time to 14:23 – 25 where we read, “Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.” He speaks and the storms and sea are silenced. He walks upon the very surface of the water. The Power of Christ over the very sea that fills man with such awe, can not help but humble us before Him.

The hymn has spoke of the Might of the Father and the supremacy of Christ over all things. It now moves on to speak of the Holy Spirit when it says, “Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood Upon the chaos dark and rude.” The Spirit over the water is an image that is familiar to all who have heard the creation account in Genesis 1. For in Genesis 1:1 – 2 we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” From the beginning of creation the sea was present and the Spirit of God filled it all.

The hymn moves into its final verse by bring everything together. It has presented us with the vision, that as powerful as the sea may appear to us, it is nothing when compared to the power of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is this image that is brought together when it says, “O Trinity of love and power!” Here our minds are drawn to another image of water. There is immeasurable power to be found in the sea, but in the New Testament we find another image of power that is represented in the water.

In Matthew 28:19 we read, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The image of the Trinity is tied to the image of Salvation. It is in the name of each member of the Godhead that we come to faith. For the Father sent the Son, who gave His life and it is the Spirit who has been sent to indwell in all who believe. It is this that is then represented in the water flowing over the new believer in baptism.

The hymn then addresses the truth that our God is “Our family shield in danger’s hour.” That “the LORD is our strength and our shield.” (Psalm 28:7) And that we can call on Him to “Protect us wheresoever we go.” For Psalm 121:8 tells us that, “the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

The sea is a powerful image in the mind of people everywhere. For those who have seen its endless horizon, those who have swum in depth and those who have sailed upon it vast surface it is an image that is indelibly written upon their minds. Yet as incredible and amazing as it is, it is nothing when seen in light of the awesome power of God. It is in this truth that we can join with the final line of the hymn, “Thus evermore shall rise to Thee Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.”

 

 

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I Surrender All

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
O the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

Words by Judson W. Van DeVenter, 1896
Music by Winfield S. Weeden, 1896

 


Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
“Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
Matthew 19:16 – 30

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Luke 9:23

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13


 

One of the fascinating traditions of New Year’s is that of resolutions. Those ideas we have, promises we make to be someone different, to do new and exciting things. The fact is that most of us who have made resolutions typically give up within a few weeks. Not surprising. They typically include ending established habits. But it is not easy to give up things that you have held dearly, even if it is to become a better person. But many times, that is what it takes. So we continue to try. It is this need to give up things held dear and change that permeates the theme of Judson W. Van DeVenter’s hymn, “I Surrender All.”

The hymn begins, “All to Jesus, I surrender; All to Him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.” For those of us who have chosen to follow God, there is no greater commitment we can make, yet it is not always as easy as it may seem.

“All to Him I freely give.” These are words that we can so easily say, but not so easily live out. This is why Jesus said of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:23 – 24, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Like I said, the words are easy to say, but the reality is that living them out is not. Think about it, Jesus told this man that if he wanted to attain eternal life he had to “go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21) Go sell your possessions. Could you do this? Could any of us? The answer is, that I am sure that some people could do it, but stop and look at the reality of what Jesus was telling him. It was not to simply sell his belongings, it was to give up what was dearest to his heart. This is what the hymn is speaking of when it says, “All to Jesus, I surrender; All to Him I freely give.”

The hymn continues, “I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.” You see, to make such a decision, to make such a commitment is not a one time thing. It is something that we must do again and again, each and every day. I wrote about this several years ago in a blog entitled “New Year’s Resolutions.” In it I wrote;

“You see, a resolution is not a one time thing. It is an ongoing commitment. In a world were we want, and to often get, things instantly, we need to slow down and accept that things take time. That changes will not just happen, but rather that we will need to work for them.”

The commitment that we put into following is a daily thing. This is why Jesus says in Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Yes, it is daily, but by God’s grace we do not face it alone. The hymn continues, “Make me, Savior, wholly Thine.” If we wish to change who we are and if we wish to surrender to Christ, then we can find the strength to do so in Him. In the same blog I referenced earlier, I also wrote;

“But remember this, we do not need to do this alone. We find accountability and support in friends and family. And for those of us who know Jesus as our personal Savior, we find our strength in him alone.”

The strength to make the change, the strength to surrender, is found in Christ alone. For, we “can do all this through him who gives (us) strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

Yes, we have been called by Christ to surrender all. We have been called to give up those things we hold most dear, that stand between us and following Christ. And Christ is there to strengthen us to surrender, if we will only turn to Him and trust Him. When we take these steps and begin to know what it truly means to surrender, then we can genuinely sing from our hearts,“All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.”

 

 

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God of Our Fathers

God of our fathers, whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.

Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast,
Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.

From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence,
Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
Thy true religion in our hearts increase,
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.

Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way,
Lead us from night to never ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.

Words by Daniel C. Roberts, 1876
Music by George W. Warren, 1888

 


 

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
Deuteronomy 8:2

Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.
Psalm 119:90

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Isaiah 58:11

The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.
Isaiah 60:19


 

I love to learn about historical events and items. It is always so amazing learn about how things were done, where we are today compared to then and what can be learned from history that can apply to today. After all, what happens if we do not remember history? George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” There is truth in this. If we can not remember the mistakes that were made in the past, we are simply going to continue to make the same mistakes.

But there is a slightly different view of this subject that Winston Churchill proposed. In his speech before the House of Commons, on November 16, 1948 Churchill worried not so much that those who forget the past are condemned to relive it, but that the loss of the past would mean “the most thoughtless of ages. Everyday headlines and short views.” If we do not remember the things that have happened before, we find ourselves living in a vacuum, not being able to see beyond the here and now. That is, if we do not look backward, we can never truly look forward. This is the theme found in Daniel Roberts, “God of Our Fathers.”

Roberts picks up on a theme that God himself gave to Israel. God commanded that when ever Israel came together they were to “Remember how the Lord” had cared for them throughout history. This was one of the very purposes behind the festivals. Passover, the Harvest festival, even the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah) were intended to help Israel to remember God’s faithfulness.

In this same vein, Roberts begins with the words, “God of our fathers, whose almighty hand.” One of the greatest mistakes made by Christians is forgetting that we are not the first ones to follow Christ. We are not the first ones to have struggles with theological questions. We have not the first ones to have struggled with our place in society. The God whom we now follow, is the same God of our “fathers”, that is those who came before.

He is the same God who “ Leads forth in beauty all the starry band.” Since the very creation, he has held everything together. How can we live in the vacuum of today and forget what he has done in the past.

His faithfulness reaches to more than just the world, but personally to those who follow him. Psalm 119:90 declares, “Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.” So the hymn continues, “Thy love divine hath led us in the past.” Do we remember the roads God has led us down? Do we appreciate the true faithfulness of God?

When we understand all that God has done in the past, we can begin to understand who He is today and that we can trust Him for the future. It is to this point that the hymn continues, “Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay, Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.” God has shown us His faithfulness, and so we can trust in Him for as Isaiah 58:11 says, “The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

When we see what He has done, when we know that we can put our trust and faith in Him, we can trust Him to “Lead us from night to never ending day.”

For it is to those who put their trust in God, that Isaiah writes in chapter 60 verse 19, “The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.”

So let us take time to reflect on all that God has done. Let us remember his faithfulness to those who have come before that our prayer might be for God to “Fill all our lives with love and grace divine, And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.”

 

 

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While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around,
And glory shone around.

“Fear not!” said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind.
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind
To you and all mankind.

“To you, in David’s town, this day
Is born of David’s line
A Savior, who is Christ the Lord,
And this shall be the sign,
And this shall be the sign.

“The heavenly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
And in a manger laid,
And in a manger laid.”

Thus spake the seraph and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God on high,
Who thus addressed their song,
Who thus addressed their song:

“All glory be to God on high,
And to the Earth be peace;
Good will henceforth from Heaven to men
Begin and never cease,
Begin and never cease!”

Words by Nahum Tate, 1700
Music by George F. Handel, 1812

 


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


 

 

There is always something nice about ballads as opposed to other song.  Other songs may flow and say different ideas, but the cohesion is not always there.  A ballad on the other hand tells a full story in verse or song from beginning to end.  When you have heard a ballad you have heard the story and know what it was all about.  What is more, when it is set to music it becomes something that is easier to remember.  The words, tied to the music help us to hold the information in our brains.  So as I said, I love all songs styles, but there is something special about a ballad. And such is the case with Nahum Tate’s “While Shepherds Watched Their Flock By Night.”

In six simple verses we are presented the story found in Luke 2:8 – 14 of the Angel’s pronouncement to the shepherds of the birth of Jesus. An event that sums up the entire message and significance of the birth.  So Tate begins his ballad by writing, “While shepherds watched their flocks by night, All seated on the ground, The angel of the Lord came down, And glory shone around,” which paraphrase verse 8 – 9 which read, “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.”

He continues on in he second stanza where he writes, “‘Fear not!’ said he, for mighty dread Had seized their troubled mind. ‘Glad tidings of great joy I bring To you and all mankind'” Here he picks at the end of verse 9 where the first stanza ended and continues on through verse 10 which reads, “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.”

Tate continues his journey through the passage as he writes in the third stanza, “To you, in David’s town, this day Is born of David’s line, A Savior, who is Christ the Lord, And this shall be the sign,” Here he paraphrases the words of verses 11 – 12 which read, “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.”

There is no question of the Biblical solidity of the Tate’s Christmas ballad as he continues his paraphrase by writing, “The heavenly Babe you there shall find, To human view displayed, All meanly wrapped in swathing bands, And in a manger laid.” Here he retells the the remainder of verse 12 which reads, “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

In the fifth stanza Tate writes, “Thus spake the seraph and forthwith Appeared a shining throng of angels praising God on high, Who thus addressed their song.” He he paraphrases verse 13 which reads, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying.”

Finally, in the last stanza Tate writes, “All glory be to God on high, And to the Earth be peace; Good will henceforth from Heaven to men, Begin and never cease.” Tate has gone through the entire passage and finishes with the summary of verse 14 which reads, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Yes there is something nice about a ballad, a song that simply tells a story.  In this case, the story that God had come to earth, the Messiah had been born.  Unfortunately, it is so easy to find ourselves singing the words without thinking about them.  Next time you sing “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night” listen to what you are saying and realize that you are proclaiming the birth of the Savior of the World.

 

 

Read more about “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks.”

 

The First Noel

The first Noel the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
In fields where they lay tending their sheep,
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

They looked up and saw a star
Shining in the east, beyond them far;
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued both day and night.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

And by the light of that same star
Three Wise Men came from country far;
To seek for a King was their intent,
And to follow the star wherever it went.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

This star drew nigh to the northwest,
Over Bethlehem it took its rest;
And there it did both stop and stay,
Right over the place where Jesus lay.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

Then did they know assuredly
Within that house the King did lie;
One entered it them for to see,
And found the Babe in poverty.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

Then entered in those Wise Men three,
Full reverently upon the knee,
And offered there, in His presence,
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

Between an ox stall and an ass,
This Child truly there He was;
For want of clothing they did Him lay
All in a manger, among the hay.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord;
That hath made Heaven and earth of naught,
And with His blood mankind hath bought.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

If we in our time shall do well,
We shall be free from death and hell;
For God hath prepared for us all
A resting place in general.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

Words & Music: Traditional English Carol

 


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.”
Luke 2:8 – 15

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Matthew 2:1 – 11


 

 

I am fascinated by the misconception people have about the Christmas story from carols. But it really isn’t surprising. People sing carols far more that they read Luke 2 or Matthew 2. When I started working on this carol, I hesitated on even doing it. But the more I looked at it, I realized that this beloved carol does not teach anything that is unscriptural, it simply takes some license in speculations of things we are not told. So, I have chosen to look at “The First Noel”

We hear it sung every year. We probably sing it every year. But does anyone really know what Noel means. We know it as the french word meaning Christmas. Now I have no question that this is indeed the contemporary word for Christmas, but what are its origins. One explanation is that it is derived for the Latin, “natalis” meaning birth. (This is where we get the English word Nativity, the Spanish word Navidad and the Italian word Natale.) Now this is the most commonly accepted answer, but it seems interesting that all these other languages maintained some appearance of the original, yet French did not.

A couple other explanation I found are that it is derived from the french word “nouvelles” meaning “news”. This would fit with the idea that the birth of Christ was Good News.

The final one says that is comes from ancient Gaulish. It is derived from the words “Noio” or “Neu” meaning “new” and “Helle” meaning “light”. In this case the Noel is the new light that came upon the world.

All this is fascinating, but I do not speak french and I am certainly not an etymologist. The simple answer is that today, it means Christmas whether it comes from the birth, the announcement or the new light that entered the world.

So the Christmas carol begins by telling us that it “Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay.” Yes the news of the birth of Christ, the light of the world, was first proclaimed to the shepherds. Simple shepherds who had done nothing to warrant this gift. But it is to them that it comes. Not the first of this creative license is found in the line, “On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.” Yes, it is true that we do not know if it was cold or if it was a winter night. But this paints a picture for us a shepherd set apart from everything else that is going on.

So the carol continues that the star appeared in the sky. The implication of the verse is that the Shepherds saw the star. Again, while there is nothing that tells us this in the Bible, there is no reason to think that they could not have seen the star. It also says the star shined both day and night, this one I think I am going to have to disagree with, but again it is an attempt to emphasize the brilliance of the star.

The star that beckoned to the wise men “To seek for a King.” Yes it does say three wise men, and most of us are familiar with this one. There were indeed three gifts, but it does not tell us how many wise men there were. So the wise men followed the star until it came to rest over Bethlehem. This is how they knew that they had found the place where the king was. The carol then says, “And found the Babe in poverty.” We don’t know the financial situation of the Holy family, but this is clearly a reference to the fact that he was born in a stable. This is why it later says, “Between an ox stall and an ass.” Of course the wise men did not find Jesus in the manger. Matthew 2:11 tells us that they came to the house.

It is here where they found the child, the young King, and they presented him gifts worthy of a King. The gifts of “gold and myrrh and frankincense.”

Now my intent here was not to ruin a beloved old traditional hymn, but to remind us that our final authority must always be the Bible. It is there that we must always check out facts. Many a well meaning person has been creative with the Bible accounts to the point where they have altered the message. I do not think this is the case here. So I invite you, if you love this carol, continue to sing it for in it we declare the greatest truth of all when we sing, “Then let us all with one accord, Sing praises to our heavenly Lord;
That hath made Heaven and earth of naught, And with His blood mankind hath bought.”

 

 

Read more about “The First Noel.”

Silent Night, Holy Night

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light;
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Silent night, holy night
Wondrous star, lend thy light;
With the angels let us sing,
Alleluia to our King;
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

Words by Josef Mohr, ca 1817
Music by Franz Gruber, 1820

 


Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.
Ephesians 1:7

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Luke 1:29 – 33


 

I don’t know if your cupboard is like ours, but the dishes we have are used regularly. Some of the dishes may have a few chips, but you know that comes from regular us. Now we do have some special dishes. You know what I am talking about, the “fine china.” Those dishes that only come out for extremely special occasions, whatever those may be. This is not really that unusual. Whether it is dishes, clothes, or anything people often have the everyday items and then those that are set apart for something special. This is the definition of the New Testament Greek word “hagios” which we translate in English as holy.

Now while this word has become a commonly used word in the everyday language, it true meaning is often missed. But in the case of the Christmas hymn, “Silent Night, Holy Night” its true meaning shines through. Holy – To be set apart by or for God.

Josef Mohr begins by setting the tone of a quite and peaceful evening with the words “Silent night, holy night, All is calm, all is bright.” With this as the background he begins to paint for us a picture. He writes, “Round yon virgin mother and Child. Holy Infant, so tender and mild.” A reminder that Jesus was the fulfillment of a prophecy given by Isaiah in Chapter 7, verse 14 where he writes, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

The first verse ends with the words, “sleep in heavenly peace.” Now while this at first glance may seem to be a reference to the Christ child sleeping. However, when we look closer it in light of Psalm 4:8 which reads, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” it seems rather to refer to the city and the peace that has descended on upon the world with Christ presence.

The hymn continues by recounting the events of Luke 2:8 – 14 which reads, “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.’”

He is the Messiah, the Lord. It is this theme that Mohr continues with when he writes, “Son of God, love’s pure light.” He is the Messiah, the Lord and He is the light and “in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

The light shines forth and Mohr uses the imagery to transition to a new idea. For the lawn comes with the dawn, and he writes, “Radiant beams from Thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace.” Jesus came to extend the grace of God to all people. This is why Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” This is why Jesus came, and his birth is but the beginning, the “dawn of redeeming grace.” From the moment he was born, he was there for this purpose. From the moment he was born he was the Son of God (Luke 1:32) So the Mohr wrote, “Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,”

This night was indeed set apart for special time in all history. It was truly a Holy night, for on this night God came to earth to redeem the world. For this reason, those who come to know the peace that can be found in Jesus alone join together with the proclamation, “Christ the Savior is born!”

 

 

Read more about “Silent Night.”