X-mas… Is Christ still in Christmas?

Santa-Claus-and-presentsHe’s making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out whose naughty and nice… Rocking around the Christmas tree, have a happy holiday… I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus …okay okay, maybe we’ll throw in Silent Night for the religious folks.

WAIT!!!…this is our holy holiday, our sacred celebration. Yes, us—the CHRISTians—CHRISTmas is about Christ.

What child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?

I know…it’s Charlie Brown. No wait, maybe Tiny Tim…or Macaulay Culkin?

CHARLIE BROWN AND LINUS DISCUSS THE FORLORN LITTLE CHRISTMAS TREESorry to be the “Grinch who stole Christmas”…well, Christmas as the world knows it today. As I reflect on all that Christmas has become, it so easy to get caught up in the commercialism of this season. Christmas wish lists, letters to Santa, ugly Christmas sweater-themed parties… While all of these things are fun, they miss the real meaning of the season. When we dig deeper, the noble themes of giving and charitable acts also tend to mask the true essence of what it is that we are celebrating. In that sense, we become distracted and quickly forget about the magnitude of the miracle that took place some 2,000 years ago: God in human form entered the womb of a human vessel to accomplish the redemptive plan of reconciliation between God and man. That alone is heavy for me; God…God entered the womb of a human vessel!

In the midst of decorating the tree, exchanging gifts with loved ones, and donating to our favorite charities, let us remember that

 This, this is Christ the King, 

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;

Haste, haste to bring him laud,

The babe, the Son of Mary…

The King of kings salvation brings,

Let loving hearts enthrone Him. 

     ~William Chatterton Dix

Maame Yaa Manu

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The Story of ‘O Holy Night’

Take a few minutes to be blessed by the story and history of one our most beloved and favorite Christmas Carols.

 

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

O Holy Night” (French: Cantique de Noël) is a well-known Christmas carol composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847 to the French poem “Minuit, chrétiens” (Midnight, Christians) by a wine merchant and poet, Placide Cappeau (1808–1877) Translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight (1855)

o-holy-night

 

O Come

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O come, O come, Emmanuel,

and ransom captive Israel

that mourns in lonely exile here

until the Son of God appear. 

Can you feel the ache, the longing, the sadness, the darkness? 400 years of silence between the books of Malachi and Matthew, Israel mourning in lonely exile…wondering when it’ll ever change, wondering when God will speak once more.

O come and be with us; we can only mourn until You come.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;

from depths of hell Thy people save,

and give them victory over the grave.

 It’s a little more intense now. Free us from Satan’s tyranny, from oppression and cruelty, from false thoughts and beliefs that rule over us, from the very depths of hell.

O come and free us from evil and death, save us.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer

our spirits by Thine advent here;

disperse the gloomy clouds of night

and death’s dark shadows put to flight.

 Dayspring means the beginning of; dawn; the beginning of a new era or order of things. Dispersing clouds, shadows swallowed by light. Oh heart, be encouraged by what’s coming – by Who’s coming – and bringing a new order of things.

O come, Desire of nations, bind

In one the hearts of all mankind;

Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,

And be Thyself our King of Peace

Note the pairing of the words, “sad divisions.” So many things divide us – age, race, money, politics, status… For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility.

O come, bind us all together and bind us to You. Be our Peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Lauren McWilliams

An ‘Accidental’ Black Friday

black-friday-at-wal-mart

I  went Black Friday Shopping last week.

 

You have to understand I didn’t do it intentionally, In fact It was the furthest thing from my mind.  My idea of Black Friday shopping is sitting at home in my PJ’s with a hot cup of coffee and surfing the web for all the best ‘cyber deals’.  The thought of going out at ridiculous hours of the night or morning, waging war for parking spaces or getting in huge lines of hundreds of people waiting to lay claim to only 3 treasured items, just isn’t my idea of fun and relaxation.

 

So how did this happen you ask?  On Thanksgiving night after a delightful day filled with gluttonous eating, watching/playing football and enjoying time with family, my wife sent me out to pick up a few grocery items we needed for the next day.  As I headed out my thought was what store would be open on Thanksgiving night?  My answer, Super Walmart! I figured they would be open and I could ‘run in’ grab the groceries and be home.  As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed how busy it was and wondered if everyone was ‘running out’ for a few groceries as well.  And then it dawned on me, crowds like this could only mean one thing, I’m out with the ‘Black Friday’ crowds!  Panic set-in, I contemplated turning around and heading home but I ‘manned up’, parked a mile a way and journeyed into the madness.

 

As I entered the store I was stunned, I had never seen such a site, everyone (and I mean everyone) was racing around the store, most carts were full and almost every one had a giant flat screen tv in them.  The aisles were clogged as crowds gathered around Wal-Mart employees unveiling giant boxes filled ‘doorbuster’ deals.  I noticed my own heart started racing and I began getting caught up in the excitement.  I fought through crowds to start grabbing what must be amazing deals.  The next thing I knew I was into it.  My cart started to fill up.  I realized I was buying things just because everyone else was, no time to think, I just figured I could return what I didn’t want later.  And then I remembered why I was there, the milk, the orange juice and cheese. I ventured over to the grocery side of the store, which was a ‘ghost town’ ( No ‘Black Friday’ doorbusters on ketchup ), grabbed my items, stood in the never ending check-out lane, paid for my stuff and headed home.
Now I know what I’ve been missing, I see why adrenaline junkies do this each year.

 

It will be back to shopping in my PJ’s next year.  But as I drove home I couldn’t help but contrast the excitement for landing a ‘great deal’ and my excitement for celebrating and knowing the presence of Jesus.    So my prayer is that this advent season and throughout the coming year, my joy will be found not in scoring a pair of $20 noise-cancellation bluetooth headphones but as I learn to rest in the arms of my savior’s embrace.  There is good news! Jesus has come, sin has been conquered, death defeated, the grave overwhelmed, the child born in Bethlehem, reigns and rules as our Savior. Now this I can get excited about!

“O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray, cast out or sin and enter in be born in us today… O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel”

Steve Dallwig

My Bethlehem Prayer

Star of BethlehemOne of my favorite Christmas Carols is O Little Town of Bethlehem. It’s a sweet hymn that I love to sing and listen to throughout the Advent season. Of all the stanzas though, my favorite is the fourth and final. It’s a simple prayer directed to the newborn Jesus and captures so perfectly the beauty and glory of Christ’s Birth and the gospel message.  Here is how I have made it my prayer and maybe can be yours today…

O Holy Child of Bethlehem descend to us, we pray

Father, with thankful hearts we rejoice that you left your heavenly realm and condescended to us and entered our sinful and broken world. We are thankful that your eternal and glorious kingdom broke into the middle of space and time to bring hope, healing, salvation, and peace to our lives, our relationships and the world you created.

Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today

Father we are a broken and sinful people, our hearts have wandered far from you and daily we seek to gratify our lives and our relationships with things that were never meant to satisfy. As you move in our hearts, reveal to us those dry and empty wells that leave us empty and longing and lead us to the spring of life that comes through Jesus. May the reality and life-giving power of your gospel be born afresh in us each and every day.

We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell

As the Shepherds rejoiced with the angels’ proclamation that “A Savior has been born”, may our hearts be rejuvenated with the joy of the gospel. May our hearts be overwhelmed with the amazing good news of your forgiveness, your boundless love, your abiding presence and rejoice that your Kingdom has come.

O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel

Thank you that you have come, for you truly are our Emmanuel, our God with us. Thank you for your abiding presence and the secure hope in knowing that you are with us always; in times of need, in times of sorrow, in times of great rejoicing, in times of fear and even in the times we can’t seem to see you.
Come Lord Jesus. Amen.

Steve Dallwig

I Need A Silent Night

6a00d8341c90b153ef019b0392fe8f970cI fell out of bed this morning and went to the grocery store in my husband’s sweats and with uncombed hair. The reason being, I had a list a mile long of things to do to get ready for Christmas. I had to finish addressing the cards, put the garland on the banister, wrap the gifts I got in the mail this week, get a white elephant gift at CVS and still write a blog for Advent that I had no ideas for. As I stumbled through the aisles of the grocery store, I got a text from an old friend telling me that she was surprised she had not gotten my kids’ Christmas picture yet. One more thing to add to my list, I guess. When I got to the car, I had to laugh as I noticed the windshield was so dirty that I wondered how I had managed to drive there safely. Guess I’d better stop at the gas station and get a carwash on the way home. Then I backed out of the parking space and turned up the radio.

I need a silent night, a holy night

To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise

I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here

To end this crazy day with a silent night

– Amy Grant – I Need A Silent Night 

God who is ever so faithful met me right where I was. The music filled my car with His compassion and understanding. He knew just what I was feeling and what I needed. This was not a song that often played or that I was familiar with, which made it even more remarkable.

I got home and I looked up the lyrics and sat down to listen to the song on YouTube. I still had a lot of things I needed to get done but I knew I had a Heavenly Father who was there to help me muddle through and I wanted to make sure I slowed down to listen to Him. This seemed like a great place to start.

Tonya Cherry