The Songs of Christmas: O Little Town of Bethlehem (Micah 5, Matthew 1)

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 9: O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks
Scripture References: Micah 5:2; Matthew 1:20-23
These are the notes from a message offered Sunday, 12/9/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Micah 5:2 (NRSV)
2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.

Matthew 1:20-23 (NRSV)
20… an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”

History of O Little Town of Bethlehem
In 1868, Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), an Episcopal priest, wrote the beloved O Little Town of Bethlehem for the Sunday school children of his Philadelphia congregation. He was inspired by a horse ride he’d taken a few years earlier on Christmas Eve. He’d ridden from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to assist at the midnight service in the Church of the Nativity.

The lyrics are far more than a description of a sleeping Bethlehem on the first Christmas night. They offer the meaning of Christmas itself, God’s gift of our Savior Jesus Christ and our receiving that gift with thanksgiving and hope.

O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks
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 all on earth!

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

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!

Its Christmas time and I’m longing for hope and home.
Where are you home? Home is…

    • a place where you grow up, discover your calling and voice
    • a place of wonderful memories
    • where you spend a great deal of quality time
    • where you are safe, known, valued, belong

In A Chorus Line, three women each talk about their troubled families, then they sing about finding a home in ballet class.
Up a steep and very narrow stairway to the voice like a metronome
Up a steep and very narrow stairway,
It wasn’t paradise, it wasn’t paradise, it wasn’t paradise but it was home

Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz says it over and over again- There’s No Place Like Home

Its Christmas time and I’m longing for hope and home
The world feels so far from home

  • so fast when home is a place of rest
  • so violent when home is sanctuary and peace
  • so divided when home is a place where we come together
  • so lonely when home is a place where they know your brokenness and still love you

We search for deep relationship in this world and often find disappointment, sometimes even abuse and betrayal.

Then there’s that voice.

  • You are not enough
  • You will never be enough no matter how much you own or achieve
  • If you reveal your true self you will be rejected; you will be abandoned and alone forever

My friends that is not the voice of God. It’s a voice from your past, or the voice of your inner critic, or the voice of the accuser. It’s the voice of sin and shame, not God.

Hear the Good News! God offers us another story, another voice!

Joseph’s dream of a home is shattered when his fiance announces she’s pregnant with the long-awaited Messiah. He decides to end the engagement quietly but is visited by an angel in his dream. The angel tells Joseph, “Mary will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” And that’s exactly what happens.

God is coming for us. This is Good News of Christmas. This is God’s story of hope and home.

When we place our trust in Jesus, when we say, “yes” to follow him, Jesus saves us from sin- what we have done, what we have left undone, broken state of creation itself. Jesus saves us from isolation, separation, brokenness, disintegration, shame.

Jesus doesn’t just save us from. Jesus also saves us for– for relationship, redemption (good from the bad), for hope and an eternal home.

Henri J.M. Nouwen, with John S. Mogabgab, in a Spirituality of Homecoming says:
God is not in the distant heavens or in the hidden depths of the future, but here and now. God has pitched a tent among us. Even more than that, God has made a home in us so that we can make God’s home our home. We find our way home by following Jesus.

Story of Quinton’s Moore’s conversion after hearing the story of the Prodigal Sons

Its Christmas time and I’m longing for hope and home
We find our way home by following Jesus

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!

***********
CLICK HERE for a pdf of the Christmas Song Devotional Readings.

The Christmas Story is full of singing. Mary sings. Zechariah sings. Simeon sings. The angels sing. Over the centuries we’ve continued to celebrate with songs of our own, songs born from the joy of Christ’s coming.

This holy season, to prepare our hearts again for the coming of Christ, we’ll reflect on the poetry of these meaningful songs. Some will be old friends. Others will be new. My prayer is that their beauty and power draw us closer to Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, the Risen King. And that the grace of drawing near fulfills in us Christ’s power of new life.

Suggestions for Reflection on Each Song Lyric in the Christmas Devotion:

  • Find a quiet place to sit. Take a couple of deep breaths.
  • Read the song lyrics several times slowly, savoring the words.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What is the big idea?
    • Why is it important?
    • How does this truth connect with my life?
  • Have a conversation with God about this truth.
  • Invite God to use this truth to birth something new in you this holy season.

Additional Ideas:

  • Journal your reflections
  • Draw, paint, or create some other kind of art based on your reflections
  • Find a scripture or two which inspired the song or where brought to mind by the lyrics
  • Sing or listen to the song
  • Share the song or just the lyrics on social media or face to face

I look forward to hearing your comments. – Lisa <

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O Come O Come Emmanuel reflections © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The Songs of Christmas: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 4: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (9th Century Latin)
Theme: Longing for God’s Promised Messiah

The lyrics of the song O Come, O Come, Emmanuel are a rhyming, metrical paraphrase of the “O Antiphons”, which date back to at least the 500’s. Each one is a title for the Messiah connected to a scriptural prophecy/promise from Isaiah. The coming of Jesus the Christ fulfills the hopes and promises of the Old Testament as well as those we long for today. O come, O come, O come…   

Below you will find the verses with its corresponding O Antiphon in italics after it. I pray their power and beauty bring you deep devotion this holy season. – Lisa <><

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel 
O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of the nations and their Savior: Come and save us, O Lord, our God. 

O come, thou Wisdom from on high, and order all things far and nigh
To us, the path of knowledge show and cause us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O Wisdom, who came forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly, Come, and teach us the way of prudence.

O come, O come, great Lord of might, who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times did give the law in cloud and majesty and awe
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O Adonai and Leader of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flames of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come. and with your outstretched arm redeem us.

O come, thou Root of Jesse’s tree, an ensign of thy people be
Before thee, rulers silent fall all peoples on thy mercy call
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O Root of Jesse, who stands for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall keep silence and to whom the Gentiles shall make their supplication: Come to deliver us, and tarry not.

O come, thou Key of David, come and open wide our heavenly home.
The captives from their prison free and conquer death’s deep misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O Key of David and Scepter of the House of Israel, who opens and no one shuts, who shuts and no man opens: Come and bring forth from prison the captive who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by thy justice here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O Dayspring, Brightness of the light eternal and Sun of justice: Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. 

O come, Desire of nations, bind all peoples in one the heart and mind
From dust, Thou brought us forth to life, deliver us from earthly strife
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O King of the Gentiles and their Desired One, Cornerstone that makes both one: Come, and deliver us whom You formed out the dust of the earth.

***********
CLICK HERE for a pdf of the Christmas Song Devotional Readings.

The Christmas Story is full of singing. Mary sings. Zechariah sings. Simeon sings. The angels sing. Over the centuries we’ve continued to celebrate with songs of our own, songs born from the joy of Christ’s coming.

This holy season, to prepare our hearts again for the coming of Christ, we’ll reflect on the poetry of these meaningful songs. Some will be old friends. Others will be new. My prayer is that their beauty and power draw us closer to Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, the Risen King. And that the grace of drawing near fulfills in us Christ’s power of new life.

Suggestions for Reflection on Each Song Lyric in the Christmas Devotion:

  • Find a quiet place to sit. Take a couple of deep breaths.
  • Read the song lyrics several times slowly, savoring the words.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What is the big idea?
    • Why is it important?
    • How does this truth connect with my life?
  • Have a conversation with God about this truth.
  • Invite God to use this truth to birth something new in you this holy season.

Additional Ideas:

  • Journal your reflections
  • Draw, paint, or create some other kind of art based on your reflections
  • Find a scripture or two which inspired the song or where brought to mind by the lyrics
  • Sing or listen to the song
  • Share the song or just the lyrics on social media or face to face

I look forward to hearing your comments. – Lisa <

************
O Come O Come Emmanuel reflections © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recordings- The Angels’ Song (Luke 2)

why-we-hope-why-we-sing

Message: The Angels’ Song
Scriptures: Luke 2:8-20
Offered 12/11/16, the first Sunday of Advent, at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

It was a Roman custom that the birth of a Roman emperor was announced by great poets and orators with declarations of joy, peace, and prosperity. The announcement of the birth of the Savior of of the world, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, was announced by heaven itself. First a herald angel, “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Then a multitude of the heavenly host, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

It is a Cross-shaped announcement. First out – great joy for all people, a Savior, the Messiah. Then up- the Lord. Then up- glory to God in the highest heaven. Then out- and on earth peace.

The angels don’t visit Mary and Joseph that night. They’ve already had their angel visits and are busy with the birth. They don’t visit the high priest, King Herod, Quirinius, or Emperor Augustus. The powerful already think they are favored.

The angels proclaim the birth of the Savior of the world to shepherds, a group who is definitely not thought of as favored. It’s one of the worst jobs of the ancient world. Shepherds are stereotyped as lazy and dishonest because they often live off land belonging to others and care for flocks belonging to others. They were known as smelly, poor, homeless, uneducated, powerless.

Folks laughed at the idea of a “good shepherd,” an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp. Yet David of Bethlehem was one long before he was king and long before he was promised his throne would never end and long before he was promised the Messiah would be his ancestor.

The babe in the manger will be one, too. Our Jesus, our Good Shepherd, will lay down his life for the sheep.

We’re the sheep. We’re the rag tag shepherds. The message is for them and for us.

“I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord….Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

This Good News is for us and all people.

This Good News is to bring us great joy, lasting joy, joy beyond circumstance.

This Good News is that we we have a Savior, so we can stop trying to save ourselves and stop thinking we can’t possibly be saved.

This Good News is that we have a leader and Lord who is trust-worthy and thus worthy to be followed.

This Good News is that God gives us peace in Christ Jesus.

Wait. What? Peace?
The time of Jesus’ birth was a time of occupation and oppression, not peace. Bethlehem was overflowing with Roman military carrying out a mandated migration and registration.

Our age is not a time of peace. School shootings, mass incarceration, cyber attacks, human trafficking, misuse of power, economic insecurity and uncertainty, terrorism, war. Our world is more and more angry, corrupt, and violent. This is the age of Aleppo.

We think of peace
1. as the absence of worry- good health, financially secure, all is well with those I love.
2. as the absence of conflict, injustice, and war

Jesus, the night of the last supper, the night before he gave himself up for us said,

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. —John 14.27

Sounds like the Angels’ song. Do not be afraid. You’ve been given a Son, a Savior, The Lord God in the flesh. You’ve been given peace.

Peace isn’t about absence. It’s about presence. We are given the Son, the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord. God is with us. 

Peace in Hebrew is Shalom.  Shalom means fullness; having everything you need to be whole, to be yourself. The Angels’ song is that peace is not the absence of war. Peace is not health, wealth, all is well with those I love. Even if we somehow find it, it doesn’t last, it doesn’t save us, doesn’t make us whole.

Peace not the absence of struggle and suffering, but the presence of God who is Love. God’s presence in us brings fullness and wholeness, the literal meaning of salvation. God’s presence brings the fruit of the Holy Spirit which is love, joy, and peace – the three themes of the Angels’ song. The presence of Jesus is the present of peace.

Peace I Give You by Steve Garnaas Holmes. Imagine Jesus saying this to you…
I give you the quiet peace of this present moment: without hurry, fear or need to be elsewhere, but right here, right now, as you are, at rest.

I give you the strong peace of yourself: the peace of forgiveness and my delight in who you are, with no need to prove yourself or do better.

I give you the vibrant peace of oneness with all living things, the peace of deep belonging, and reconciliation with all people

I give you the life-giving peace of my own spirit, my love, trust and courage beating in your heart, my presence in your soul.

I give you the joyous peace of trust— trust in your life and its goodness, trust in the Beloved and your belovedness

I give you the renewing peace of healing, of blessing hidden even in struggle and pain, of trust that even in suffering all shall be well.

I give not as the world gives, from the outside, but from within, by your being created, and it cannot be taken away. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.

Prayer from Prepare the Way by Pamela C. Hawkins
I want to be at peace, O God,
protector of the frightened,
refuge for the wandering.

I want to speak for peace, O Christ,
hope whispered to the bruised,
welcome sung to the embattled.

I want to live in peace, O Spirit,
forgiveness in my heart,
kindness in my hands;
trusting, trustworthy;
loving, beloved.

I want to be at peace, O God
with you,
with me,
with others.
This is my Advent prayer. Amen.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

You Are Near, a prayer based on Matthew 1:18-25

mary-joseph-dreamMatthew 1:18-25 NRSV
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Prayer: You Are Near
Holy Comforter, you are near when my dream dies. You are near the brokenhearted. Thanks be to you for a new dream and a future beyond my imagining.

Maker of Miracle, you are near when I cannot see your will. When a good choice, even a merciful choice, is not your choice. Thanks be to you for correction and clarity.

Divine One, you are near when I dismiss the holy. When I say no to your call. Thanks be to you for your patience, your persevering grace, and second chances.

O come, O come Emmanuel, strengthen me with the promise of your steadfast presence and saving love, set my heart and step to your righteousness ends. Amen

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You Are Near © 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in devotional settings with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Series Recordings: Home for Christmas

Home for Christmas jpg
Sermon Series: Home for Christmas
Message 1 of 4: God Moves In
Scriptures: John 1:1-14; Zephaniah 3:14-20
Offered 11/30/14 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Message 2 of 4: Making a Home for God
Scriptures: Luke 1:26-38
Offered 12/07/14 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Message 3 of 4: No Room
Scriptures: Luke 2:1-7
Offered 12/14/14 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

Message 4 of 4: Far From Home
Scriptures: Matthew 2; Psalm 34
Offered 12/28/14 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota FL

I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

© 2015 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact the Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Poem: With You (Matthew 1:18-25)

walking with god2014 Bible Reading Plan for Christmas
Day 11 Reading: Matthew 1:18-25
God With Us

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel– which means, “God with us.”
– Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23

Jesus said, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:20

Poem: With You
With you there is safety
With you there is peace
With you I am never alone
With you there’s a light for the long journey home
With you there is healing and hope

With you I can slumber
With you I can stand
With you I can run and play
With you I can walk through the valley some day
With you there is healing and hope

With you I see sickness
With you I see need
With you I see souls to embrace
With you I can meet every wrong face to face
With you there is healing and hope

With you there is purpose
With you there is life
With you there is courage and truth
I’m finally me because I am with you
With you there is healing and hope

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Click here for an interesting post by Steve Garnaas Holmes where he explores why God chose to be incarnate human rather than another member of creation.

This post is part of the 2014 Bible Reading Plan for Christmas. Click here for more information, including a list of all the readings.

Poem: With You  © 2010 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer: As Our Brother Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25)

sunlight bedroom window2014 Bible Reading Plan for Christmas
Day 10 Reading: Matthew 1:18-25
Joseph’s Dream

Joseph, being a righteous man
– Matthew 1:19

Prayer: As Our Brother Joseph
Emmanuel
God with us
and for us
and in us

You are there when the plans and promises
detonate and disappear

You are there
in the confusion
the pain
the unexpected and unthinkable

You are there when the dream dies

Help us cling to you
as our brother Joseph did
who laid down the stones
to walk your quiet path

Dignity over publicity
Courage over convention
Solidarity over scorn

Speak in our sleep
Awaken us to
Righteousness
Obedience
Restraint

To trusting your ways
and you

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Click Here for a reflection on this same passage by Steve Garnaas Holmes

This post is part of the 2014 Bible Reading Plan for Christmas. Click here for more information, including a list of all the readings.

Prayer: As Our Brother Joseph © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the art and the use of this post in other settings,
please refer to the copyright information page.