The Songs of Christmas: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 21: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Scripture: Luke 2:8-14; John 14:27
These are the notes from a message offered Christmas Eve, 12/24/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

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

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn the households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  • One of most celebrated men of his age
  • People read and memorized his poems and still do so today

Longfellow was also a broken man, struggling to hold on to his faith in God in the midst of tragedy after tragedy after tragedy. The celebrity and renown did not help.

Longfellow’s Personal Pain

  • His first wife and daughter both died
  • His second wife died in a tragic home fire. She was working with candlewax and her dress caught fire. He heard her screaming and came running. He was badly burned while trying to save her, too burned to attend her funeral. He grew his trademark beard because he couldn’t shave due to the scars.
  • His son entered into service during the Civil War without his father’s knowledge or permission and was significantly wounded in battle.

Maybe you’ve experienced some personal tragedy as well. Maybe you are feeling the same way as Longfellow

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Longfellow’s Painful Culture
• Longfellow wrote this at the height of the civil war, no end in sight
• Neighbor slaughtering neighbor in each other’s backyards
• Written only a few months after the battle of Gettysburg (46,000-51,000 casualties)

Maybe this Christmas you are feeling hate is strong in our time as well. Maybe you are carrying the weight of our divisiveness and brokenness as a nation. Maybe it’s hard to sing Joy to the World this year.

It was hard back when Jesus was born, too. There was the Roman occupation. The people were oppressed. Mary and Joseph had personal troubles. They were forced to travel while Mary was “great with child.” When they arrived in Bethlehem there was no room to be found. Jesus is born in the midst of animals. There is no crib. He’s laid in a manger. There is no peace on earth.

And yet what do the angels sing? “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth peace, goodwill! God favors you!”

Mary heard it- God favors you. The shepherds, the bottom of the social order of the day, heard it from the angels- God favors you. Over and over again the scriptures tell us you are beloved, you are known.

God made that so real in coming as a babe. God could have come as a king- triumphant, valiant. God could have come as a warrior- laid waste to all the enemies. But God comes as a baby. Who doesn’t love a baby? Who can’t approach a baby? Beautiful, frail, fresh, innocent… into a world that so very much needed it.

God came back then in Bethlehem. God came that Christmas when Longfellow was struggling to hold on to his faith. God comes for us, now. Whether we are joyful and celebrating. Whether we are heartbroken and facing another medical treatment. Whether we are broken and sobbing over the destruction of homes or the building of dividing walls between all of us. God comes.

There’s another stanza of this poem:

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

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

Generation after generation is tempted to loneliness and division and shame and hopelessness. But again and again, the bell rings out, the song is sung, “Peace on earth goodwill to men.”

This is why we can hold on. This is why we can hope. This is why we can sing, “Peace on earth goodwill to men.”

Jesus on the night before he gave himself up for us said to those few gathered around the table with him…

John 14:27
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
Do not let them be afraid

Peace be with you.

***********
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 <

************
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The Songs of Christmas: Mary Did You Know? (Luke 1.26-38)

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 23: Mary, Did You Know? by Mark Lowry (CCLI #839225)
Scripture: Luke 1:26-38
These are the notes from a message offered Sunday, 12/23/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Today we’ll look at one of the newest Christmas songs, “Mary, Did You Know?” As you listen to the lyrics, imagine it’s the first Christmas, and you’re with Mary who’s holding the infant Jesus.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water? Mary, did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters? Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? This child that you’ve delivered will soon deliver you

 Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man? Mary, did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with His hand? Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod? And when you kiss your little baby you’ve kissed the face of God

 Mary, did you know? The blind will see. The deaf will hear. And the dead will live again. The lame will leap. The dumb will speak the praises of the Lamb.

 Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation? Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations? Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb? This sleeping child you’re holding is the Great I Am

“Mary, Did You Know?” walks through the scriptures to tell us about Christ

  • Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament
    1. “save our sons and daughters” from Isaiah 43:6
    2. Messiah’s work of deliverance/liberator, referring to the slaves’ deliverance from Egypt and our deliverance from slavery to sin and death and shame
    3. I AM reference to Moses and the burning bush
    4. Lamb references to the Passover in Exodus
    5. References to the creation story in Genesis
  • Do you see references to Jesus’ earthly ministry in the Gospels?
    1. walk on water
    2. healing the blind/deaf/dumb/lame
    3. calming the storm
    4. raising the dead
    5. John the Baptist referring to Jesus as the Lamb of God
  • Christs’ victorious, cosmic reign (Christus Victor)
    1. has walked where angels trod
    2. Lord of all creation
    3. Heaven’s perfect Lamb praised in eternity
    4. Ruler of the nations
    5. Great I Am

We look at these lyrics with the benefit of the scriptures and generations of Christians who have shared the story. But, what did Mary know?

  • Some think Mary didn’t know anything. She was sweet, clueless, young, uneducated, and blindly obedient.
  • Some see Mary as a pawn who had no choice. The Holy Spirit overwhelmed her. Taken to an extreme, God raped Mary.

What do you think? Did Mary know? Did she give consent? Why do you think this?

Mary knew and Mary consented (Luke 1:26-38, The Annunciation)
26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

  1. Gabriel tells Mary. There are 7 disclosers of who Jesus is in this passage plus Mary’s consent.
  2. Elizabeth tells Mary
    1. Luke 1:43 And why has this happened to me that the mother of my Lord comes to me
  3. The angels tell the shepherds who tell Mary
    1. Luke 2:11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
    2. Luke 2:16-19 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
  4. Simeon and Anna tell Mary
    1. Luke 2:29-35 29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

History of Mary, Did You Know?  
We also have the intent of the author. In 1984, Mark Lowry was asked to write the Christmas program for his alma mater, Liberty University.

Lowry remembers:
“As I wrote the ‘speaking parts’ I began to think about Mary. I have always been fascinated with the concept that God came to earth…. One thing they couldn’t take from Mary was that she knew her Child was not ordinary.

As my mind went back to the manger scene, I began to think about the power, authority, and majesty she cradled in her arms. Those little lips were the same lips that had spoken worlds into existence. All of those things were contained in the young child lying quietly on her bosom. Even now, he was the very one who had given life to his mother, Mary.

I began writing a list of questions I would like to ask Mary if I could sit down with her.”

Lowry carried his lyrics with him for the next seven years. In 1991, he asked his good friend, Buddy Greene, to write suitable music for his poem. Since then, the song’s been recorded by many artists and has sold over 1 million copies.

Mary Joseph tired

Mary knew her child would be the Messiah, but she didn’t have all the answers. Neither did Joseph. There were many, many, many questions. What would it mean? What would it look like? Mary knew but then faced the reality of living it.

You can be a person of faith and still have questions, even doubts. You don’t have to have all the answers wrapped up in a nice, neat box.

Mary didn’t know everything but she still stepped out in faith. How many of us are waiting to get the answers together and get our act together before we place our trust in Christ or before we’re baptized or before we serve? The evil one uses our questions to shut us down.

All these “Mary Did you Know?” questions are rhetorical questions. God uses them to open us up. Open up space for curiosity, wonder, imagining, contemplation. They open us to worship, to be in awe of God with us to love and save us. They open us to the mystery of God’s grace and greatness in a frail, vulnerable child.

Luke 2:19 says, “Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

The faithful question and ponder
The faithful listen and learn and know some things
The faithful step out in faith even when they don’t have all the answers

***********
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 <

************
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The Songs of Christmas: Good Christian Friends Rejoice (John 3)

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 8: Good Christian Friends Rejoice (14th Century Latin)
Also known as Good Christian Men Rejoice
Scripture: John 3:1-21
Theme: Born Again

This medieval folk song was originally sung in both Latin and German. It was used in celebrations outside of worship and accompanied by instruments and dancing.

Good Christian Friends Rejoice (14th Century Latin)
Good Christian friends, rejoice with heart and soul and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say: Jesus Christ was born today.
Ox and ass before him bow, and he is in the manger now.
Christ is born today! Christ is born today!

Good Christian friends, rejoice with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye hear of endless bliss: Jesus Christ was born for this!
He has opened heaven’s door, and we are blest forevermore.
Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!

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

John 3:1-3 NKJV
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Let Christ Be Born in You from Alive Now (2003)
Let Christ be born in you!
Let hope be born,
Let love be born.

Let newness of heart be born in you!
Let gentleness be born,
Let truth be born.

Let concern for the poor be born in you!
Let generosity be born,
Let compassion be born.

Let close communion with God be born in you!
Let prayer be born,
Let action be born.

Let the faith to take up your cross and follow be born in you!
And let it lead you in the ways of our Lord,
For the sake of our Lord. Now and always. Amen.

***********
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.

The Songs of Christmas: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 16: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by Charles Wesley
These are the notes from a message offered Sunday, 12/16/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

christian family tree 2While we hold so much in common, each portion of the Christian family tree celebrates a different aspect of the greatness of God. What does the Methodist branch bring to the party?

  • An emphasis on the Journey of Faith, not just the moment of decision
  • An emphasis on God’s grace at work in every part of the journey of faith
  • Singing the faith

John and Charles Wesley were brilliant at helping persons understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus. They had a massive publishing business which catered to those who could read. For the uneducated, working poor, they helped them learn the faith by singing it. (It helped those who could read as well!)

Lisa charles wesley attic

As an aspiring poet and pastor, here’s a picture of me geeking out over Charles Wesley’s attic space and quill.

The one who put the faith to music was Charles Wesley, John’s younger brother. We had the chance to tour his home in Bristol England. The bottom floor contains a sunny music room. Charles’ children were accomplished musicians. The attic space was Charles’ study where he wrote his sermons and hymn texts. It wasn’t uncommon for Charles to come running into the house asking for his quill and parchment so he wouldn’t lose an idea.

Charles Wesley wrote between 6,000 – 7000 hymn texts, many of which we still sing today.

  • O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
  • Christ the Lord is Risen Today
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, which was written less than a year after his conversion.

Conversion? Wait a minute.

  • The Wesley boys grew up in a parsonage. Their father was a pastor and their mother homeschooled them in both academics and faith.
  • They studied theology at Oxford and started a holy club to try to live what Jesus taught.
  • They were ordained pastors and served as missionaries in Georgia.

And yet, both men experienced a conversion. Their head knowledge born of studying who God is, the Word of God, and ways of God, turned into a heart and soul relationship.

In 131 Christians Everyone Should Know, Mark Galli reports

After returning to England, Charles taught English to Moravian Peter Böhler, who prompted Charles to look at the state of his soul more deeply. During May 1738, Charles began reading Martin Luther’s volume on Galatians while ill. He wrote in his diary, “I labored, waited, and prayed to feel ‘who loved me, and gave himself for me.'” He shortly found himself convinced, and journaled, “I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoice in hope of loving Christ.”  Two days later he began writing a hymn celebrating his conversion.

And Charles kept on writing.

Below you will find the verses of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing with some of the scripture references. Some thoughts…

  • The text begins with an invitation for all people, all nations to join the angels in joyous and enthusiastic praise of the birth of Jesus Christ.
  • Notice the recurrence of the theme “rise”
  • Instead of describing the rest of the Christmas story, Wesley then begins to praise Jesus Christ by naming who He is. This is what praise is at it’s simplest. God you are… Christ, you are…
  • At the end of verse 2, Wesley describes both the Incarnation and the dual nature of Christ in just a few words
  • In verse 3, the repetition of the word “born” builds momentum while proclaiming what Christ accomplished
    • Born that we no more may die
    • Born to raise us from the earth (Christ descends that we may rise, death and resurrection, buried with Christ and raised to new life in baptism)
    • Born to give us second birth
  • Verse 4 is not often included in modern hymnals. The theme shifts from praising Christ to a prayer of response. Come Jesus. Make your home in me. Deliver me from the influence of evil. Let everyone who sees me see the image of God in me. Save me by your love.

There’s an old saying. If you stand in the middle of the garage, that doesn’t make you a car. Examine your heart and soul. Say yes to a real relationship with Jesus Christ.

Verse 1: Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King; Peace on earth, and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled.” Luke 2:8-14 (13-14) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise, Join the triumph of the skies; With angelic hosts proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem.” Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King” Psalm 67:4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.
Verse 2: Christ, by highest heaven adored. Matthew 3:17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Christ, the everlasting Lord: Colossians 1:15-17 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.  He himself is before all things, and in him, all things hold together.
Late in time behold Him come. Offspring of a virgin’s womb. Isaiah 7:14 NKJ Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Hail the incarnate Deity! Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King.” John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Verse 3: Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Isaiah 9:6 For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Hail the Sun of righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, Risen with healing in His wings: Malachi 4:2 But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

John 1:4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

Mild He lays His glory by, Philippians 2:5-7 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
Born that man no more may die; Born to raise the sons of earth; Born to give them second birth. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King.” John 3:3 NKJ Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

1 Corinthians 6:14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.

Verse 4: Come, Desire of nations, come! Fix in us Thy humble home: Haggai 2:7 NKJ I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts.
Rise, the woman’s conquering seed, Bruise in us the serpent’s head; Genesis 3:14-15 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”
Adam’s likeness now efface, Stamp Thine image in its place: Final Adam from above, Reinstate us in Thy love. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King.” 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven.  Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Prayer
Hallelujah to Jesus!
Born of a woman that we might be born again

Hallelujah to Jesus!
Struck by the full force of evil yet rising victorious,
that we might rise with him.

Hallelujah to Jesus!
Crushing Satan, sin, and death,
that we might know peace and the fullness of life.

Guard us, Anointed One, from every warring way

Deliver us, Liberating King, from every enticing falsehood

Lead us, Lord, to your wisdom and truth
May this grace birth faithfulness and innocence within us
May our new life delight you and honor you
May it better your world and draw many to your saving love. Amen

***********
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 <

************
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

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 <

************
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.

The Songs of Christmas: O Holy Night (Luke 1)

Sermon Series song music christmas 1110 x 624

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Songs of Christmas
December 2: O Holy Night by Placide Cappeau (1808-1877)
Scripture References: Luke 1:49-54 (Mary’s Song); Luke 1:68-75 (Zechariah’s Song) 
These are the notes from a message offered Sunday, 2/2/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Have you ever played the Telephone Game? A person whispers a sentence into a person’s ear, who then whispers it into another person’s ear, and so on and so on until the last person whispers it into the first person’s ear. What usually happens? It’s nothing like what the first said. As things get passed along, they get lost in translation

In our Preschool Chapel, I asked the children what Christmas is about. They responded presents, Santa, lights, reindeer, cookies… It makes sense.  This is the dominant story in our society. Radio is full of Santa Baby and Holly Jolly Christmas. TV is full of Frosty and Rudolf. This same story of sentimentality, gift giving, and you better be good, goes on for months. We start hearing it around Halloween.

zombies in manger cartoon

Our understanding of Christmas gets lost in translation. In the midst of so many other Christmas stories, how do we continue to know and share the Christian point of view of Christmas?

We read the scriptures and sing the story, but it can even happen to beloved Christmas Carols.

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

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weaknesses 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 shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

How O Holy Night Came to Be

  • In Roquemaure France at the end of 1843, the organ in the church of St. John the Baptist the Evangelist was renovated
  • To celebrate the event, the parish priest asked Placide Cappeau, to write a Christmas poem which would be set to music by the renowned composer, Adolphe Adam
    • Placide Cappeau was a local poet, lawyer, and wine merchant. He was a free thinker with no interest in Christianity or any other religion

Cappeau accepted the commission anyway. To prepare he read the gospels, especially the Christmas story (Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, John 1).

Did Cappeau find something secular and commercial, no
Did Cappeau find something saccharine sweet, no
Did Cappeau find something soft and sentimental, no

  • Verse 1 O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
  • Verse 2 Led by the light of faith serenely beaming, with glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
  • Verse 3 Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, let all within us praise His holy name.

The sweet, soft and sentimental came with John Sullivan Dwight’s translation of Cappeau’s poem into English.

Cappeau read the Gospels, and this is what he found:

  • Mary the mother of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, magnifying and rejoicing in God her Savior
    • for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, (Luke 1:49-54)
  • Zechariah the father of John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaiming
    • Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:68-75)

Cappeau found the Christmas story powerful and prophetic and that’s what he wrote.

o holy night verse 1o holy night verse 2o holy night verse 3

Though he never placed his trust in Jesus, Cappeau had a chance to because he heard the real story. He saw the truth of Christmas-

  • God coming in the flesh to deliver us, rescue us, and redeem us
  • God dying and rising again to break the chains of sin, shame, prejudice, and isolation
    • Especially powerful given O Holy Night was written in the age where many were fighting to end slavery
    • Especially powerful since the song was banned for a time because Cappeau was a nonbeliever and the composer, Adolph Adam was Jewish

Don’t let Christmas get lost in translation.
Take time to read the scriptures, sing songs of faith, set up a nativity. Claim and share this story – the story of God’s truth, grace, and hope. This is why we sing and celebrate the coming of Christ. This is why we bow before him in reverence and faith

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