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.

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

Sermon Recording- Stand (Ephesians 6.10-18)

feet with shoes

Message: Stand
Scriptures: Ephesians 6:10-18
This message was offered Sunday, 6/24/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Imagine walking through the grocery store. You and others are picking out their food as usual. Now imagine every person you encounter is wearing a sign revealing the truth of their life

  • New baby, no sleep for three nights straight
  • Caregiving for a sick spouse
  • Just lost my job
  • Grieving the death of my mother
  • Desperately lonely, how do I make friends?

All of a sudden, that trip to the grocery store is very different. You are seeing what is often difficult to see.

What would be on your sticker?

The truth is we must always be kind, we must always be compassionate because we never know what someone else is going through.

The trust is that when we face trouble there’s far more to it than what we can see on the outside.

Think about a time when you were going through something deep and dark,  something scary. something you have never faced before, or something that’s raising it’s ugly head again. There’s the stuff that you can see, but there’s the stuff you can’t see

  • emotional toll
  • mental exhaustion
  • weariness down to your bones

Then there’s your soul. What is going on with your soul?

Our soul is like an inner stream of water that gives strength, direction, and harmony to every other area of life.– John Ortberg, Soul Keeping

In the midst of this trouble, is this stream of living water getting stopped, dammed up? Is it changing the direction? Is it going deeper than you could ever have imagined?  Is it drying up, like a desert, like a wilderness?

The song I cling to in the midst of trouble: Precious Lord take my hand. Lead me on. Let me stand. I am tired. I am weak. I am worn. Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light. Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.

What gets the water flowing in my life is singing. And sometimes I can’t even get the words out and so I just let my soul sing.

What gets the water flowing again for you? Because when we face trouble its far than what we can see.

Sometimes we can see the source of the trouble

  • We’ve brought it on ourselves. The trouble is the consequence of a choice we made.
  • Sometimes its someone else’s choice. They want what they want and we’re an obstacle (through us) or a means to an end (use us). Or we just get caught it the backwash of someone else’s sin, the ripple effect and we’re collateral damage.
  • Or it’s the reality of living this side of heaven, the reality of living in a broken world. The Fall due to Original Sin is a universal condition. Every relationship is broken -with God, with others, with our true self, with the earth. It’s a reality on an individual level, group level, and systemic level.

There are times we can see the source of the trouble and there are times we cannot see it.  It’s far deeper. It’s plain old evil and an Evil One. It’s a cosmic organized struggle against God and the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 

  • We try to be strong on our own. This is not a battle we can win on our own and it’s not a battle we have to win on our own. That’s the grace of it. That’s the Good News of it.
  • Yes we play a part, we make choices, work, and strive but it is also about allowing ourselves to be strengthened by Almighty God. We can refuse or choose the strengthening. (Cooperating and collaborating with God)

Ephesians 6:10 Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God

  • Sometimes life feels like a battle. God wants to strengthen you and protect you.
  • We try to be strong on our own and we try to protect ourselves
    • Put on our own armor – financial security, connections, achievement, expertise, stiff upper lip, my big girl pants

It’s like David going out to fight Goliath, the giant. (That’s how our troubles can feel. King Saul wants David to wear his royal armor, his human armor. It doesn’t fit, doesn’t work, weighs him down. David refuses and faces Goliath in God’s armor.

So much of what we are facing is beyond us, something we just can’t fix in our human strength.

Ephesians 6:10 Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God

The Whole Armor of God – Verses14-17

  • belt of truth
    • God helps us to know what is real and not real
    • God helps us hold on to perspective in the midst of pain
  • breastplate of righteousness
    • covers our heart so we stay in right relationship and have a heart of peace
  • shoes for your feet, make you ready to proclaim the Gospel of peace
    • The Gospel of Peace is the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Prince of peace
      • who Jesus is, his sacrifice, his salvation, his hope and healing, power, and promises
    • Jesus is the foundation, the strong rock on which we stand
    • Stand on the power of story = Jesus’s story intersects our story, thanksgiving and testimony to God’s goodness in the past and in the present
  • shield of faith to quench the flaming arrows of the evil one
    • Evil One takes sniper shots after us, feels like we’re taking hit after hit after hit
    • Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)
  • helmet of salvation 
    • Who I am in Christ- I am a child of God, I am beloved and blessed of God, I am made in the image of God and nothing can separate me from the love of God and my salvation in Jesus Christ
    • Know God’s voice and hear God’s voice. If I can’t hear it my brother or sister in Christ will speak it to me.
    • My mind stayed on the goodness of God no matter the circumstance. Nothing changes the goodness of God.
  • sword of the Spirit which is the word of God
    • Why we must read the word of God regularly
  • Ephesians 6:18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. It is always scripture and prayer. Always and forever.        

Call to action- Prayer Care

  • Pray with you after every service: Sundays after the 9:00 am and 10:30 am services, Wednesdays at 8:00 am, 10:00 am, 7:00 pm
  • Become a prayer keeper  

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Withstand = take the hit, persevering, enduring, resilience

Stand Firm = push back against evil

The Evil One is our real and primary enemy – not other people, not ourselves, not God, not the system.

  • The Evil One devours and destroys and steals
  • The Evil One is a deceiver and liar
  • The Evil One twists situations into something they were never meant to be

That’s why we need truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the word of God and pray, pray, pray. When we face trouble there’s far more to it than what we can see.

You are not alone. You are never alone. You do not have to face it in your own strength. Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean 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 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am Sundays or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon and prayer © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer: In Our Unbelief (Mark 9.14-29)

help my unbeliefBased on Mark 9:14-29, Jesus healing a boy with a destructive spirit. If you’re using this in a group setting, consider having one voice on the regular print and all voices on the bold print. 

Jesus, we ask with half a heart
One eye open
Fingers crossed

The situation is so impossible
So great
So desperate

Have mercy on us in our unbelief

The suffering is so deep
So dangerous
So complete
So far beyond control for so long

We’re so heartbroken
So tired
So disappointed
So hopeful, only to fall again
Nothing works
Nothing changes
We have tried and failed and tried and failed and tried…

Have mercy on us in our unbelief

We come with our if’s
If you can save
If you can heal
If you can do anything

Have mercy on us in our unbelief

Give us courage to trust and hope
To try again
To come and ask expecting something new

Give us courage to believe
Fully
Faith-fully
Again

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In Our Unbelief © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this prayer in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment to contact me directly for publishing and posting consideration.

Prayer- Sew Your Good Seed (Matthew 13.36-43)

harvesting-grains wheat

Based on Matthew 13:36-43

Jesus, life this side of heaven is so hard, so troubled, so broken. Evil is twisted into everything. All is corrupted, entangled. Will there ever be peace, truth, justice? How do we hold on to hope?

Remember the seed
You sew the good seed, Jesus
It will grow

At the End of the Age, you will bring a harvest of grace and salvation. You will send your angels to collect all the sin. The separation. The corruption. The brokenness. The self-serving. The abusing. The violent. The envy. The resentment and the wrath. The greed, the fear, the diseased, the shame.

This is not your seed.
You sew the good seed, Jesus
It will grow

At the End of the Age, you will open wide your saving embrace to receive us and all that enslaves us. You will collect us and burn away all that is broken and soiled and wrong, that we may shine like the sun with you forever and for always.

Help us Jesus. Help us listen and help us follow and help us trust. Sew your good seed deep in us, in your church, and in the world, that we may grow and look to you and hope. Amen

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Sew Your Good Seed © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer for troubles, sorrow, pain (Matthew 11)

matthew-11_28 come to me weary restBased on Matthew 11:28-30

What to do with the burdens of responsibility?
The weight of trouble, sorrow, pain?

What to do with broken and bloody relationships, bodies, and systems?

What to do with days without ceasing?
Nights without sleep?

What to do?
Come to you, Jesus.

With you there is an ease of company.
All we face is shared, lightened.
With you there is hope and healing.
With you there is rest for our very souls.

Hallelujah! We come.

Prayer- Lord Save Us, We Are Going Down (Matthew 8.23-27)

CalmingOfTheStorm by Sparling

Calming of the Storm by Darel Sparling

Based on Matthew 8:23-27, Jesus calming the storm

Lord save us, we are going down…
another disease
another divorce
another death

Lord save us, we are going down…
another scandal
another shooting
another suicide

Lord save us, we are going down…
another craving
another closure
another conflict

Lord save us, we are going down…
another addiction
another abuse
another attack

We are afraid
We are undone

We are not alone

You stand
our refuge and strength
our help in storm and struggle
rebuking the crushing chaos

There will be calm
There is calm

Blessed be your Holy Name
Jesus Christ
Our Savior and Lord forever
Amen

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Lord Save Us, We Are Going Down © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer- Jesus, only speak the word (Matthew 8.5-11)

only-speak-the-word-matthew-8-8_0

Based on Matthew 8:5-11

Jesus, only speak the word
Speak peace and the storm is calmed
Speak hope and the trouble is overwhelmed
Speak life and the new is born, and it is good

Jesus, only speak the word
Speak justice and the oppressed are seen and freed
Speak truth and the masks of hypocrisy fall
Speak grace and the path of peacemaking appears

Jesus, only speak the word
Speak light and we are light, saved from the shadows
Speak our names and we are found, we come to ourselves at last
Speak welcome and we are home

Jesus speak
We are listening
We trust in you

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Jesus, only speak the word  © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.