Monday, December 30, 2013
Devotion on the Hymns of the Church (Hymn 43 - Away in a Manger) - 31 December 2013, Anno Domini (Year of our Lord)
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)
What a lovely scene of love and solitude this hymn evokes in those whose hearts are conditioned to appreciate beauty and warmth. It is a Lutheran hymn whose author remains a mystery. It has been suggested that this hymn was one which Martin Luther wrote himself for his own children though this claim has never been confirmed. It first appeared formally in 1887 in a songbook for children entitled, “Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses.” The most common tune to which the carol is sung is that composed by James R. Murray by the same title. Of course, truly great hymns and carols actually have no earthly author if composed, as Bach alleges, by the inspiration of God. Furthermore, who cares whose name is on the title line as long as the intrinsic beauty of the words and music are the most compelling aspect of the hymn?
The great benefit of these Christmas Hymn/Carols we have been studying is the natural spirit and setting that they provide to the Gospel account of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition to the intellectual understanding conveyed in the Words of the Gospel, these Carols add a spiritual dimension that enlarges our heart-knowledge of all that transpired in tiny little Bethlehem that cold winter night. I can remember, from my earliest childhood recollections, being entranced by the simple beauty of this, and all other, carols of Christmas. As a toddler, I could not comprehend the gravity of what transpired there, but the carols gave me a mystical curiosity that led to a much deeper understanding as I matured in my faith.
It is quite conceivable that a stable would not be an ideal environment for a child to be born. It most likely would violate many health and environmental regulations in our day, but it was, nonetheless, the place that God chose for His son to be born in order to demonstrate His intention of sharing in all human experiences. When this carol was sung at church, I could, in my child’s eye, envision the meager surroundings of the stable yard with a manger at center, the precious mother holding and caressing her sweet baby, Joseph standing by in awe of the sight along with the mute beasts of the field who were privileged to be there too. There was likely the warm glow of a fire in the midst to provide some warmth from the cold night air. That was it! A very simple scene, is it not? Of course, all that Jesus ever did was the epitome of simplicity. He had a stone for a pillow for his head, and the plain drab of the common man as His apparel. He spoke in simple parables that the simple-minded could grasp greater truths than elevated vocabulary could convey. He simply loved, and simply lived. Let the words to this simple carol bypass your mind at present and sink, first, into your heart:
Away In A Manger
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,
the little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
but little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes;
I love thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
and stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay
close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
and fit us for heaven to live with thee there.
Jesus began His life with no place to lay His head, except a wooden trough for the feeding of cattle and sheep. He lived His life after the same fashion as the Bread of Heaven (Life) to feed those others who, without Him, are no better than the beasts of the field: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58) “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.” It may have been far away in a manger both in time and geography for many of us, but God came near at Christmas. Jesus is our Emmanuel to be with us forevermore if we believe unto salvation. Time and distance are not obstacles to God who exists beyond those worldly values.
“The stars (literally, angels) in the sky looked down where he lay, the little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.” Jesus was once, in His humanness, as small as any baby alive. He was once a teenager, and then a young man who gave His life for you and me in the fullness of His manhood. But in His Godhead, He was ancient and timeless. He was with the Father before the worlds were formed, and He was the executive engineer of Creation. (John 1:1-3)
The sheep and cows round about never did an evil deed in their lives. They consume only grass and hay and never kill for food. These were present at the birth of Christ – perhaps not without reason. Perhaps even the rude beasts of the field sensed the reverence and majesty of that night: “The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes;” We all come into this world screaming for whatever will satisfy our insatiable appetites. But Jesus had no selfish bone in His body. He was sinless from the moment of conception. The cattle softly low, and the baby awakes, not out of startled surprise, but out of the distant memory of when the world was formed and He gave the breath of life to these lowing cattle. He REMEMBERED, just as He remembers exactly how many hairs with which He has adorned every head of mankind.
“I love thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky and stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.” How can we not help loving the Lord Jesus who loved us long before we were conceived, and whose love will continue in the Eternity of future days beyond our passing from this vale of tears. He came and laid down His head on a crude instrument of wood (manger) for you and me. He laid Himself down on another crude instrument of wood (a cross) at the end of His earthly days to redeem us since we could not redeem ourselves. And He has ascended into the heavenlies to be our Advocate with God the Father. What love is this? “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
“Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay close by me forever, and love me, I pray;” A reminder: HIS NAME IS EMMANUEL! How much nearer can God come to us than to abide with us, and in our hearts, forever? Of course, He is a gentleman and never intrudes His presence where He is not welcome. He awaits our invitation: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20) We do not need to ask Jesus to love us; He has already proven His love for us. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
“. . . bless all the dear children in thy tender care,.” It is good that we pray the prayers of this little carol since we know already that it is the perfect will of God to grant such petitions of love and care. Jesus does, indeed, love the little children. Jesus used uncommonly strong language to describe His love and favor for little children: “At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt 18:1-6)
“. . . and fit us for heaven to live with thee there.” We must allow Jesus to “fit us for heaven” for that wonderful place for we cannot fit ourselves. In fact, without His redeeming sacrifice, we are already walking dead (zombies so to speak) who are destined for the eternal darkness. I will close with these powerful verses of Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” (Eph 2:1-8)
Are you dead this Holiday Season, or is it truly the CHRISTMAS SEASON you celebrate?
Sunday, December 29, 2013
The First Sunday after Christmas Day.
LMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
The Epistle Galatians iv. 1.
ow I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: but when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
The Gospel St. Matthew i. 18.
he birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
In those dark days before the Coming of Christ, we were under bondage of the law as the Galatian Epistle intimates. We could not know God in a personal relationship, but through laws written on Tables of Stone we tried hopelessly to be perfect and righteous. But as the Prayer of Collect tells us, Christ came and took OUR nature upon Himself that we might take HIS Nature upon US. Being made children of God through adoption in Grace, we are kept in His mercy by the constant inner counsel of the Holy Spirit to obey the Law of Love. Being privileged children of the Father, we are no longer in bondage to the law but made members of the very household of God.
Did you believe that the Christmas Season has past? Well, it has not. In fact, we are merely at the center of the Christmas Season according to our Lectionary. The larger picture for the Christian is that Christmas is ALWAYS and unending in its meaning and impact upon our lives. The birth of Christ was so cataclysmic that all of Eternity, and our own time-scale, has been divided into the BEFORE and AFTER of that great event. Despite efforts of the detractors of Christ to change it to Common Era (C.E.), or Before the Common Era (B.C.E.), the question remains: “What happened 2013 years ago to cause the Gregorian Calendar to begin our years with reference to that date?” It was, of course, the birth of Christ. I care not if the world resents this, or cannot grasp it – it is established and irrefutable historical fact!
We have, in the Gospel of St. Matthew, a matter-of-fact account of the birth of Jesus. There are no ‘maybe’ or doubtful expressions about it – the Gospel speaks with the force and effect of complete reality and truth. Before the birth of Christ, Emmanuel (that is, God with us) was only a prophetic promise. After the birth of Jesus, it became a steadfast reality. Matthew addresses the occasion with a focus on Joseph, whereas Luke gives us a parallel account with a focus on Mary. This is entirely logical in reason and timely purpose. The royal line of His Kingship, for legal purposes, came through his presumed father, Joseph. Of course, His true Father was God, but Joseph was the legally recorded father for purposes of lineage and descent. Christ must first be absolute Sovereign before He can be Lord of all. His priestly descent came through Mary, and there never was, or ever shall be, a High Priest after the Order of Melchizadek as was Jesus!
Matthew clearly informs us that Jesus had no earthly descent, but was the only Begotten Son of God. “When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” Joseph and Mary were espoused to each other, but the marriage relationship had not yet been consummated when Christ was conceived in Mary’s womb by the Holy Ghost of God. All claims of new bible versions to the contrary, this is biblical fact beyond and question.
Let us examine the qualities of Joseph as the caretaker of Jesus. 1) He had a tender love and consideration for Mary. It would have been ‘unthinkable’ in that day and time for a man to wed a woman who was pregnant with another man’s child. So Joseph, unwilling to make a public spectacle of his precious Mary, was inclined to put her away in some secret or distant place so no one would slander her name and character. This would have been an unusual emotion in those days, but Joseph was a “just man.” 2) Once the true identity of the child Father was revealed to Joseph, he was then willing to bear the ridicule and shame of his community by marrying Mary. What may seem dishonor to the world may be immense honor granted by God? It may seem a disgrace to the world for us to proclaim Merry Christmas instead of so-called “Happy Holidays” but the least God expects is that we honor His Son by our view of the event of Christmas.
We know little more about Joseph except that he was a carpenter. Jesus learned that trade from Joseph, no doubt. The focus now turns to Jesus, and appropriately so. The same implements of the carpenter’s trade that built houses and tables were the same used to craft a crude cross for both the manger and the cross of Christ. All things of His life pointed to Calvary.
The Gospel, or Good News, was summed up in the name JESUS! That name is ÅIhsou'ß Iesous, in the Greek which means Salvation of God, or Jehovah is salvation. Though Jesus has many names, another profound name for Christ is Emmanuel, or “God with Us.” What a comfort to know that we can enjoy the very presence of God in Christ! He is not a God that is far away and uncaring, When we walk with Christ, we bring the Kingdom of God near us. “The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” (Luke 10:9) These two names – Jesus and Emmanuel – are of great importance to us. The first, Jesus, describes His Office and purpose; the second, Emmanuel, describes His nature – that is, WHO He was.
The name, JESUS, was not given to the babe by man, but by God the Father. “. . . thou shalt call his name JESUS (Jehovah is Salvation) : for he shall save his people from their sins.” The Old Testament rendering of this name in Hebrew would have been the commonly known ‘JOSHUA’ of the same meaning. You will note that Joshua led the people of Israel into the Promise Land, and Jesus, the greater Joshua, will lead His people into a greater Kingdom of Promise.
In what way would Jesus “save us’ from our sins? “. . . for he shall save his people from their sins.” He would first save us from the GUILT of our sins. The wages of sin is death. We have ALL sinned. Therefore, we justly deserve death. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Yes, we ALL have sinned: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) You can see by this that, under the terms of the law, there can be no hope for our salvation. But the terms of the law were satisfied by His perfect submission to that law in paying the price for our redemption. He took our place on the cross. Therefore, claiming that blood of Christ as remission for our sins, we are made free of guilt. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Romans 5:8-9)
Secondly, Jesus saves us from the POWER of Sin! Sin has no power over the believer unless we deliberately open the door to the devil. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death…… Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Romans 8:1-2,12-13)
Thirdly, Jesus saves us from the CONSEQUENCE of sin: “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Romans 5:9) “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thess 1:9-10)
Fourthly, Jesus saves us from the PRESENCE of sin: “And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Rev 7:13-17)
Jesus is a name filled with glorious comfort and inviting satisfaction: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30) When we surrender our futile works to Christ, and accept His works of righteousness, how simple and easy do our burdens become, for it is Jesus who carries them.
What of His name, EMMANUEL that informs us of the nature of Jesus? Seven hundred years passed between the prophecy of Isaiah and the fulfillment of that prophecy. The weak human faith may have given up the expectation, but with God, all things are sure and certain. “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) Please do not tell me that a “young woman shall conceive and bear a son” for it was spoken of god that the young woman was a VIRGIN. Here is how the NRSV corrupts Isaiah’s prophecy: “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14 NRSV) Are you so literarily challenged that you cannot distinguish the great errors being propagated by these apostate bibles? The VIRGIN conceives a Son whose name is EMMANUEL! How does the name EMMANUEL describe the nature of Jesus? First of all, it identifies Jesus as God for it means “GOD with us!” Jesus is the central figure of the Trinity. He is God! In Isaiah 9:6, Jesus is described as the “Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Can any demean the name of Jesus? Can the new versions demote Him to simply ‘a son of God’ like unto us, or is He what the Bible claims – The only BEGOTTEN Son of God?
Jesus is also named the great “I AM” revealing the Eternity of His existence. He has existed from Eternity Past with the Father. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4) Further, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (EMMANUEL), (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
If we would have strength for the journey of our daily cross-bearing, we must be ever mindful of the hope of EMMANUEL. He is WITH us – even unto the end of the world. If you are weak and weary, grasp hold of the name, JESUS – Savior. He is our Advocate to defend us in our moments of weakness and trial. “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)
How will you observe this great event – will it be by a nebulous term such as Happy Holidays, or Merry Xmas; or will it be by its true identity of Merry Christmas? Will it simply become one day out of 365, or 365 days of a single day?
Since Anno Domini, the Year of our Lord, it has been Christmas and it always will be Christmas.
Saturday, December 28, 2013
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David.) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:4-7)
The larger church world does not realize that Christmas is a Season, and not a single day. Officially, Christmastide begins at sundown on 24th December and ends at sundown on 5th January. But even more than this, why should the warm spirits of affection and mutual respect not continue for all 365 days of the year? There can always be a silent and beautiful peace, even in the heat of the battlefield, if the Holy Spirit rules in the heart. The inward peace of the Christian is not dependent upon the outward conflagration of the world about. Today's hymn selection, Silent Night, is one of the Crown Jewels of the Christmas Season ... and of every season.
The words to this hymn carol were written by a Catholic priest, Joseph Mohr, and the music (Stille Nacht) composed by his church musician, Franz Xavier Gruber, in 1815 in a little church in the Austrian Alps village of Oberndorf. It was discovered, just days before the beginning of Christmastide, that mice had eaten holes in the church organ ballast. There was no means of repairing the organ before Christmas Eve. Joseph Mohr meditated on the occasion. Early on the morning of Christmas Eve, he visited a family in the mountains in order to Christen their newborn baby. As he trudged home in the snow, he paused to consider the beauty of the mother and father as they loved and caressed their little baby. He also felt the perfect peace and quiet of the snow-clad mountains and valleys that surrounded him. Without a great deal of human thought and effort (it was from God) the words to this hymn filled the heart of the simple priest. He went home and recorded the words that have become immortal to us ever since that Christmas Eve at which Silent Night was first sung to the accompaniment of guitar at a little mountain church in Oberndorf.
Silent Night! Holy Night!
Silent night, holy night,
all is calm, all is bright
round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
sleep in heavenly peace.
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Silent night, holy night,
shepherds quake at the sight,
glories stream from heaven afar,
heavenly hosts sing alleluia;
Christ, the Savior, is born!
Christ, the Savior, is born!
Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love's pure light
radiant beams from thy holy face,
with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.
The title of this hymn draws our attention immediately to the counsel of God in the Psalms of David: "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalms 46:10) God speaks most powerfully when man, and his world, is silent and still. So, after four centuries between Malachi's prophecy and the preaching of John the Baptist intervened a long silence of God speaking to man. The silence of the centuries made our eyes and ears keen to that stellar event that occurred in that other little sleepy village - Bethlehem of Judah (meaning: House of Bread and Praise). How appropriate that the Bread of Heaven (John 6:35) should been born in Bethlehem - a place, as well, for raising sacrificial lambs for the sacrifice in the Temple.
The priest, Mohr, could visualize the peace and quiet that surrounded Mary in the rural barnyard scene. Had the birth occurred in Jerusalem at some opulent king's palace, Silent Night would never have been written. "Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright. Round yon virgin mother and child. Holy Infant, so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace." The night truly was Holy. Even the dark night can be bright when Christ is present. It seems ironic that Jesus - the King of Kings - would be born in such surroundings; or that He would come as a tender, loving baby. He slept in peace for a time, but the world would have none of it! That same Jesus shall return leading the Armies of the Heavenly Host.
The ambient light of the stars above illumined the lonely hills overlooking Jerusalem where shepherds "kept watch over their flocks by night." "Silent night, holy night, shepherds quake at the sight, glories stream from heaven afar, heavenly hosts sing alleluia; Christ, the Savior, is born! Christ, the Savior, is born!" When the peace and solitude of the star-studded night is suddenly punctuated by the light and terrible beauty of a great Angel, it is not surprising that the shepherds would quake at the sight. It was, no doubt, a startling vision. Streams of light followed in the train of the Angel, and cast its warm beams all around the hillside on which the shepherds were keeping watch. The glories of Light always accompany the presence of God and His Angels. There is no distance that cannot be instantly breeched by such light - even from heaven, so distant from the ways of mankind. The news was simple and, yet, most profound: "Christ, the Savior, is Born!" Has there ever been a shorter, or more profound, message than this? I have heard it argued that Easter Season is the most important of the Church Calendar, but Easter could never have occurred without that Christmas event of 2013 years ago - a moment so profoundly important that our calendar (Gregorian) dates all time with that event at its center.
The Light of Christ is made warm with His immeasurable LOVE. Before Christ, men sat in darkness and fear. With His Coming, He brought an added dimension to the Law of God - LOVE. From that Love hangs all the laws and commandments. "Silent Night, holy night, Son of God, love's pure light, radiant beams from thy holy face, with the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord at thy birth. Jesus, Lord at thy birth." It must never be forgotten that Jesus is the literal Son of God. We, too, are sons and daughters of God, but in a different manner of birth. We are sons and daughters by ADOPTION, but Jesus is the very substance of the Father as His only Begotten Son. The word BEGOTTEN makes all the difference, and it is this term that the new bible versions wish to delete. By so doing, they attempt to bring Christ down to our own level. Shame, shame! The beams of Light and Love literally stream from the face and presence of Christ. If He abides in your heart, you cannot shield the emanating rays of light and love that extends from that heart to all around. The birth of Christ was the very Dawn of Redeeming Grace. Jesus redeemed us from our sins - not because we deserved to be redeemed, but because of His love and grace. There is no other way to salvation except by grace and mercy. Our works will not suffice an iota. Have you known that grace that beams from Bethlehem and our Lord Jesus Christ?
Merry Christmas this Christmastide, but also for every day of the year and future years.
Nothing else matters if Jesus had not been born in Bethlehem!
Voyage of The Star Seekers
From Winter edition, Logos of St Andrews 1998
Across the desert plains they came,
By wise men gifts were Borne,
From distant eastern lands of Fame,
They journeyed on forlorn.
They sought for news at Herod's throne,
But no such word was heard -
Of king or priest it was not known -
The STAR foretold His Birth!
The STAR stopped over Bethlehem,
A stable yard the Scene.
A manger held the precious One.
The cold, night air was keen.
The gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh
and Gold were offered then.
The stable yard was all Astir
With beasts, and Love and Men.
So strange in royal palace grand
No Christ child was revealed;
But then in Ramah's humble sand
The eastern kings had Kneeled.
The ages since are lost in Time,
But time no burdens cast
Upon the faithful servant kind -
The STAR outshines the Past!
Copyright ©1998 Jerry Levon Ogles
Friday, December 27, 2013
Devotion on the Hymns of the Church (Hymn 12 O Come all ye Faithful) - 27 December 2013, Anno Domini
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29
This is a hymn carol that incorporates a sense of reverence, joy, and solemnity all in one composition. Originally written in Latin by John Wade in 1743, it was later translated into English by Frederick Oakley and William Brooke (1841). The musical score was composed by Simao Portogallo.
O come, all ye faithful
O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
come, and behold him, born the King of angels;
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.
God from God, Light from Light eternal,
lo! he abhors not the Virgin's womb;
only-begotten Son of the Father; Refrain
Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,
sing, all ye citizens of heaven above;
glory to God, glory in the highest; Refrain
See how the shepherds, summoned to his cradle,
leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze;
we too will thither bend our joyful footsteps; Refrain
Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger,
we would embrace thee, with love and awe;
who would not love thee, loving us so dearly? Refrain
Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing; Refrain
Lo! star-led chieftains, magi, Christ adoring,
offer him frankincense and gold and myrrh;
we to the Christ-child bring our hearts oblations: Refrain
This hymn is as often sung in Latin as in English since the original Latin is so beautifully expressed and poetically fashioned. We not only know, but FEEL the meaning of Venite adoremus.
The invitation to come to Christ is addressed to all who are of mind and inclination to come in in humility and faith. The shepherds were invited, and they dropped their mundane labors and went immediately to see this thing of which the Angel had spoken. They were surprised by the wonderful invitation. There are others, however, who diligently seek Him such as the Wise Men of the East. These were most likely the Magi of Persia who studied the heavenly bodies and loved light. The Magi were priests of the Zoroastrian religion who kept a perpetual fire burning as a matter of their own faith. Men and women are chosen and called today in the same variety of ways. Many are oblivious to the ways of God and are suddenly drawn; others may have even studied false religion for a lifetime, and are then awakened to the True religion of Christ.
It is certain that in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, we are lost without Christ; so, we are drawn to depart our present life and “Come unto” the Lord Jesus Christ. Though we are called from every walk of life, there is only ONE WAY that will benefit - and that is the Narrow Way of Jesus Christ. As the Wise Men learned, it was not by way of the capital cities of the world, but the humble and lowly ways of the Savior. We must LEAVE our former trappings behind and go immediately when beckoned, to the Holy One - Jesus Christ. “O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem. Come and behold Him, born the King of angels.” Though we are invited to come from wherever we are beckoned, we cannot remain in that same pitiful state after we learn of Christ.
“True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal, Lo, He shuns not the Virgin’s womb; Son of the Father, begotten, not created.” Jesus is not only the Light of the World, but the True Light that has shone from Eternity Past whose beams pierce the endless and dark ether of infinity. Though He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He is not proud and self-exalted. He is willing to be born of a humble and simple young virgin of the common people. Though the carnal Son of Mary, He is the only Begotten Son of God the Father. He is of the same substance with the Father and, therefore, not made as we are made after the blood-line of Adam.
“Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation; O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above! Glory to God, all glory in the highest” Though in that Ancient Day, it was the Angels who sang in chorus, it is now our own privilege to do so in singing the praises to God our Savior and Maker. Those who have become naturalized citizens of Heaven may join their voices to those of the great angels. Having traveled the earth as pilgrims and vagabonds, bearing our meager means of living lightly on our backs, we may now walk up to those gates of splendor and be welcomed to the Heavenly Kingdom - leaving all burdens at the gate.
“See how the shepherds, summoned to His cradle, Leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze; We too will thither bend our joyful footsteps.” Not only will those who are called come to the warmth and light of the Baby Jesus, but also to the sacrifice of that rugged cross of Calvary. “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
Do you know that all who follow Christ are, just like the Wise Men, following a Star? “Lo! star led chieftains, Magi, Christ adoring, Offer Him incense, gold, and myrrh; We to the Christ Child bring our hearts’ oblations.” It is not possible to view the effulgent Light of Christ without awe and adoration. But He is that Bright and Morning Star that leads, relentlessly, through the our dark night of despair and the very Valley of the Shadow of Death to the glowing Light of the Sunrise of the Day Star which is also the Resurrected Christ. We offer what gold we have as a token of His rightful heir to the Throne of Heaven; our Frankincense of worship to honour Him as Lord and Savior; and our Myrrh as evidence of the atoning death He died in our stead. Our physical gold and silver will not gain the passage, but the treasures of our hearts are His glory and prize.
“Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger, We would embrace Thee, with love and awe; Who would not love Thee, loving us so dearly?” Though Christ was poor in His earthly manger, He was rich in the possessions of Heaven. Though lain in a manger, He was Maker of the manger, of the beasts of the field gathered there about, and of all that the eye could see from horizon to horizon. There are only two ways of embracing Christ - with the kiss of Judas, or with awe and love. Had He not first loved us, we could not have the privilege to love Him so. Yes, He loved us so dearly even before we were born. He loved us so dearly that He came out from the Palisade Palaces of Heaven to lie in a manger and also on a cross for us.
“Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning; Jesus, to Thee be glory given; Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.” It is, indeed, a happy morning of our lives when Christ comes into a newborn heart. We are born anew in the morning of eternity when Christ comes to us! He was the Word from the very beginning - that eternal beginning before the worlds were made. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not……..He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-5, 10-14).
If you have read and believed on His Word, to you, too, has He appeared!
Come now, dear Reader, from your weary struggles and hardships…...come away from the dreary life of rags and poverty….come to the Light of the World and the warmth of Heavenly Love…Come to Christ.
O Come Let Us Adore Him,
O Come Let us Adore Him,
O Come Let us Adore Him,
Christ, the Lord!