Category Archives: Carols

He Will Bring Us Goodness

God is good. His very nature is good. Therefore every action of God is good. This week we celebrate God’s desire to bring goodness as echoed in the carol, Do You Hear What I Hear?

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

Theologians define God’s goodness as his benevolence to his creation and his kindness exhibited toward all he has made

God expresses his goodness toward the people who know him and the people who don’t know him. He is good to all.

How is God good to us before we know him?

He created us with free will. He wanted love and so he was willing to take the risk that we might reject him.  He sustained us even when we were far from him. He gave us the beauty of creation to enjoy. He gave us friends and family. He gave us each gifts, talents, and creativity. He heard the prayers our loved ones prayed on our behalf.

The ultimate sign of God’s goodness to us before we knew him is Christmas. God so loved the world and everyone in it that he sent his son. If you ever want to know if God is good – look in the manger and then look to the cross.

How is God good to us after we know him?

He gives us everlasting life the moment we believe – eternal life in heaven and his abundant life here on earth.  He gives us immediate access to him through prayer. He works all things out for our good.  He gives us the Holy Spirit and the Word of God so we can become the best possible version of ourselves here on this earth.

How do we respond to God’s goodness?

For those who don’t know him yet he invites us to experience his goodness.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalm 34:8 NLT

Those of us who know him offer our thanks.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34 NLT

God is good. His goodness is generously poured out on all humanity.

God and Sinners Reconciled

In this holiday season we are finding the true meaning of Christmas in our favorite carols. This week we take a look at Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn king”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled

Christmas is all about the reconciliation of God and man. That is why Jesus came. And it’s all summed up in one verse of scripture.

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21 NKJV

Lets take a look at each phrase in this beautiful passage

She will bring forth a Son –The Christmas story is so familiar that sometimes we don’t really feel the impact of each detail. Don’t let the thought of the virgin birth slip by you. In this one facet of the story, so many important things are communicated. The virgin birth:

  • Proves Jesus’ divine origin
  • Expresses God’s desire to draw near and become part of the human race
  • Fulfill prophecy
  • Demonstrates that man cannot save himself
  • Allows Jesus to live the incarnation as fully God and fully human
  • Reveals that reconciliation was all God’s initiative

You shall call his name Jesus – The name Jesus is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Joshua. Both are literally translated Jehovah saves. Jesus’ name reveals God’s heart of compassion for his creation.

For He will save His people from their sins – The message of Christmas is that Jesus became a man so that sinners could be reconciled to God. He saves us from our past sins, our present sins and any future sins. The core of Christmas is that you can change!

Jesus’ humble virgin birth, his obedient life, his substitutionary death and his powerful resurrection take care of all our past sins and save us from future sins by transforming our lives. Change is possible because of Jesus. That is something to sing about!

6 Ways to Worship at Christmas

The word Christmas originates with to words Christ Mass. The very name of the season points to our gathering to worship, the mass of Christ. Christmas is all about the worship of Jesus.

We can learn more about ways to worship Jesus from the story of the wisemen who sought him out that very first Christmas. Read the story from Matthew 2:1-12 and pay attention to the six phrases in bold.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Cultivate a Sincere Desire – Worship seldom happens spontaneously without effort. You have to plan for it. You have to want it like the wise men who most likely traveled over a thousand miles for 30 days.

Live with Expectancy – There is something about expectancy – about faith – that leads to worship. The wisemen expected to find “the One.” They fully anticipated that they would find him. If you expect to find Jesus, he will show up!

Choose to Express Joy – The three wisemen were overjoyed. They greatly rejoiced with exceeding joy. They didn’t just feel joy, they expressed it. Worship is about expressing joy for every good thing God has done.

Humble Yourself – The feel on their knees to worship Jesus. They bowed down. Worship is about humbling yourself in the presence of someone so much greater than you.

Purpose to Give – Worship is also giving. The wisemen presented gifts to Jesus. What do you give to the one who created everything? Give him the only gift that matters – yourself.

Say Yes – After worship the wisemen were warned not to go back to Herod. They returned by another route. Worship changes the direction of your life. You enter God’s presence one way and returned changed. Say yes to the changes!

 

Joy to the World

Everyone is looking for happiness. Christmas greets us at the end of each year, waving it’s hands, trying to get our attention and saying, “What you are looking for is here!” 

The English hymn writer, Isaac Watts, wrote this week’s Christmas carol in 1719. It is based on a passage of scripture in Psalm 98.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn – shout for joy before the Lord, the King. Psalm 98:4-6

Let’s take a closer look at this Christmas classic.

Joy to the world People are searching for happiness. Our culture offers lots of avenues for finding joy – partying, accumulation and various forms of self-indulgence. But it’s not working. We have higher rates of depression, stress, sickness and fatigue. We have lost the light in our eyes, the meaning in our work and the joy of our faith. Christmas reminds us that when God came down he brought joy to the world.

The Lord has come  Most people don’t think of joy when they think of God. They imagine anger, judgment and wrath. But they’ve missed it! God is the happiest being in the universe. Creation celebrates the beauty and joy of God. Each new day the sun rises in celebration! Joy is basic to God’s nature. When Jesus was teaching his followers, his goal was to increase joy.

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete John 15:11

Let earth receive her King If you want to experience the joy, you need to receive the King. You have to make it personal. You will never find joy in life until you first find it in Jesus. Our hearts are looking for wholeness, longing to be complete; but only Jesus satisfies the inconsolable longing of the heart.

The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11

On the night of Jesus’ birth, the angels were singing glory to God. The shepherds were singing glory to God. Heaven and nature were singing together of the good news of great joy. Christmas is all about joy to the world and that means joy to your world.

Peace on Earth

I heard the bells on Christmas Day their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth goodwill to men.

On the surface, the Christmas story looks perfect. Angels appear and talk to folks and all those folks say yes to God. Nativity scenes are ridiculously perfect. The animals are serene and never smelly. Mary looks nothing like a woman who just delivered a child without an epidural. Every hair is in place on every figurine and baby Jesus rests peacefully in his scratchy, straw-filled manger bed.

Here in the real world life isn’t perfect. It wasn’t perfect for Mary and Joseph and it isn’t perfect for us today.

We live with concerns and challenges in different areas of our lives and we worry. We worry about our children, about health issues, about the economy and about things that are beyond our control.

The most prevalent negative emotions in people’s lives are worry and fear.

“Fear is the little dark room where negatives are developed.” Michael Pritchard

Fear is not a harmless attitude; it has devastating impact on our lives. It can lead to sickness, stress, discouragement, despair and depression. It robs you of energy and drains you of life.

Into this worrisome world, God speaks:

But the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:10-14

Fear not, for God has come bringing peace on earth.

Christmas means peace with God. A savior has come and boy did we need one! Because of the love of the Father, and the gift of his Son we are forgiven. The stain of sin is completely removed. Matthew 1:21

When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem this carol is based on, America was enraged in the Civil War. His son enlisted without his blessing and was severely wounded and his wife died in an accident. We catch of glimpse of his pain in this verse:

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 goodwill to men.

Christmas comes in the turmoil. It offers peace with God and the peace of God.

We believe peace is the absence of conflict but the peace of God is peace in the midst of conflict, in the midst of tension in the midst of circumstances we don’t understand.

The angels spoke into the conflict of Roman oppression, “Fear not.” The literal translation is “Don’t run.”

There is a reason not to run, a reason not to fear. Love has come. The peace of God can still your soul no matter what is taking place around you or in you.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead nor does he sleep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth goodwill to men.

Rest Easy This Christmas

God rest you merry, gentlemen. Let nothing you dismay. Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray….

As this famous carol highlights, Christmas is all about Jesus saving us from Satan’s power. God saves us from our sins, splitting light and darkness in the spirit of a person who receives His free gift of salvation. This is part of the real meaning of Christmas.

Often misunderstood in society as simply a “nice little traditional story” that doubles as a reason to go shopping, Christmas is really the beginning of a battle – a battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. You see the effects of the spiritual battle in the physical world all the time. You may even feel weary about the state of the world.

However, there is good news to boost your spirit this Christmas season. Because God sent His Son into the world to redeem us and be with us, you can have deep rest. Let nothing cause you to worry. That’s the message from the heart of God for you today.

As the giver of life, Christ was born on Christmas Day for your benefit, and as a result, the Holy Spirit happily (merrily) wants to give you the gifts (tidings) of comfort and joy.

The baby who was born in a manger two thousand years ago is the surest demonstration of how God feels about you.  He does not want you to be dismayed.

God is not the author of bad circumstances or tragedies. The devil is our adversary. He is a deceiver. He loves to intimidate. The devil tells you lies, such as:

You are not worth much.
You will never see your dreams come true.
You will never overcome your addictions.
You will never get out of your rut.
You will never find rest.

Truly, those are all lies and you have the power not to believe them. Don’t receive those lies from the enemy of your soul.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

The songwriter of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” got it right: no matter how much you have gone astray, you can be merry (joyful and peaceful) – thanks to the One who overcame and defanged the devil.

The devil is defeated. Sure, he masquerades as an “roaring lion,” but he has no real power. He has no authority to enforce the lies he is telling you. Instead, you can exercise your authority in Christ.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7

The raw truth of Christmas is much more dynamic, beautiful and triumphant than you may have ever thought. Because of the real reason for Christmas, there is nothing for you to be discouraged about. Remember who was born on Christmas Day.

May God pour out His rest upon you this very moment! Let nothing dismay you.

 

 

A Thrill of Hope

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 appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope…

The song continues….the weary world rejoices.

You don’t have to look far to see the weariness of our world. We see it in strained relationships, financial pressures, health issues, daily drudgery and slumped shoulders.  The pressure rises this time of year with added expectations and “supposed-to-bes.”

We need Christmas.

A weary world rejoices because we find hope at Christmas!

remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:12-13 NIV

We were without hope. But we have been brought near because Jesus came near.

Hope is the certain expectation of future good. The Christmas story is all about hope.

 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23 NIV

We have hope because God is with us. No matter what we face, we are never alone.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me Psalm 23:4

For every discouraging circumstance in this weary world, we find hope in the promises of God’s word.

They say that you can go 40 days without food, 4 days without water and 4 minutes without air but only 4 seconds without hope.

The thrill of hope, it fuels our purpose and reminds our soul of its great worth.