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Showing posts from December, 2015

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

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Once again, Christmas is upon us, and with it a myriad of memories and thoughts.
Each of us brings past remembrances into the holiday. For many, those memories are sweet. For others who have experienced loss of someone they love, they may be bittersweet. For still others, looking at current events and turmoil around the world (or close to home), the Christmas message of "peace on earth good will to men" seems like an unattainable dream.

Henry Longfellow wrote the poem "Christmas Bells" in the middle of the American Civil War. His oldest son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, joined the Union cause as a soldier without his father's blessing, or even his knowledge. Longfellow was informed by a letter dated March 14, 1863, only after Charles had left.

"I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer," Charles wrote. "I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down…

Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming

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One of my favorite Christmas songs is "Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming." I find it next to impossible to sing this song without shedding a few tears.

The song is quite old. The lyrics were penned by an unknown author and first appeared in print in the late 16th century.

The song begins by talking of the beauty and tenderness of a blooming rose...one that came in the cold of a winter night.

As a rule, growing things do not live in the winter. The frost kills tender plants. Even hearty plants and trees lose their leaves or die back to ground level. The warmth and light of the sun revive them in the spring.

Along came a rose.
If I stepped into my yard this December (northern Minnesota) and noticed that one of my rose bushes had come into bloom, it would be startling. Completely unexpected. And altogether thrilling.
That is what the birth of Jesus was. It had been 400 years since the nation of Israel had heard from God.[1] It was a spiritual winter. Almost like the Narnia of C.…

Upon A Midnight Clear

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The old Christmas carol, "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" is almost poetic in its rich imagery. We see angels bending down to earth, floating heavenly chords, cloven skies, and peaceful wings.

I can almost see star dust swirling and glinting as it falls down upon the snowy midnight ground.

It's about a song.
When we sing of "it" coming, we are not speaking of the Christ child. Rather we are singing of the song - the one the angels sang, heralding the arrival of that precious babe.

We don't know the exact time of the birth of Jesus. All we know is that it occurred "while they (Joseph and Mary) were there" in Bethlehem. However, we do know that the angels appeared to the shepherds that night - whether it was minutes or hours after the actual birth.

How symbolic that the song of the angels came in the night - when the light was gone and darkness rolled over the Judean hills like a thick blanket.

Imagine the shepherds, quietly gazing into their campf…

The First Noel

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Christians have been singing
"The First Noel" for almost 200 years. The tune and the words were composed in the early 1800's. The word "Noel" originates with a late 14th century French word for the "feast of Christmas" or "the Christmas season." It is a variant of the Latin natalis "birth (day) and in church Latin, was used to refer to the birthday of Christ. [1]

When we sing the First Noel, we are singing about a very special day - the day Christ was born. 
The coming of Christ, the Messiah, was foretold by Old Testament prophets and the expectation of a Messiah by the Jewish people is clearly expressed in the gospels. Simeon and Anna (Luke 2) both recognized the significance of the birth of Jesus. Later in the gospels, John the Baptist speaks about the Messiah (John 1:20). The apostle, Andrew, called his brother Peter, telling him that "we have found the Messiah" (John 1:41). The Samaritan woman at the well was also aware t…

What Child is This?

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The message of Christmas is so big that its impact is felt around the world. At the same time, it is so small that it was contained in the body of a tiny infant - the baby Jesus.

When I think of the fact that the Creator of all things humbled Himself, leaving the glory and majesty of heaven and taking the form of a baby, I am awestruck. There is nothing in all the world that we can compare such an event to. It is simply without parallel.

The Christmas carol, "What Child is This" paints a picture of the baby in the manger and what the future held for the tender infant.

The first verse asks who this is, lying in the manger, sleeping on Mary's lap, and accompanied by both angels and shepherds. The second verse asks why this baby is being subjected to such a lowly setting and goes on speak of the reason Jesus came - the salvation of sinners. It also talks of the nails and the cross that Jesus will face as an adult.

So many things about this carol touch the heart. But the one…

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

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God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is one of the oldest Christmas carols, dating back to the 16th century or even earlier. In his book, "Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas," author Ace Collins provides a fascinating
perspective on the history of the song.
"Like so many early Christmas songs, this carol was written as a direct reaction to the music of the 15th Century Church. During this period, the songs of organized religion were usually written in Latin and their melodies were somber and dark, offering singers and listeners little inspiration or joy. In fact, though few admitted it in public, most church members secretly disliked the accepted religious songs of the day. Yet the laymen of the time had no power over the way they worshipped and had to accept things as they were. So, while they continued to go to worship, they created their own church music outside the walls of the cathedrals and chapels. In this way, the peasant class led a quiet rebellion agains…