Isaiah’s Christmas Hymn

Strictly speaking, Handel’s Messiah probably isn’t a hymn. Yet he uses Scripture throughout the work, weaving a rich theology that steadily brings attention to Christ. Maybe in that respect we might consider it as a beautiful series of hymns — largely from the Old Testament.

Of course, Handel’s most famous movement in the piece is the Hallelujah Chorus. Indeed, he packed it with marvelous bits of theology about Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords. Powerful stuff!

But another movement, taken from Isaiah 9:6, ties Christ’s reign as King of kings and Lord of lords to His birth. While not as fully developed as the Hallelujah Chorus, this movement reminds us that the Son given to us is infinitely more than a Child.

Since I won’t blog again until December 26, I leave you with Isaiah’s Christmas Hymn and wishes for a Merry Christmas from both me and John.

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Life Gets Uncomfortable And Joyless

At this time of year, expectations soar. We long for that perfect holiday, when friends and family fulfill all our secret desires, having no needs or wants of their own. Of course, we take it for granted that we and our loved ones will be happy and healthy.  It’s Christmastime, after all, and life should be a living Norman Rockwell painting.

Alas, we often face disappointments throughout the year. Worse, hardships and trials don’t take a break between November 30 and January 2. As a matter of fact, we feel disappointments all the more acutely  this time of year precisely because we cultivate expectations of perfection.

Life gets uncomfortable and joyless at many times of the year. In those bleak times, however, Christ calls us to find our comfort and joy in Him rather than in our circumstances. As we remember the amazing story of His birth and the reason for His first coming, we remember that Christmas isn’t about our temporal desires, but instead about Him. And such realizations bring tidings of comfort and joy.

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Singing Christmas Theology

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing has been my favorite Christmas hymn for most of my Christian life. It’s packed full of solid Biblical doctrine ranging from the Incarnation to regeneration, always bringing us back to His glory.

Singing this beloved hymn grows more meaningful each year as I notice new depths of theology in its familiar verses. As a result, I love it even more now than I loved it as a new Christian. I pray that you’ll discover truths about our wonderful Savior every time you sing it too.

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Saturday Sampler: December 9 — December 15

Snowmen Sampler

So often, Leslie A writes things in Growing 4 Life that make me want to jump out of my wheelchair, do a happy dance and shout “YES!” at the top of my lungs. To see a blog post that gives me such a giddy reaction, read Is There More Than One Way to Interpret Scripture?

Speaking of posts that resonate with me, go over to Possessing the Treasure and read The Believer’s Supreme Act of Spiritual Worship by Mike Ratliff. He accurately diagnosis major problems among evangelicals and prescribes the remedy.

Elizabeth Prata also has me ready to do a happy dance because of her essay, Another good reason to develop discernment, which appears in The End Time. It’s incredibly refreshing when a well-known discernment blogger writes an article like this! But my poor wheelchair is beginning to look awfully empty!

One of the reasons I love living near Boston is its rich literary history. Several years ago, John took me to Longfellow’s house in Cambridge to celebrate my birthday. So I appreciate Barry York’s A Lesson Learned in Longfellow’s Home in Gentle Reformation. I don’t know if Longfellow truly knew Christ,  but the poem still has tremendous power.

The lady who blogs at Biblical Beginnings writes Movie Review — Polycarp. After reading her review, I got my husband to pull this movie up on Amazon Prime. Except for the hokey lighting behind Polycarp’s  head during one of his prayers, it’s an excellent film. And as we see persecution approach Christians in the United States, this movie offers wonderful encouragement.

Having a range of personal struggles and sorrow over the death of my former prayer partner, I appreciate Jessica Jenkins’ When Christmas Doesn’t Feel Merry in Biblical Woman this week. If you’re hurting, please make time to read this piece.

Allen Nelson IV, writing for Things Above Us, shows us How Not to Be a Heretic this Christmas as we contemplate the Incarnation. Don’t miss this short but comprehensive look at five common errors in understanding Christ as 100% God and 100% Man.

Do you need 5 Reasons To Read The Bible When You Feel Absolutely Nothing? Then Stephen Altrogge’s blog post in The Blazing Center is perfect for you!

 

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A Simple Narration Of A Profound Story

Luke’s account of Christ’s birth is cherished, familiar even to small children. Yet nothing could be more awe inspiring than angels appearing to outcast shepherds, inviting them to be the first witnesses of Israel’s long awaited Messiah. What comfort and joy they must have experienced to know that the Savior came for His stray sheep — for despised shepherds considered too filthy to enter the Temple and offer their own lambs!

There’s an added sweetness to the story when you hear the innocent voices of children recount it in song. They don’t understand all the ramifications of it, but they know that angels don’t appear to shepherds on a regular basis. And they know that Jesus brings comfort and joy.

As you listen to children sing this Christmas carol based on Luke’s beloved account of Christ’s birth, remember that underneath the straightforward narration lies the profound truth that Christ our Savior came to save His stray sheep from Satan’s power, even when society told us we are worthless outcasts. There simple tidings of comfort and joy couldn’t be more profound!

 

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Starting Advent Sunday Hymns

I seriously considered breaking with my tradition of posting Christmas hymns during the month of December. It seemed all too predicable. Too expected!

But think about all the predictions the Old Testament prophets made about the coming Messiah. Each prediction filled believing Jews with hopeful expectation, knowing that Messiah would bring freedom. While most Jews ended up missing Messiah when He came, some actually did understand Who He was.

This Advent season, perhaps we need to expect Christ’s Second Coming, which He Himself predicted. He was faithful to fulfill the predictions of the prophets; should we expect anything less now?

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Veiled In Song, Good Teaching See God’s Incarnate Deity

Few Christmas hymns are as beloved as Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Featured in A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s A Wonderful Life, this hymn reaches millions of people each year, enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians alike.

The almost universal love for this hymn delights me because it teaches a boatload of Biblical doctrine easily and in a pleasurable manner. In particular, it proclaims with incredible clarity that God came to earth as Jesus, the newborn King.

The various repercussions of His Incarnation dance throughout the song, teaching us so many glorious truths about the Lord. How many doctrines can you find?

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Who Should Come And Worship?

The hymn I present today may begin with angels, but it quickly moves to various groups of human beings. Each stanza highlights a unique aspect of doctrine that compels that group (and by extension, all of us) to come and worship.

As Christians, we now have the responsibility of calling people from all walks of life to come and worship. True, only the elect will respond, drawn by the Holy Spirit, but the Lord has decreed that we be His instruments in putting forth the call to salvation. Since God alone knows whom His elect are, we must proclaim the Gospel to all people, just as angels from the realms of glory did.

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A Familiar Christmas Hymn With A Wonderful Surprise

When I first started playing this version of O Come, All Ye Faithful on YouTube, I didn’t really like the sound quality. As my husband will attest, I’m finicky about the hymn videos I post each Sunday.

They must, of course, contain sound doctrine, but they also need to include certain verses, have specific wording, be pleasing to the ear and have good graphics. I also avoid artists that I know represent bad theology (like Hillsong).

I can’t always meet all my criteria. While I never compromise on doctrine or artists, sometimes I settle for boring graphics or slight updates in lyrics. Rarely will I tolerate poor sound quality.

So, as verse 1 played on YouTube, I began moving my mouse cursor up to the “Back” button in order to search for a version I would like better. But before I could reach it, verse 2 startled me. I’d never heard it before.

I love its bold pronouncement of Christ’s deity.  What could possibly get to the heart of Christmas more than an unashamed declaration that God Himself was born in that manger? Listen to this familiar Christmas hymn and enjoy the wonderful surprise of verse 2.

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Saturday Sampler: December 3 — December 9

penguin-sampler

Let’s begin with Pastor Colin Smith’s encouraging post, Three Ways Your Faith is Tested When God Says “No” in Unlocking the Bible. Drawing from God’s refusal to allow David to build the Temple, Smith explains ways that personal disappointment can actually develop our maturity in Christ.

The Santa Claus dilemma always catches Christian parents this time of year. You young moms out there might appreciate reading The Mailbag: What should we tell our kids about Santa Claus? by Michelle Lesley. I like her Biblical and practical approach, especially in preserving the fun of Christmas without lapsing into sin or doctrinal error.

Andrew Gutierrez, in an article aimed primarily at youth leaders in The Cripplegate, admonishes us Thou Shalt Not Create Little “Christian” Narcissists. I include it here because all of us struggle with narcissism, and consequently would benefit from applying the principles that Gutierrez sets forth.

In the present climate of accusations against public figures, even pastors are subject to scrutiny. As Tim Challies demonstrates in Do Not Admit a Charge Against an Elder, Except..., churches have guidelines for disciplining their leaders in the pages of Scripture. Don’t miss this balanced and Biblical treatment of a crucial matter in today’s church.

Once again, Erin Benziger nails it with Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Pride in her Do Not Be Surprised blog. She has a gentle, but firm, caution for those of us in the Reformed camp that needs to be heeded.

In this season of giving, Lesley A. of Growing 4 Life encourages us to continue Serving All, All the Time. It’s refreshing to come across an essay elevating the practical application of God’s Word.

What Do We Really Know about the Three Wise Men? asks Mark Ward in his article for the Logos Software Blog. He uses this question from his own children to give us a practical lesson in separating fact from tradition as we interpret familiar Scriptures.

Writing for Parking Space 23, Greg Peterson directs our attention to A Christmas Song that Doesn’t Belong … But Does. He does more than simply informing us of some hymn writing trivia (although that’s quite fascinating in and of itself); he causes us to rejoice in all of Christ’s promises to bring salvation.

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