A Celebration of Christ’s Birth

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A hushed anticipation of Christ’s birth settled over the sanctuary as we entered.  The stained glass windows appeared muted without the day’s sunlight to shine through them.  The lanterns hanging from the rafters cast a diffused glow over the assemblage, not quite illuminating the entire room.  The majesty of the moment held me in transfixed anticipation.

Soon, the chords of the first Christmas hymn rang forth
(select each song to share in this experience):

O come, o come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel...

Midst the reading of the story of Christ’s birth, we sang the songs related to each part of His coming:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.  (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 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 2:1-7

Away in a Manger,
no crib for a bed…

O Little Town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:8-14

The first noel, the angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields way they lay…
(Be sure to click play with this link)

Hark the herald, angels sing
Glory to the newborn king…

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

Matthew 2:1-12

Joy to the world, the Lord has come,
Let earth receive her king!

And finally, as the joy and reverence and awe crescendoed in the night, ushers turned down the sanctuary lights, leaving the minister at the front of the church holding one lit candle representing Christ who came to be the Light of the world.  Two ushers came forth and each drew light from the one, and row by row, Christ’s light passed from person to person.  From candle to candle.

The beauty of the candlelight drew us deeper in the reverence and awe of the birth of  Christ.  We sang:

Silent night, Holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round you virgin, mother and child
Holy infant, so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace.

We sang all of the verses, the glow of the candle flames dancing in the breath of our hymn.

At the end, the minister told us to:  “Go in peace and spread the great tidings that Jesus Christ was born.”

We exited, a profound hush settled over us.

This is how I spent my Christmas Eve’s as a child.  The candlelight service at my church grounded me in the truth of the season.  For a time, I forgot Santa Claus and the gifts under the tree.  The holiness of this service held me in its splendor well into the evening.

 

As you go into the night, remember:

Peace on earth and great joy to men!

Christ is born!

Note:  I Do NOT own the copyrights to any of these songs.
Thank you to all who have posted links to these beloved hymns.
Please support their work.

If you only watch one clip, watch the one for The First Noel.

Apologies for any ads that appear in the video links.
I tried to use links without them.

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Why Do We Love Superheroes?

Courtesy of Pixabay

Courtesy of Pixabay

Yesterday, I sent my grandchildren to school wearing superhero T-shirts.

Why?

The family of the six-year-old boy killed in the Townville school shooting requested that people attend his funeral in superhero clothing instead of suits and ties. Jacob loved superheroes, and the whole country embraced this idea.  Stores sold out of superhero-themed clothing, and many people wore them as they went about their day, even if they weren’t attending the funeral.

This got me to thinking about why we love superheroes.

Superheroes represent our need for someone who steps in and saves us from the bad guys. A person with supernatural abilities who has a knack of showing up when people need them, kicking the bad guys to the curb, and ensuring we’re safe.

I have good news for you!  He already exists!

  • There is someone who is always there.
  • There is someone who saves us.
  • There is someone who keeps us safe.
  • There is someone with supernatural abilities.
  • There is someone who people turn to when they desperately need him, and he’s always there.

All we have to do is seek Him and He will be there. In fact, even when we forget to seek Him, He is there.

Who, you ask?

The Holy Trinity:  God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We love superheroes because our souls cry out for someone who provides us this love and safety.

In Isaiah, we see His power and our yearning:

We have a strong city;
    God makes salvation
    its walls and ramparts.
Open the gates
    that the righteous nation may enter,
    the nation that keeps faith.
You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.
He humbles those who dwell on high,
    he lays the lofty city low;
he levels it to the ground
    and casts it down to the dust.
Feet trample it down—
    the feet of the oppressed,
    the footsteps of the poor.

The path of the righteous is level;
    you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth.
Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws,[a]
    we wait for you;
your name and renown
    are the desire of our hearts.
My soul yearns for you in the night;
    in the morning my spirit longs for you.
When your judgments come upon the earth,
    the people of the world learn righteousness.

Isaiah 26: 1-9

In Psalms, we see how we yearn for Him:

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God? Psalm 42:1-2

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 84:2

Is it any wonder that we are fascinated with the idea of a superhero? Our souls know we need Him.

My heart breaks for the family of Jacob Hall, but I’m so glad that he had a savior superhero to bend down and scoop him up in His loving arms and say, “You are safe. You are loved. I am here.”

Never fear, Jesus is always here.

 

Love One Another, Not Judge

lovecloudMy last two posts drew a lot of attention and caused me great sadness over our inability to love one another.  Your responses reminded me of two harsh truths:

  • Many people remain in abusive situations
  • Many people leave the church due to its reaction to their situations

Why can’t we get this right?

We’re not the only generations with this problem. We just have a larger vision of what’s happening in the world thanks to the internet and social media. It’s a two-edged sword. I can reach people with my posts, but so can others who share negative and hateful things. What causes them to say these things? They believe they are right and doing what is right.

What does Jesus have to say about what is right?

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”                   Luke 10:  25-28

We have clear directions from Christ, using the old testament (Deut. 6:5, Lev. 19:18) to reinforce his teaching.  Do you remember the expert in the law’s response to this? He asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus responds with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). In case you’re unfamiliar with the culture at this time, a Samaritan was considered the lowest of the low. A Jew would not interact with a Samaritan at all. Was Christ saying Samaritans are better than Jews? No. He used this story to demonstrate that all of us are neighbors and should care for and help each other. No one is better than anyone else, and all deserve our love.

So, I ask of you, if you know of someone hurting–due to abuse or some other issue–reach out to them with the love that Christ commands. Don’t let misguided Christians set them down the path to unfaithfulness.  Christ told us to love one another. He didn’t say judge one another.

Remember this the next time you’re tempted to judge someone. Odds are you don’t know the whole story, anyway.