Singing with The King @ Christmas (8)

Christmas Star

What Child Is This?

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own him.
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The babe, the Son of Mary.

In the second verse, there’s a question asked, which has to do more with me and you than the shepherds and wise men who are part of this story: Why lies He in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding? That’s a 19th century way of saying, “Why was Jesus born in a barn?” So then comes my question: “Why was the King of Kings born in a barn?” The answer comes in this last verse: Come peasant, king, to own Him.

The Apostle Paul had a opportunity to speak with the philosophers in Athens on Mars Hill, and his speech explains of the above invitation:

So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:22-31)

The Apostle Peter, after having a vision from God said, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.” (Acts 10:34)

A barn would give access to everyone; a palace—where a king should be born—would have guards and ministers and red tape and bureaucracy to penetrate; and those who would have seen and heard the angels would have never been able to see the One of Whom the Angels sang.

The angels sang the song for you. Don’t miss seeing Him.

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Singing with the King @ Christmas (7)

Christmas Star

Joy to the World

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing!

I love this carol. It is indeed joyous, and is rightfully sung as such. But is the world joyous? Will Earth receive her king? Will every heart prepare Him room?

No.

And that greatly saddens me. There are those who worship other gods, and will find no joy in His coming. There are those who think Him a myth and will not receive Him. There are those who think Him irrelevant or undeserving, and will not make room for Him. For these there is no joy.

Part of reason there is no joy is our fault—the Church’s fault. Do we judge instead of love? Are we inconsistent? Do we preach legalism rather than forgiveness? And though we understand The Truth, do we wield it as a weapon rather than share it with grace?

For those who may have ended up on the receiving end of our hypocrisy, I am sorry. But don’t let our failings get in the way of you seeing a Loving Heavenly Father, and His Son, dying for your sins.

Scripture tells us that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11) So we will kneel and confess either because we love Him or because we have to.

Listen to the music; listen to the words; and discover The One who loves you this Christmas. He came for you!

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Singing with the King @ Christmas (6)

Christmas Star

Surely He Hath Born Our Griefs

Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows!
He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.

Yesterday we talked about this Advent being a celebration of the coming of our Deliverer and Savior. There is no greater Old Testament passage to explain the redemptive work of Jesus our Messiah than Isaiah 53. In verses 4 and 5 we learn there are six substitutionary acts accomplished by the Christ for us; four of mercy (taking our punishment so as to not get what we do deserve); and two of grace (taking our punishment so as to get what we do not deserve). They are:

  1. Surely he hath borne our griefs
  2. Carried our sorrows
  3. He was wounded for our transgressions
  4. He was bruised for our iniquities
  5. The chastisement of our peace was upon him
  6. With his stripes we are healed

When Mr. Handel wrote Messiah, he put this Chorus (24) in what is typically considered the Easter portion of his Oratorio. But since the very name of Jesus means “The LORD is salvation”, and will save His people from their sins, it is most appropriate to know and worship the Holy Child as not only our King, but our Savior.

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Singing with the King @ Christmas (5)

Christmas Star

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end. (Luke 1:31-33)

It had been about 400 hundred years since Israel had heard from the Lord, and within six months, the angel Gabriel came down twice to speak of Messiah’s birth. When Mary heard the above words from him, it’s easy to skip to the part about kings and thrones and forever. (Don’t we do the same… get to the good part and skip over the hard stuff?) But the first thing Gabriel told Mary was to name Him Jesus; and we learn from another angelic vision that the Child will live up to His name: for He will save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21).

Mr. Wesley got it right, for the first line of the above verse is: Born Thy people to deliver. The advent we celebrate is for the One Who will deliver us from our sins. The advent we expect is when He will rule as King of kings and Lord of Lords forever.

 

Singing with the King @ Christmas (4)

Christmas Star

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Rank on rank the host of heaven
spreads its vanguard on the way,
as the Light of light descendeth
from the realms of endless day,
that the powers of hell may vanish
as the shadows clear away.

When the author of the hymn came to this verse he must have had Isaiah 9:2 on his mind: The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. And as he composed this verse, he visualized the host of heaven in a vanguard invading the earth, and leading the Son of God to His incarnation in a glorious, dazzling, and blinding display. All who worshiped the darkness were put on notice, the light of the world had come into the world.

And the light is still here, which is why the shadows are being cleared away and the powers of hell will vanish: You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

But you are a chosen race, A royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

Singing with the King @ Christmas (3)

Christmas Star

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive
Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O
Israel.

Emmanuel: God with us. This was not a new concept, for Israel knew and saw on numerous occasions that God was “with” them:

You with the elders of Israel will come to the king of Egypt, and you will say to him, “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews has met with us.” (Exodus 3:18, 5:3)

Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant. May the LORD our God be with us, as He was with our fathers; may He not leave us or forsake us. ( 1 Kings 8:56-57)

Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria nor because of all the horde that is with him; for the one with us is greater than the one with him. With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people relied on the words of Hezekiah king of Judah. (2 Chronicles 32:7-8)

The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. (Psalm 46:7)

Devise a plan, but it will be thwarted; state a proposal, but it will not stand, for God is with us. (Isaiah 8:10)

But Emmanuel being with us is different:

By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:  He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)

Spirit took on flesh; and the Presence became a Person.

Singing with the King @ Christmas (2)

Christmas Star

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!”

Charles Wesley penned these words in the early 1700’s. And this hymn is rife with inspiration and insight.

The 1st line tells us who delivers this great message: the angels.                                           The 2nd line reveals Who is the content: the Christ child.                                                       The 3rd line shows results of this miraculous birth: peace and mercy incarnate came to earth.                                                                                                                                             But the 4th line exclaims what has happened; that which mankind has been incapable of doing, and centuries of sacrifices could not accomplish: God and sinners were reconciled.

Reconciliation literally means “according to change”. The situation between God and man had to be changed; both parties who were at enmity with one another, needed to be reconciled.

And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach. (Colossians 1:21-22)

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:10)

On that angel-filled night, we became witnesses to the first step of this reconciliation: The Son had come in the flesh, to earth!

Don’t miss what the Apostle Paul and Wesley were saying about our condition: we were sinners and we were enemies. But now, we are reconciled.

Our reconciliation, our salvation, became incarnate; that’s why He was named Jesus; “For He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

When you ponder His birth, may you recognize your salvation.

Singing with the King @ Christmas (1)

Christmas Star

Truth You Can Sing About!

We’re less that two weeks out from Christmas, and I wanted to pause for a time with the Psalms, and consider some of the great hymns and carols of the Christmas season. So leading up to Christmas, let’s part company with David for a time, and ponder the music which sings about the One from David’s house and line: Jesus!

Singing with the King (103) – Praying for Peace

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. (Psalm 122:6)

I’ve never posted an article based on current events (at least not one I can remember) but this needs to be said, and if I may be so bold, you need to answer this call.

I’ve always thought it was both good and necessary to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, something all Christians should do. Why? Because Jesus Himself grieved over Jerusalem, just hours before He was crucified:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. (Matthew 23:37)

There was a brilliant but perhaps misunderstood prophecy made by the Caiaphas, the High Priest, regarding Jesus:

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all!  You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”  He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation. (John 11:49-51)

Jesus didn’t die to prevent the Romans from destroying Israel. He died for their sins. And He died for you and me: “For God so loved the world…” And I think that’s why it’s necessary to expand beyond Jerusalem. We need to pray for all of Israel. We need to pray for the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh. We need to pray for the peace of God’s Chosen People everywhere, not just in Jerusalem.

Paul in his book to the Romans reminds us Gentiles:

I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say, “The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem, and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness. And this is my covenant with them, that I will take away their sins.”  Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. (Romans 11:25-29)

So let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and all Israel everywhere, because one day they will find peace, in the Prince of Peace.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Singing with the King (102) – Freedom (1)

Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. (Psalm 19:13)

I’ve always found hope in this passage. My kind of sin is not the kind that accidentally happens, or sneaks up on me, or the “Devil made me do it.” My kind of sins are accomplished by my own choice.

So what is a deliberate sin?

Some of the other definitions for deliberate are presumptuous, arrogant, and proud.

This sort of sin proceeds from an attitude self-confidence, or reliance on one’s own strength. Have we fallen into that trap? To prop up my rep; to advance my career? Choosing comfort over obedience, disinterest over compassion, arrogance over service? Where we think we can do it on our own? Or in a more accurate context, where we think we can do it on our own— without God? That’s a scary place to be, and if these sorts of sins become our practice, then we shall be far from God.

What does it mean to be controlled?

The Hebrew word for control also means to have dominion, or rule, or authority. Do you really want your sin to rule your life? Is that not the rightful place for God?

The word that gives us hope in this verse, is the first word: keep. Other definitions are: to restrain, to hold back, to keep in check. Having God doing the keeping is the only way we can keep our lives from being ruled by our sins— which by the way, are the very sins that have been paid for by the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus not only has paid the penalty of our sins, but He has taken away its power. So why would we kneel before a defeated foe? We ought not.

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. (James 1:12-15)

Another word for patiently endure is persevere. Now there’s a point to persevering or enduring, and Jesus stated plainly: You’ll be hated by all because of My name; but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. (Mark 13:13) In James you endure the testing and the temptation because you will receive the crown of life. With Jesus we endure the hatred and the persecution to be saved.

Two things we can learn from these passages. First, we will have to face testing and temptation, hatred and persecution. Second, we can endure them, and win! In fact, the purpose of the things we must endure is to growth in the faith.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)