Author Archives: Steven Davis

Singing with the King @ Christmas (15)

Christmas Star

Coventry Carol

Herod the King in his raging
Charged he hath this day
His men of might in his own sight
All children young to slay

Then woe is me poor child for thee
And ever mourn and say
For thy parting nor say nor sing
Bye-bye, lullay, lullay

It has always baffled me that a star shone in the sky over Bethlehem, announcing the Savior’s birth, and nobody noticed except for some magi who came hundreds of miles away, probably from Persia, to see this new born King. And when these magi arrived in Jerusalem, they went to see Herod to ask him where this new born King of the Jews would be. As you might guess, this would cause Herod some consternation, because he thought that he was the king of the Jews. So Herod rouses all of his biblical scholars to find out where this birth was to happen, and I’m sure some scholarly Pharisee dusted off the scroll of the prophet Micah which said: “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” (Micah 5:2) THIS King was a much bigger deal than Herod ever would be. Once he found out, Herod passed along the news to the Magi, encouraging them to come back to tell him where they found this King, so that he too could “Worship Him.”

But God knew his heart and warned the Magi to return to their home by another way. When Herod found out, he was furious, and instead of going to worship Him, he instructed his soldiers to kill all the baby boys two years old and younger. Thus, a second prophecy is fulfilled from Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15) This despicable and tragic act has been known as the Slaughter of the Innocents.

And that was the event which stirred the writing of the hauntingly beautiful Coventry Carol. There is not a lot going on in this Carol theologically speaking. It is little more than a musical retelling of the slaughter. But I mention this song because I want to know and to feel all the things surrounding the birth of Christ. I want to know the wondrous good and joy surrounding this birth, but I don’t want to miss the evil and tragedy. One child was born, and who knows how many dozens if not hundreds were slaughtered because of a crazed king.

Nearly 2000 years later, the church is being persecuted, Christ-followers are being martyred, and Christ is being dismissed, ridiculed, and scorned. Few if any would respond to Christ the way Herod did; but even to ignore Him, places you under God’s judgment rather than His mercy. So, how do you respond to the Christ?

 

Save

Singing with the King @ Christmas (13)

Christmas Star

The First Noel

And by the light of that same star
Three wise men came from the country far;
To seek for a King was their intent,
And to follow the star wherever it went.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of
Israel.

Noel is French for Christmas, so the title means: The First Christmas. And since the lyrics focus on the birth of the Christ Child, that would make (obvious) sense.

This verse it speaks of three Wise Men; and I suppose I could talk about the fact that although tradition gives us their names, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, not only do we not know their names (for the Bible doesn’t mention them), we don’t even know if there even were three Magi. We assume three because of the number of gifts mentioned.

And I suppose I could talk about the meaning of the gifts, but that does not have much to do with this hymn either. However, I do believe the author of these lyrics did accurately represent the commitment of these Magi: To seek a for a King was their intent, and to follow the star wherever it went.

Is there something in your life you have pursued, wherever it went? Did you pursue a person? A goal? Stuff? Wealth? Position? Power? Here were three Magi who were very familiar with wealth, position and power. But who did they pursue? A Jewish King. Why? Because if they knew about the birth of this Jewish King, then they knew about the Jewish God. And I believe they understood that this was The One True God.

To choose to follow the King was and is counter-cultural, and is oftentimes perceived as a foolish errand. But the Magi didn’t care. They chose to follow the star wherever it went, until they found… Him. Do you know what to follow? Are you willing to look for Him with that same kind of commitment?

 

Save

Singing with the King @ Christmas (12)

Christmas Star

Good Christian Men Rejoice (In Dulci Jubilo)

Good Christian men rejoice with heart and soul and voice!

Give ye heed to what we say: News! News!
Jesus Christ is born today!
Ox and ass before Him bow and He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today! Christ is born today!

Good Christian men, rejoice with heart and soul and voice!
Now ye hear of endless bliss: Joy! Joy!
Jesus Christ was born for this.
He hath opened the heavenly door and man is blessed evermore.
Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!

Good Christian men, rejoice with heart and soul and voice!
Now ye need not fear the grave: Peace! Peace!
Jesus Christ was born to save.
Calls you one and calls you all to gain His everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!

The title reveals the mood of this ancient carol: Rejoice! And is a repetitive fashion, the author gives you three reasons to rejoice.

REASON NUMBER ONE: News! Prophecy was fulfilled: Christ, the Son of God was born; and something was accomplished that had never been seen: God became man.

REASON NUMBER TWO: After the news comes joy! Joy that God has come to earth to walk among His People. This joy began with the magi, as we see in their response: When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! (Matthew 2:10) People heard the joy of the Father when He said:  “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5) Joy in Heaven when you and I repent: There is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents. (Luke 15:10) And you and I have joy when we receive His Word: I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! (John 15:10)

REASON NUMBER THREE: We have peace because He saved us. Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. (Romans 5:1)

Christ was born to save. This is a huge proclamation. He didn’t come to judge. He didn’t come to rule. He came to save. And that was the plan ever since the beginning: Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you. (1 Peter 1:17-20)

And even though our salvation was long in the making, the good news if you are being slow regarding His salvation, He is waiting: The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (1 Peter 3:9)

So, what’s keeping you?

Save

Singing with the King @ Christmas (11)

Christmas Star

Angels We Have Heard on High

Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee
Christ the Lord, the newborn king.
Gloria in excelsis Deo;
Gloria in excelsis Deo.

Did you hear the invitation in this song? Come to Bethlehem and see. For those who had been looking for Messiah, they would have known where He was going to be born: Bethlehem.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past. (Micah 5:2)

And specifically what the angels had to say: Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (vss. 9-15)

So the shepherds go to Bethlehem, and what did they see? The newborn king. But He’s not just any king. We learn from Revelation 19:16, And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” The Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians: Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)

He the King of kings and Lord of Lords, and He is also the Creator and Sustainer of all; He is the first; He has reconciled everything; and He has made peace with everything. There is much to see and there is much to adore.

What’s keeping you from accepting this invitation? So come, adore on bended knee.

Save

Singing with the King @ Christmas (10)

Christmas Star

O Come All Ye Faithful

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

I remember Michael Card talking about the Christ, and explaining how it was difficult for the disciples to see Christ as God; but seeing Him as man, while He was standing 5 foot something in their midst, was easier. But for us, the opposite is true—seeing Him as God is more easily understood; but as Christ as man, it’s much more difficult.

I think that’s one of the reasons to celebrate His birth. It gives us a tangible and “In Time” beginning of One who is everlasting. And so in our hearts and in our minds we can come before Him, lying in a manger in a barn. We weep over the primitive surroundings of One who deserved so much more, and yet we weep over the lengths and depth He came to save us.

John chapter 1 reveals the author’s inspiration for this verse: And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) But how is it we come to adore Him? How is it that we are faithful? John tells us in a few verses preceding this one: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)

So for those who have been born of God, O come, let us adore Him.

Save

Singing with the King @ Christmas (9)

Christmas Star

Il Est Né Le Divin Enfant

Chorus: He is born, the divine Christ child.
Play on the oboe and bagpipes merrily.
He is born, the divine Christ child.
Sing we all of the Savior’s birth.

1. Through long ages of the past,
Prophets have foretold his coming;
Through long ages of the past,
Now the time has come at last.

You probably noticed this was a French carol by the title. The above is one of a multitude of translations which bespeaks its long life in English performances.

Verse 1 talks about prophets and prophecy, and now is the time. That is a rather famous phrase in the New Testament. For He says, “At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation.”(1 Corinthians 6:2)

This salvation is quite literally Jesus Christ, and we see this truth beginning in the above verse and is concluded by the writer of Hebrews: God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:1-4)

Our salvation is inextricably tied up in the incarnation, for only the Son of God could pay for our sins. May Christmas be a time to celebrate His birth and your salvation! So what are you doing “Now?”

Save

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.

Save

Save

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!

Save

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.

Save

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.