O Come All Ye Faithful

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My Musings – Earlier this month, I compared Christmas with Easter.  Today, I compare the First Advent with the Second Advent, by expanding the symbolism of the Advent candles.

The Prophecy Candle (Hope) – “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6–7, NIV 1984).

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.  On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11–18, NIV 1984).

The Bethlehem Candle (Faith) – “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.” (Micah 5:2, NIV 1984).

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ “ (Revelation 21:2–4, NIV 1984).

The Shepherd’s Candle (Joy) – “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8–12, NIV 1984).

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’  Then the angel said to me, ‘Write: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’  And he added, “These are the true words of God.‘ ”  (Revelation 19:9, NIV 1984).

The Angel’s Candle (Peace) – “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.‘ ” (Luke 2:13–14, NIV 1984).

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:  ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’  All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: ‘Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!‘ ” (Revelation 7:9–12, NIV 1984).

The Christ Candle (Purity) – “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’  So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”  (Luke 2:15–16, NIV 1984).

Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”  “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”  (Revelation 22:12–16, NIV 1984).

My Advice – “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Revelation 22:17, NIV 1984). Won’t you come?

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

 

Be Born In Us Today

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But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.” (Micah 5:2, NIV 1978)

My Musings – Why choose Abram, David, or Joseph and Mary?  Why not someone like Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar?  Why Israel and Bethlehem?  Why not Jerusalem or Rome?  People and places that are already famous or prominent tend to have “glory” all their own.  The star of Bethlehem might tend to shine on them instead of the one that it guided the Wise Men to.  After all, Herod had no intention of sharing his glory.

Bethlehem, a back water village.  A scarce six and one half miles from Jerusalem.  Welcoming a carpenter and his wife, travelers from another back water village nearly one hundred miles to the north.  People and places of little note that would usher in the most significant change in human history since the creation of the world.

O Little Town of Bethlehem

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above Thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by

Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And, gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love

O Holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today.

Why do we still love songs like this today?  Because they are songs of hope.  Yes, as hopeless as things may seem, hope that was born in Bethlehem are still “met in thee” today.

My Advice – Let Christ “cast out [your] sin and enter in, be born in [Him] today.”  

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

Unending Increase

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“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.”  (Isaiah 9:6–7, NIV 1984).

My Musings – This verse rolls off the tongue in poetic beauty.  But how often do we pause to reflect on each pearl of wisdom that it contains?

The government will be on His shoulders.  This has always been a blessed hope, made all the more hopeful given the current state of affairs in our country and around the world.  A government that will always be good.  Goes beyond the inner quality (His holiness) to the outward expression (His goodness), particularly in terms of His benevolence, loving-kindness and exercise of mercy.  Always just.  Used interchangeably with righteousness. He is absolutely right and just in all that He says or does.  Always righteous.  Absolute in moral purity and rightness. Separate from evil, so much so that He cannot even bear to look upon sin. God has no “dark side.”  Always truthful (what a concept!).  Means more than no falsehood, but also includes certain, faithful and reliable in fulfilling His promises. Can you imagine that kind of government?

Wonderful counselor” –  Everyone is full of opinions these days, but few are able to advise, because they cannot see beyond their own prejudices. “The Hebrew word ‘pala’ [Wonderful] indicates something uncommon or out of the ordinary. It reflects a phenomenon lying outside the realm of human explanation; that which is separated from the normal course of events; something that cannot be explained.” (John Barnett).  Imagine that kind of counsel.

Mighty God – God.  The name almost seems too plain to convey who He is.  We can attach all kinds of adjectives to His name, and all seem so inadequate.  Mighty (possessing great and impressive power or strength)?  Indeed.  So much so we cannot even begin to imagine. He is able to do anything that He wills to do and that is consistent with His character. No one can stand against Him. It is not just relative power. It is absolute. It is not possible, or even conceivable, for another to be more powerful.  “And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” (Job 26:14, NIV 1984).

“Everlasting Father” – Everlasting (lasting or enduring through all time). This means more than that God will never cease to exist. It also means that He has always existed. He had no beginning and He will have no end. God has no boundaries or limits. He is not confined to the universe He created in time or space. God did not grow to be God. He has always been perfect in all His attributes and He always will be.  Despite all this, He desires relationship with His creation.  But not just any kind, an intimate familial relationship.  Father.  That’s why He came into His creation.  Born of a woman.  A baby.  He dwelt among us through His Son.  He gave His very being to us through His Son’s death on the cross in order to secure that relationship.  This speaks of limitless love.  How could it be anything else from a limitless God?  “God is love.” (1 John 4:8, NIV 1984).  This is not merely an emotion. It is His character. The text does not say God loves. It says that God is Love.

Prince of Peace” – Prince (a son of the sovereign).  God sent His only begotten Son.  Why?  To bring us peace with Him.  Peace (the Hebrew word “shalom” meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility).  Peace is such a shallow and fragile thing in our world.  And unattainable.  We learned to number our “big” wars.  Until the real “war to end all wars.”

Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.” – Who says good things never last?  I am staggered by the inclusion of the words “increase” and “no end” in this verse.  It is so far beyond my comprehension I offer no comment other than – wow!

My Advice – You really need to be part of the increase.

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

Then Pealed The Bells More Loud And Deep!

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My Musings – “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is another of my favorite Christmas carols.  It is based on the poem “Christmas Bells” by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, written during the civil war and inspired by personal tragedy.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep,
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on it’s way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Songwriters: Traditional
© ST. NICHOLAS MUSIC INC. , Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
For non-commercial use only.

Peace on earth and goodwill to men are rare commodities these days.  As Christ foretold centuries ago, we live in an age of “wars and rumors of wars.” And our country is more divided than it has been since the civil war.  We need to be reminded of the words of Abraham Lincoln (that he borrowed from Christ – Luke 11:17). “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”  For hate indeed “is strong and mocks the song.”  If we are not careful, we can fall into the cynicism penned early in the poem by Longfellow.

As we celebrate the season of Christ’s birth, may the bells peal “more loud and deep, God is not dead nor doth He sleep.”  The world, in general, may not believe this, but not believing the truth does not make it false.

My Advice – Enjoy peace on earth.  For Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  You heard me say, I am going away and I am coming back to you.”  (John 14:27–28, NIV 1978).  He’s not dead.  He’s not asleep.  And He won’t be gone much longer. He’s coming again.  Not as a baby this time.  Not as Savior, but as judge and King.  Then “the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with [lasting] peace on earth, [and genuine] good will to men.”

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

Mary Did You Know?

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My Musings – One of my favorite Christmas carols:

Mary, Did You Know?

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

Mary did you know, Mary did you know, Mary did you know?

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am!

Mary did you know, Mary did you know, Mary did you know?

Songwriters: Buddy Greene, Mark Lowry
© Warner Chappell Music, Inc., CAPITOL CHRISTIAN MUSIC GROUP
For non-commercial use only.

My Advice – Did you know this baby boy died for you sins?  Will He be the cause of you rising or falling?  What thoughts in your heart are being revealed?  You can accept Him and “rise” with Him, or stumble and fall over Him.

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

Fix Your Eyes This Christmas

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My Musings – Kind of incredible when you think about it. “I am the Lord’s servant,” “may it be…as you have said,” and “he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him.”  Kind of an anti-climactic and matter-of-fact “okay.”  I don’t know about you, but I would feel the crushing pressure, I would be in despair, I would feel abandoned, I would like destroyed.  At best, I would reluctantly and grudgingly, acquiesce.  That’s because I have a tendency to fix my eyes on the problem and forget about the problem-solver.

My Advice – “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4 :16, 17, NIV 1978).  So where do you think Mary and Joseph had their eyes fixed?  Maybe, just maybe, we should do the same?  It worked out pretty well for them.  Doing God’s will usually always does.