Encouragement for Thursday

A couple evenings ago I found myself in one of those odd random conversations that seem to find me every now and again. I was at Books a Million looking at photography magazines. An older woman (by “older” I mean older than me; in this case about 25 years older, I would guess) approached me and exclaimed “I can’t find any Betty White magazines!” I must have had a confused expression on my face when I replied, “Betty White?” She answered more emphatically: “Yes. BETTY WHITE. She’s a person.” I replied, “Yes, I’ve heard of her.” Then she informed me, “She’s a hundred!” I confess I didn’t realize that. I noticed she was searching in a section next to where I was looking, labeled “History.” It had magazines mostly about the Old West, or the World Wars as far as I could tell. Maybe it seemed to her the logical place to find a Betty White magazine. I noticed just to my left was a section labeled “Entertainment.” It seemed to have some magazines about people like Queen Elizabeth and Alex Trebek. I suggested that there might be one over there since she was an actress. As she moved to the section, I said “Here’s one about Alex Trebek.” She replied “Oh,” and picked it up and started looking through it. I started moving to another section of the store. I don’t know—maybe she thought I worked there. She probably got to the checkout and said, “You know, that man you have back by the magazines isn’t much help. I never did find a Betty White magazine!”

Yesterday I reflected some on that conversation. It struck me that Betty White was probably a source of hope or inspiration for the woman. I researched a bit and learned that on January 17, 2022, Betty will indeed turn 100. I also learned that People Magazine will have a cover story about her in the January 10, 2022 edition. Maybe that is what the woman was looking for, and just jumped the gun a bit. I also learned a few things about Betty. In the interview for the article she said “I’m so lucky to be in such good health and feel so good at this age.” A trait she has been known to display throughout her life is her general optimism. She said she was “born a cockeyed optimist.” “I got it from my mom, and that never changed. I always find the positive.” She also has a legacy of support for wildlife and animal welfare efforts. Actor and friend Ted Danson says, “It’s not like she’s a bubbly, joyful person. She wakes up every day and chooses to be that way. I think she leads a very purposeful life.”

The positive expectation of a purposeful life reminded me of the words of King David:

“Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.

Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.”

— Psalm 27:11-14

David’s life was filled with war, violence, and threats to his life coming from inside as well as outside his own nation. He felt helplessness from the lack of control of his own situation. Despite these difficulties he maintained his positive outlook through faith in the Lord— “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” He expected God to take care of him well while he was yet on Earth.

We have been through another year dealing with the realities of the COVID epidemic. I don’t think it will ever entirely leave us. Our efforts to deal with it both physically and mentally will determine our success and happiness moving forward. As we look forward to 2022 I suggest that we remember the words of David that we should expect to see the goodness of God, and wait for Him. The words of Ted Danson about Betty White’s positive attitude also stick with me: “She wakes up every day and chooses to be that way. I think she leads a very purposeful life.” At the beginning of this week, I would have said I have learned a lot from David. I wouldn’t have said that I’ve learned anything from Betty White. That has changed.

Take heart and be encouraged!

Encouragement for Thursday

Sometimes it takes a while for a person to find their niche. As a child Mark Lowry struggled as a student. He has spoken often about being the “Poster Boy of Hyperactivity.” In our current day this condition is called ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). He credits a teacher with showing him enough patience to give him some confidence and the will to keep trying. He credits his mother for her longsuffering patience in raising and guiding a somewhat difficult child. Both of these women had a profound effect on the direction of his life.

He would eventually attend Liberty Baptist College (now Liberty Baptist University). He has often said that his classroom efforts were not stellar. More importantly for his future, during his time there he traveled with a college evangelistic team. He did sing with the group, but found that audiences were often more entertained by his monologues between songs than by his singing. As time passed he developed into a very effective communicator– spreading God’s word through both speaking and singing. He was able to reach audiences by using both his own weaknesses and abilities to entertain and encourage.

In the years to come he would be asked by Bill Gaither to join his group, the Gaither Vocal Band. As he toured with them he became a sidekick to Bill, at times acting as a traditional comic to Bill’s straight man. Lou Costello to Bud Abbott, or Bill Murray to Harold Ramis by comparison. He performed with the Gaithers in two different stints for a total of nearly 20 years. He continues to tour on his own, sharing his faith in concerts that are a combination of comedy and music.

Through the years Mark continued to contribute in other ways. He wrote a number of books geared toward children, some with a focus toward addressing ADHD. He also wrote songs. Not long after college he was asked to write a script for a church Christmas play. In between the scenes he wrote were questions that he thought he would ask Mary if he would have been able to speak to her. They came from discussions he had with his own mother over many years, considering the birth of Jesus.

Those questions were gathered into a song that he called “Mary Did You Know?” Music for the song was later written by Buddy Greene. The song was written from the viewpoint of a common Texan (himself) asking questions based on his own train of thought, marveling at what would come to be known about Jesus throughout his life. It was not intended to be either theologically complete or grammatically perfect, and it is neither. What Mark included in his song was simply the Gospel. Many Christmas carols and songs focus on certain elements of the story of Jesus’ birth. Others focus on certain qualities or effects that He brought. I don’t think there is any Christmas song (or possibly any other hymn or song, period) that does a more complete job of preaching the Gospel of Christ. It stresses the humble beginning of His life as a human, and concludes with the truth that He was divine. In the verses between we are reminded of the impact of His ministry from the miracles He performed, His power and position, and the fact that He was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. I can’t think of a more complete sermon about Jesus in any other song.

“Mary Did You Know” has been covered and recorded by many different types of musicians, from Cee Lo Green to Dolly Parton to Pentatonix. I have had the privilege to hear the song performed live by Mark twice. It always makes an impact on me to hear a song performed by its creator. The rendition I am sharing was performed by Mark and a group called Voctave. I have seen and heard other songs performed by Voctave (without Mark, of course), and they are a very blessed and talented group. I don’t believe I have heard them or Mark ever sound better than they do in this performance. That seems fitting. It gives me goosebumps. Watch and let it remind you of God’s greatest gift:

Take heart and be encouraged!

December 19, 2021 Worship Service

This is our service order for Sunday, December 19, 2021, the third Sunday of Advent, at Calvary Community Church.

Livestream at our website or the YouTube Channel.

Download: Worship Guide for December 19

Online giving is available here.

_____

CALL TO WORSHIP — Micah 5:2, 4-5

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

God Evermore

GRACE & ASSURANCE

Luke 1:78-79 CSB
Because of our God’s merciful compassion,
the dawn from on high will visit us
 to shine on those who live in darkness
and the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.

See Amid the Winter’s Snow

QUIET PREPARATION — Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before others,
so that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

SERMON

“Him Who Lives Forever” – Daniel 4:1-37

Emmanuel

BENEDICTION

Encouragement for Thursday

As we look around to appreciate the sights, and listen to sounds of the Christmas season, there are certain reminders that have become part of our tradition. Christmas trees, wreaths, holly, ivy, mistletoe, and lights in a myriad of colors are visual reminders that we begin to see even before Thanksgiving. As we walk through local stores, or listen to radios (or cell phones) in our car or home we hear Christmas music. Some of the songs are versions of traditional carols while others are popular songs that have become standards. Some relate parts of the biblical account of Christ’s birth while others tell about fictional characters. I think I have heard at least 5 versions of Frosty the Snowman this year (I like the Leon Redbone/Dr. John duet the best). One item that is both a visual reminder in decorations as well as an icon applied to songs is bells.

Bells serve at least a few different roles in the season as their sounds ring out. As we considered last week with “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” the bells that reached Henry Wadsworth Longfellow were church bells. Church carillons that play hymns with tuned bells date back to the 1600’s. Another of our popular Christmas songs is “Silver Bells,” which was introduced in the movie “The Lemon Drop Kid.” The melody was first sung by William Frawley (remember Fred Mertz?) with some decidedly harsher lyrics than we remember now. After Bob Hope stops his singing, Marilyn Maxwell sings it along with Bob, using the lyrics with which we are familiar. The bells in that song and movie recognize another role of bells. They are rung on sidewalks and street corners by Santa Clauses hoping to collect donations for the poor. This tradition is still observed by The Salvation Army.

Another role of bells is their use as a signal or communication device. For many years they were used as emergency warning signals for ships on the ocean or large lakes. They were often the last warning of disaster for ships in dire trouble in the night or fog. They are also used as warning signals by trains, and at train crossings. Bells often signal more joyous events such as weddings, New Year’s Day, and Christmas. A former use of bells has become obscure in our modern era. In medieval times people in some cultures believed that the ringing of bells brought protection from evil spirits. Our discussion today focuses on their role in announcing joyous events.

Shchedryj was a very old Ukrainian folk song or chant dating back a few hundred years. Shchedryj translates to bountiful in English. It was used as a celebration of the New Year, which historically began in mid March. In 1916 Ukrainian composer Mykold Leontovich picked up the content of the original and wrote a new version. It included the folk imagery of a swallow flying into a home, which was supposed to bring bounty and good luck for the family living in it. He called his new composition “Shchedryk.” It was first performed by Kiev University students in 1916. Leontovich toured with a choir around the world and eventully the song was performed at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1921. It was very well received everywhere it played.

American choral director and arranger Peter Wilhousky heard and loved it. It reminded him of bells. He began to work on English lyrics for the tune. His American version was published in 1936, with the title “Carol of the Bells.” Eventually it became a Christmas standard in America.

Various Scriptures mention cymbals, gongs, and tambourines, which usually appear as instruments for worship. Bells appear less frequently. When they do they are used to recognize God’s holiness.

“Make the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth, with an opening for the head in its center. There shall be a woven edge like a collar around this opening, so that it will not tear. Make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them. The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe. Aaron must wear it when he ministers. The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the Lord and when he comes out, so that he will not die” (Exodus 28:31-35).

In the discussion about the Feast of Booths in Zechariah 14, we read:

“And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, ‘Holy to the Lord'” (Zechariah 14:20a).

Although we don’t often think of these uses today, I think they help us appreciate the role that bells can serve. In celebrating the birth of Jesus, bells once again signal the presence of God’s holiness among us. “Carol of the Bells” recognizes that purpose– the bells ring out to announce His birth to all people and all homes.

Some versions of this song sound a bit ominous, and I have heard people describe it as unsettling or even scary. I like this performance by the group Celtic Woman. I am not sure if it is because I have a goodly amount of Celtic heritage in my ancestry, or that I just like the feeling the fiddle adds. Please listen:

Take heart and be encouraged!

News and Updates

This Sunday is it!

First, we will continue in the book of Daniel and spend time thinking thru Daniel 4:1-37. Have I mentioned that I love this chapter?

Second, at 6 pm is our Christmas candlelight service. I cannot wait! I cannot wait to sing with you (especially O Holy Night) and listen to God’s Word with you. Oh, that someone would be greatly affected by this evening. May God bless your outreach for this evening!

Two Updates

Take some time to hear from our missionaries in Uganda here:

And take some to read from our missionaries in Ghana right here:

Dear Family, Friends, and Ministry Partners,                                      December 11, 2021

It is hard to believe that the season of our Savior’s Birth is upon us once again. The year has flown by and here we are looking at the new year around the corner. The strange thing for Penny and I is our days in Ghana roll by with kind of a grinding sameness to them. We don’t typically celebrate Thanksgiving unless we are with other Americans, no Veterans Day, no Memorial Day, no American Independence Day, etc.  It seems that over the years here in Ghana, Christmas has begun to be embraced by the general population. It is largely an opportunity to make money on the sale of different items, but in the church, we have a deeper appreciation for the birth of Jesus and all that it brings with it. To just touch on one doctrinal point that ties in so well with the birth of Jesus: the humanity of the God-man. This cannot be stressed too much because Scripture says “…But (He) was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin”. The perfect Sacrifice for our sins. Humanity in Perfection, Deity in humanity, the God-man.

 In our first term [2003-2007] in Baa’yiri [Upper West Region, remote village] we had set up a fake Christmas tree and decorated it as we would usually do. This was partly to have a taste of home and partly because our five children expected it! People from the village, and not just church people, came into the house to have pictures taken in front of the lit-up tree. This was before cell phones functioned as cameras. Those too poor to develop their picture made my dear wife feel bad and she made it her personal ministry to take pictures of the people and promised to get the photos back to them after development. The reason for this reaction- none had ever seen a decorated Christmas tree before, after all, what is Christmas? Though we may “Americanize” the celebration, it is a reminder that most of the world doesn’t have a clue about the meaning of Christmas. Penny and I trust your coming celebration of the Savior’s Birth will be genuine and filled with Joy and Encouragement. It is so easy to take our faith for granted until we see those who are outside Christ gaze in wonder at our response to the Redemption Story.

Penny continues to embrace her responsibilities as administrator for Emmanuel Baptist Christian School. It occupies most of her waking moments and some of her sleeping ones! The school is finishing up the year and the end of the term is December 10 and then vacation starts. Penny has begun to order books for the next year. The school can receive a good discount if cash is paid so we are gathering up the funds to do that.

The second story built on the administrative wing- which we thought would NOT be a monumental task- has turned into a gigantic “thing”. We are just trying to minimize the process and roll with the punches. It is hard to describe how different construction projects are in 3rd world countries. Human labor dominates the scene because of the lack of machinery and the lack of expertise to use the machines. The footings are finally complete and ready for the future columns. We hope to see cement in the holes today; then the columns will be formed and poured. After that the beams will be formed and poured, and finally the 2nd story floor will be formed and poured. Each step involves 3 weeks of curing the cement before the forms are stripped off. Thankfully we are headed into Harmattan season and things should dry nicely. Pray with us in the renovation “project”- safety for the workers and school children, cooperation among the tradesman, progress to be made, funds, and patience to see it all come to pass.

Rob continues to manage paperwork for field decisions and finances, plus he is helping direct the transition of the West African Baptist College into national leadership. This process can be tedious and time consuming, though it is necessary. It also has the potential for cross cultural misunderstanding and fractured relationships. Pray with us for continued good relations and measurable progress to be made. There is a time frame that has already been enacted for this transition to go forward. There is a tendency in collaborative efforts to delay decisions and slow down the process. Pray that we will expedite what is necessary and make good decisions across the board for a smooth transition. There is a definite need for Holy Spirit wisdom in this situation.

Rob also continues to teach Bible Institute at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Berekum. We will complete our study of ZOEOLOGY [Christian Life] near the end of January. He will be gearing up for holiday ministry as the season descends upon us.

The leadership team of the three churches decided that the Jinijini pastor (Pastor Steven and his wife Mercy) needed some physical help with ministry. The leadership asked if we would be willing to just stay with the Jinijini congregation and give Steven and Mercy the added boost they need. We agreed and thus we have already started to attend and minister there. Thus, we are no longer doing the circuit- preaching thing at each church once a month.

There is a crucial need for your prayers concerning our VBS this year. Covid wiped out the earlier opportunities so the leadership team decided that VBS would be held from December 13th to the 17th. This is typically the time when all schools have dismissed for the end of the term. It was just learned that some of the government primary schools will not start vacation until right before Christmas. A last-minute decision was made to hold VBS January 3-7. Pray with us that our plans will work well and that teachers, and leaders will be prepared; not get lazy and forget their lessons, etc. Pray for children to respond to the Gospel.

We are so very grateful for those churches and individuals who have contributed to the bus fund. It is growing and we really hope to be able to get enough money to purchase a good used bus here in Ghana. We are praying for 30,000 USD so we can get a 3- or 4-year-old bus in good condition. The fund is over half that amount right now. A reliable bus would be a game -changer for Emmanuel Baptist Christian School. Again, we thank all those who have contributed. You have been a blessing.

The construction project at the school started out as a simple addition, for which we had saved money generated by the school. It morphed into a huge thing and thus we are asking the Lord to help us see the way forward on this project. Please pray for this situation so that we can keep the progress for the school going.

We need you to pray for the following items:

  1. Evangelism during this time of year and all the outreach efforts that will be made.
  2. Emmanuel Baptist Christian School- impact in the town for the Gospel, children to grow in their faith, children, and families to come to Christ, development of our teachers and the infrastructure.
  3. The Jinijini church to grow and mature as we help Pastor Steven and Mercy.
  4. Wisdom for Rob in the WABC transition process.
  5. BMM Ghana – wisdom for the future of our missionary ministries.
  6. Our personal health to remain good.
  7. Spiritual freshness so we don’t “dry-out” in ministry.
  8. Upcoming PAUSE Conference in February 2022- Africa and Europe missionaries get together for Spiritual Refreshment. This is in Spain and will require all the Covid protocols to be followed. We have never attended one of these and are looking forward to the break, the fellowship, and the spiritual enrichment.

We continue to depend on your prayers and encouragement. The older we get, the more we realize how great a gift good health is. We are truly recipients of God’s Grace each and every day, but we continue to need energy and stamina to make things happen. Oh yeah, on December 6th, Carrie and Nate welcomed Rosa Mae Burroughs, child number 4. That makes 12 grandchildren for us!! Wow what a blessing!

Because He Lives,

Rob and Penny

December 12, 2021 Worship Service

This is our service order for Sunday, December 12, 2021, the third Sunday of Advent, at Calvary Community Church.

Livestream at our website or the YouTube Channel.

Download: Worship Guide for December 12

Online giving is available here.

_____

CALL TO WORSHIP — Isaiah 12:5-6, Habakkuk 3:17-18
“Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

Joy Has Dawned

Angels We Have Heard On High

GRACE & ASSURANCE

Galatians 4:4-5

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son,
born of woman, born under the law,
            to redeem those who were under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Who Is He In Yonder Stall

QUIET PREPARATION — Psalm 63:7-8
You have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

SERMON

“A King’s Christmas Song” – Daniel 4:1-37

Ancient of Days

BENEDICTION

Encouragement for Thursday

In 1861, Frances, the wife of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow died tragically as a result of a fiery accident. Henry could not save her and was also burned badly in the accident. He loved his wife dearly, and her death sent him into deep depression. Two years later he received a letter from his son Charles telling him that he had joined the Union army. Although Henry was a strong Abolitionist he was opposed to violence. Charles felt a strong sense of duty and an obligation to help end slavery by serving his country, but knew that his father would not approve.

In November 1863 Charles’ unit was fighting a battle in New Hope, Virginia. He was shot with a bullet that went through his back into his shoulder, grazing his spine. Henry, after receiving word of the injury at home, set out for Virginia to try to find Charles. He eventually found him being unloaded from a train with many wounded soldiers, and brought him back home to Massachusetts for medical care and recuperation. He would spend months caring for his son and nursing him back to health.

A few weeks after returning home with Charles, on Christmas day he was moved by the ringing of nearby church bells to write a poem, which he called “Christmas Bells.” It follows:

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!

And 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!

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

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
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.”

This poem was set to the tune called Waltham by John Baptiste Calkin, and became known as “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The connection to the Civil War is lost on many because the 4th and 5th verses of the poem are not sung. They are the verses that most vividly recall the violence of the war and its effect on our country. I can easily imagine that Henry had Psalm 121:1-4 in mind when he wrote his poem:

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.”

Sometimes I tend to sing many Christmas carols out of repetition, using them as a seasonal backdrop of sorts. I am thankful that I learned about the history and circumstances that produced this song. Too often I think of “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to men” as being a standard seasonal thought or greeting; something printed without much thought on a Christmas card. Seen in the light of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s grief and the shadow of the Civil War, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” means much more. Sometimes blessings are borne from grief and tragedy by those who experience them, and they touch many others. God makes Himself known through all circumstances.

I believe this contemplative rendition of the song by Harry Belafonte draws focus to the meaning of Longfellow’s poem:

Take heart and be encouraged!

God’s Servants Are God’s Kindness to Someone

My favorite Christmas hymn is “O Holy Night.” I love the words: Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

Sunday, December 19 at 6 pm is our Christmas candlelight service. There are a few things to keep in mind regrading this service. First, I want you to be there. And I want others to be there. By others we mean unchurched people – those who need Jesus and those who have given up on being a part of a church family. Lastly, I want us to pray together regarding this service and to pray in a very certain way. I want us to pray for all those who will be present, that they will see Jesus and have their souls feel its worth. Will you agree to keep those three things in mind?

There is so much to explore and keep exploring in Daniel 4. This Sunday we will back in this chapter. It is not a chapter that I intended to keep exploring, but I think it is wonder-filled!

Did you know that God has his servants everywhere? And by everywhere I mean EVERYWHERE. It is something I have been thinking about this morning. God really does have his servants everywhere building relationships with all kinds of people. And why? Because God’s servants are God’s kindness to all kinds of people to bring them truth and clarity. It is God’s kindness that is meant to lead people to repentance (cf. Romans 2:4). If you are God’s servant you are God’s kindness to someone. It is really amazing.

See you Sunday (and December 19 at 6 pm).

December 5, 2021 Worship Service

This is our service order for Sunday, December 5, 2021, the second Sunday of Advent, at Calvary Community Church.

Livestream at our website or the YouTube Channel.

Download: Worship Guide for December 5

Online giving is available here.

_____

CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 80:1-2, 19
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh,
stir up your might
and come to save us!
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts!
    Let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Shine On Us

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone. 
Isaiah 9:2

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

GRACE & ASSURANCE

Philippians 2:8-11
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

From the Squalor (Immanuel)

QUIET PREPARATION — Psalm 25:8-10

Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,

SERMON

“His Signs Are Great And His Wonders Are Mighty!” – Daniel 4:1-37

His Mercy Is More

COMMUNION

O Come Messiah

BENEDICTION

Encouragement for Thursday

As we enter the month of December, and are now in the Christmas season, I thought I would take a consistent theme through the month. I think that for a lot of us the music of Christmas plays a big role in both creating the atmosphere of the season, and as a reminder of the reason for celebration. Each week before Christmas I would like to take a closer look at a song that has become part of the season. Some will be songs that have become standards, while other may be considered carols (that is, they are messages of faith that have become recognized standards that reach beyond a hymnal). Christmas carols often reach the ears of people who might never open a hymnal or hear songs of faith otherwise.

This week’s song began as a popular song that became a standard, and at this point may cross the line into being considered a carol. During the year 1962 our country was involved in a situation that became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The U.S.S.R. intended to move atomic missiles to Cuba, which would make them easy to use to target areas of the United States. President Kennedy responded with an embargo and creating a blockade with warships around Cuba. Many in our country and around the world were afraid that the situation would escalate into a world war.

Songwriter Noël Regney was walking in New York, and seeing innocent babies touched him. He was moved to tears thinking about what could happen to them as a result of war. He was motivated to write a song with the collaboration of his wife, Gloria Shayne. Like many of our Christmas songs and carols it has a basis in Scripture. Also like many of them, it embellishes and adds some additional ideas to the Biblical account. Unlike many of them its message has an emphasis on current events at the time of the writer.

Noël and Gloria wrote “Do You Hear What I Hear” for Mercury Records to be included in a Christmas album by The Harry Simeone Chorale. It became popular as a 45 rpm single and was recorded the next year by Bing Crosby, whose rendition we commonly hear played today. Few who heard it then, and even fewer now, ever realized the tie to the missile crisis events. The lamb mentioned in the lyrics is representative of peace. The shepherd boy represents common people, and the mighty king the rich and powerful leaders who are disconnected from them. The shivering child represents the vulnerable children that Noël saw in the streets of New York. The final verse brings the hope that the king (the rich leadership) will respond with a prayer for peace above all, recognizing that the innocence of the children can rise above the world’s current ills (“the child sleeping in the night” will “bring us goodness and light”).

Noël was not an outwardly religious person, but he had a special appreciation for freedom. As a teenager during World War II he was drafted by the Nazis in occupied France to serve in their army. He escaped and ended up serving in the French Resistance instead. He had a special appreciation for peace and lack of persecution. The events surrounding the birth of Jesus described in Matthew 2 and Luke 2 are seen through the eyes of one who had seen peace and innocence crushed at an important time in his life. The birth of Jesus marks the deliverance of God’s solution to our lack of peace and innocence. Praise to God for the greatest gift imaginable!

Listen to the song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhTnDaEmA5k

Take heart and be encouraged!