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Easter better than Christmas??

Is it not strange, the darkest hour
That ever dawned on sinful earth,
Should touch the heart with softer power,
For comfort, than an angel’s mirth?
 That to the Cross the mourner’s eye should turn,
Sooner that where the stars of Bethlehem burn?

John Keble, Good Friday

As much as I LOVE Christmas, this season of Jesus’ death and resurrection brings me even greater tidings of comfort and joy!   Jesus birth was a glorious and beautiful foretaste of what He actually Finished at Calvary and the surprising dawn of His Resurrection.  And though there’s nothing quite like the all-cozy-inside feeling I have when I hear Christmas carols, the hymns and praise of Easter ring out assurances of Hope, Love, and eternal Life!

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I serve a Risen Saviour! Christ the Lord is risen today!! Hallelujah!! Hallelujah!!  Because He lives I can face tomorrow!  He’s Alive! He’s Alive!  Arise, My Soul, Arise!!

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I shared the last song, by Charles Wesley, under a different post, melody and musicians.  Today’s rendition is compliments of Sovereign Grace Music (where you can purchase their newest CD for only $5)!   The tune is new, soulful, and brilliant!  But the classic words and message remind us that we are ever inscribed on Christ’s hands and forever accepted in the Beloved!

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Arise, my Soul, Arise

by Charles Wesley

Arise, my soul, arise
Shake off your guilty fears
The bleeding sacrifice
On my behalf appears
Before the throne my surety stands
Before the throne my surety stands
My name is written on His hands
~~
He ever lives above
For me to intercede
His all redeeming love
His precious blood to plead
His blood atoned for every race
His blood atoned for every race
And sprinkles now the throne of grace
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CHORUS
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O my soul, arise
Behold the risen Christ
Your Great High Priest
Your spotless sacrifice
O my soul, arise
God owns you as His child
Shake off your guilty fears
My soul, arise
~~
Five bleeding wounds He bears
Received on Calvary
They pour effectual prayers
They strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry
“Don’t let that ransomed sinner die!”
~~
My God is reconciled
His pard’ning voice I hear
He owns me as His child
I can no longer fear
With confidence I now draw nigh
With confidence I now draw nigh
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.
~~
from From Age to Age, released 10 April 2012 .Verses by Charles Wesley (1742), music and additional words by Eric McAllister © 2012 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)
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And
 If you want to read another beautiful Easter poem, check Beth Stone’s blog for an amazing Love poem by C.S. Lewis.  It is simply, profoundly…beautiful.

Love’s as warm as tears,  Love  is tears….

What special song or poem speaks to you about Christ’s love, Easter, and His Resurrection?

Christmas Carols Grace Notes – 2

[This article was first posted on Dec 13, 2010.  Sharing it again, because the song is That good. Blessings!]

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Is the world listening to the carols of the season, ignoring them, or simply apathetic to their content?

How much more intense could the gospel message be, than to declare the sufferings of Jesus through concrete visuals like “nails…spear…pierce…and Cross?” Yet that’s what this modest, lilting, 17th century Celtic melody proclaims with bold lyrics penned by William Chatterton Dix (1865).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and lamb are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

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.

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One reason the world doesn’t hear this gospel message is that many recording artists simply skip over the second stanza about Jesus’ suffering.   Perhaps they think the verse doesn’t lend itself to the joyful Christmas spirit.  Or maybe they don’t embrace its meaning..or the cross.

Thankfully, Third Day sings the entire song on their CD, Christmas Offerings.  I just uploaded their track of today’s carol in the music box so you can listen along, and worship, not just the Babe, but the Word made flesh and our King of Kings!

[Bebo Norman also sings a beautiful rendition of this, but, disappointedly, he omitted the crucial second stanza.  But I still love his testimony, voice and music, so I uploaded his version from the newly released CD, Christmas from the Realms of Glory (Extended Edition) . ]

Enlarge My Life

“How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it.”  G.K. Chesterton,  Orthodoxy

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”  John 3:30 

The Season is picking up speed, rushing forward with frenzy and tension; we’re being constantly reminded of gifts we forgot to buy or people we forgot to write; we’re facing difficulties, sorrow or grief in stark contradiction to festivities around us; the checkbook is empty; good intentions fall flat.  Our failing self seems to loom larger, while meaningful life grows smaller.

I’m not sure how you handle any of this, but the Lord keeps calling me to quiet my soul, trust His care, and turn my focus back to Him.  But since that all sounds a bit abstract, I’ve come up with a few concrete ways for Him to increase, and me to decrease:

1.  Rest and recall:

Os Guiness wrote in Long Journey Home,

The decisive part of our seeking is not our human ascent to God, but His descent to us.  Without God’s descent, there is no human ascent.

We keep trying and trying to ascend to some performance mark.  That mark is different for each of us–it could range anywhere from how soon we finish the gift shopping, to how well we put on a smile in the midst of deep, deep pain or grief.  But it’s not about making the mark, performing, ascending. This Season, and everyday of the year, is ALL about the Love the Father demonstrated to us, while we were yet clueless (my words).  He Gave entirely.  We receive, entirely.  He did Everything.  We can do nothing.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.  2 Corinthians 8:9

2.  Worship:

What other season of the year do stores and public venues inadvertently pipe songs of worship and praise to the Newborn King?  [Though, they’re becoming less prevalent due to the growing secularization of Christmas.]

Listen to the words.  Fill your car, home, cubical, iPod, or kitchen with songs of angels.  Join shepherds and kings, rich and poor, old and young, in the magnificent Wonder of all that is Christmas!  What joy we miss if we fail to truly hear and rejoice aloud that A Child is Born, God and Sinner are Reconciled,  the Desire of Nations has come, God with man is now residing, Born that man no more may die, Glories stream from heaven afar, King of Kings salvation brings, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn! 

If you lack music in your world, you can find some in my Music Box, which has a broad mix of Christmas and other worship songs.  Both iTunes and Amazon have loads of Christian music artists who praise our Lord with new songs and old!  Try out Folk Angel, Keith and Kristyn Getty, and David Crowder Band, for some new takes on the old faithfuls.

3.  Give, give, give:

     Give praise to the Lord,

                           give yourself,

                                                give to the poor!

Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! Psalm 29:2

Worship is a gift to the Lord Jesus, whose Birth we celebrate, whose advent, we require.

Give.  We can give kindness, gentleness, goodness, compassion, and understanding.  A smile, a tear, a note of thanks, a hug.  A prayer.

Something surreal and unexplainable happens in our heart and soul, the grief and sorrow fade just a bit, whenever we give our time, attention, or God-given blessings to someone with less   May the Lord open our eyes to our “neighbor,” the lonely, unloved, the poor, near or far, or anyone He brings our way.

And we can give easily, anonymously, and practically to those who suffer most–the hungry, oppressed, needy, abused or persecuted.  A little of our “mortal wealth” can bring great gladness and joy!

Here are a few ‘giving’ websites which help enlarge my life, while making my selfish self a bit smaller:

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/

http://www.compassion.com/

http://donate.worldvision.org/OA_HTML/xxwv2ibeCCtpSctDspRte.jsp?lpos=sponsor-a-child_top_img_gift_catalog&go=gift&&section=10389

http://www.christianfreedom.org/

http://freesetglobal.com/usa/home-USA.html

[And a big thanks to Beth Stone who shared the last two suggestions on her website!  Thank you Beth!]

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Dear Lord and Father, Thank you for all your blessings, great and small.  Help me to decrease, and You to increase in my little “kingdom of one.”  Enlarge my life, to see beyond me, beyond the present, to people who need you here and now, and forever.   Above all, help me not to be ashamed of Jesus Christ, who is the Hope of this Season and every day, the only way, truth, and life. Proclaim Him through my life, worship and giving.  In His eternal name, Amen.

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On breaks, no condemnation, Christmas, and Folk Angels

Hello! Remember me?

I’ve been away from blogging waaay too long (over 4 months!) and I’m not even sure how to do this anymore!   I’ve been away so long, that I actually considered quitting blogging all together–after all, who’s NOT blogging these days, so are my two cents really necessary?  And if I keep blogging, where do I start? Should I explain myself, my absence, my life, or just hit the proverbial deck running?  And then, what about all the things I’ve been musing on, mulling over, journalling, or events that have either broken my heart with cries, tears and grief, or encouraged me to die more to self and live more for Him?

Seriously, if I consider any of these options right now, I’d rather close my laptop and procrastinate a few more months. Instead, I really need to ease back into this, so I’m going to focus on all the wonder, hope, and Joy of Christmas!  Everything else can wait…

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Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.

  (Romans 8:1-3)

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Romans 8 may seem like an unlikely Christmas passage, but it’s a perfect reminder about “the reason for the Season;”  God sent His own Son into the world as a sin offering for us!  Such a proclamation required angles upon angels to sing of the Wonder!  Oh, Holy Night!

The artists who’ve recorded this carol is nearly innumerable, but the ones I love hearing are a bit more limited–John Denver, Clay Aiken, Josh Groban, to mention a few.  And now, Folk Angel!  Yes, let me introduce you to Folk Angel, a band who has already released three Christmas CDs.  This is from their website:

Our desire as a band is to make known the greatness of Jesus Christ and to exalt Him through the music that we create. We write and rearrange traditional Christmas songs, and through that creative process we retell the Gospel story that illuminates all things.

Their music fulfills their mission!  Click on the album cover to view or purchase their music.  And you can listen to “O Holy Night” in the Music Box above.

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O Holy Night

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining

It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

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Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!

O night divine, O night when Christ was born!

O night, O holy night, O night divine!

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Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,

With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand

So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,

Here came the wise men from Orient land.

The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,

In all our trials born to be our friend!

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Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!

O night divine, O night when Christ was born!

O night, O holy night, O night divine!

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Truly He taught us to love one another;

His law is love and His Gospel is peace.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother

And in His Name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,

Let all within us praise His holy Name!

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Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!

O night divine, O night when Christ was born!

O night, O holy night, O night divine!

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… Oh yes, and I promise I won’t be away for another 4 months…

God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen!!

 

I’ve chosen God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen for my Christmas Song and Gift to you!!  Listen to a great version by Mercy Me in the Music Box!

The words of this song are a bit lost in translation for the 21st century.  “Rest” and “Merry” just don’t mean the same thing as they did in the 15th century when it was written.  So, this is not a song about some Merry Gentlemen being commanded to get some rest  🙂 

The phrase, rest you merry loosely means “May God Keep You Merry!”  Additionally, rest, is derived from the Latin meaning, to stand firm, and merry often meant ‘mighty’ (like Robin Hood’s “merry” men). So the song is actually exhorting people to know and proclaim God’s ability to help us Stand Firm and be Mighty for the Lord!   As it says in Romans 16:25:

Now all glory to God, who is able to make you strong, just as my Good News says. This message about Jesus Christ has revealed his plan for you, a plan kept secret from the beginning of time.  (TLB)

 
May you be merry, mighty, assured, and standing firm, knowing that Jesus was born to be your Saviour!   

  

God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen 

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

 In Bethlehem, in Israel,
This blessed Babe was born
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn
The which His Mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

“Fear not then,” said the Angel,
“Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan’s power and might.”
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind:
And went to Bethlehem straightway
The Son of God to find.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

And when they came to Bethlehem
Where our dear Saviour lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy!

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!!

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!

Once upon a time, two missionary brothers, John and Charles Wesley, were introduced to worship by a few German Moravian Christians while crossing the Atlantic Ocean.  The Wesley brothers were impressed with the hymn singing of the Moravians, even while sailing through fierce Atlantic storms.  They realized that hymn singing could be an uplifting, spiritual experience.

Fast forward a few years…Charles Wesley’s hymns was first published in 1739, and brother John followed suit with his own hymnal, which he prefaced with this directive:

Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, then when you sung the songs of Satan.

 Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. [1]

Today’s Christmas carol shares the gospel of grace and calls for hearty singing with good courage!  Let us focus today on Jesus, the newborn King, Prince of Peace, our everlasting Lord, and Son of Righteousness, bringing Light, Life, and healing to us all!! And we will live happily ever after!

 

Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing!
          
 by Charles Wesley

 Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”
 
 Christ by highest heav’n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”
 
 
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
 

 

I uploaded two versions of this song in the music box.  Chris Tomlin’s rendition is from his Christmas CD,  Glory in the Highest.  And I had to include a personal favourite, sung by Johnny Cash.

[1]  from John Wesley’s Select Hymns, 1761

Christmas Carols Grace Notes – 3

Today’s Christmas hymn is little known and rarely never sung.  It was written by John Newton, who also penned “Amazing Grace” and countless other beauties.  In this mediation/song, Newton expresses his wonder and sadness at the human apathy towards the Lord’s incarnation.  He rightly claims that our praises should outshine the angels, for Christ came in OUR image, and for OUR redemption!

 

Flesh of our Flesh   

Jesus, who passed the angles by,
Assumed our flesh, to bleed and die;
And still He makes it His abode;
As a man, He fills the throne of God.

Our next of kin, our Brother now,
Is He to whom the angels bow;
They join with us to praise His Name,
But we the nearest interest claim.

But ah! how faint our praises rise!
Sure ’tis the wonder of the skies,
That we, who share His richest love,
So cold and unconcerned should prove.

Oh glorious hour! it comes with speed
When we from sin and darkness freed,
Shall see the God who died for man,
And praise Him more than angels can.      [1]

 

[1]  C.H. Spurgeon, compiler, Our Own Hymn Book, Reprint and 2nd Ed, Pilgrim Publications, Texas, 2002.  Page 66.