music


A Christmas Day Essay

What does Christmas mean to me personally? Actually today is not really more significant as a day in the calendar than any other except for the fact that it allows many Christians to concentrate on one day out of all the others and focus on that day when The Christ actually came into this world in human flesh.

That is what the whole Christmas season means to me this year; a focus on the first Advent of Christ and I have been engaged in that for some time. For me it really is a case of Holy Obsession! Being possessed in my spirit by this great event in world history. Or as the Apostle Paul put it, being astonished in utter awe:

Great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifested in the

flesh…seen by angels, preached

among the nations, believed on in

the world, received up in glory!  

( first letter to Timothy, chapter 3)

By considering what the Biblical narrative tells us about this “great mystery”, including the details of the event itself beginning with the announcements to Mary and Joseph, the journey to Bethlehem, the political context, the ancient promises to Israel fulfilled, and all that follows.

I am still learning the discipline required to not get lost on any of the details, such as the baby and his mother, as important as that is. But by keeping my obsession centered on Jesus Christ and the entire revelation of Him as it unfolds in the Biblical story from beginning to end. Certain selected Christmas music really enhances my obsession at Christmas, another reason why I love the Advent Season. Besides my all time favorite, which is to listen to Handel’s Messiah at this season (at least once), there are certain others that have become very special.

Several years ago my daughter gave us a Christmas album by the Irish Tenors. Of all the wonderful songs on that album, my favorite has become their version of “The Holy City”. I remember my dear Mother singing this song in Church more than once. The text is based on a ‘dream so fair’ that contains three different scenes. The first, is the glad occasion of Jesus riding into Jerusalem as the children sing Hosannah or what is now celebrated as Palm Sunday. The second scene is a very somber one which ends in the “shadow of a cross”. The final vision is of the New Jerusalem, the eternal vision of John’s Revelation, chapters 21 and 22. Listen to the music and see if you can sense the same “holy obsession” that I do on this Christmas day, 2010. And may I wish all those in the weblog family, a very obsessed Christmas!

” That they may behold my glory” – The Prayer of Jesus 


Gifts of the Ascended Christ

 

The greatest desire that Christ expressed in his prayer was that his people might be with him to behold his glory. It is clear that in this prayer the Lord Christ was referring to his own glory and the actual sight of it.

Only a sight of his glory, and nothing else, will truly satisfy God’s people. One of the greatest privileges the believer has, both in this world and for eternity, is to behold the glory of Christ.

Ever since the name of Christ was known on the earth, there has never been such direct opposition to the uniqueness and glory of Christ as the present day. It is the duty of all those who love the Lord Jesus to testify according to their ability to his uniqueness and glory.

I would therefore try to strengthen the faith of true believers by showing that to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ by faith is the climax of all Christ’s requests for his disciples in this present world. Here in this life, beholding the glory of the Lord, they are changed into his own likeness by his Spirit (2Cor.3:18). Hereafter, they will be like him for they will see him as he is (1 John 3:2). This knowledge of Christ is the continual life and reward of our souls.

If, therefore we would have a more active faith and a greater love to Christ, giving rest and satisfaction to our souls, we must have a greater desire to see more of his glory in this life. We should not look for anything in heaven other than what we have some experience of (by faith) in this life. If we were fully persuaded of this we would be more often thinking about heavenly things than we usually are.

– John Owen (1684) from The Glory of Christ, the theme of the final year of his life (d.1683).

If Owen found it difficult in England in his day, how much more in our day to keep the greatest gift of all our constant priority. The Advent season is the perfect time to evaluate the year and one’s own choices to judge how well we have resisted all the distractions of the world and kept our eyes on this Leader who is both the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

 

Watch ‘Jesu, Joy of man’s desiring’.

For Brazilians: YouTube honoring Nilson Fanini (1932-2009)  “Verei Jesus como Ele e’ ” e tambem “Para Que vejam a minha gloria” http://youtu.be/3HLhhHNDvxg

Related Post: What difference has looking made?

 

 

My favorite interpretation of Mary’s Magnificat.

Gospel of Saint Luke, Chapter 1

44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be [1] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Related post: Read the First Encyclical Letter of Pope Benedict XVI, 25 Dec. 2005

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2: 9-11)

The Reign of the Lord’s Anointed- Psalms 2

2:1″ Why do the nations rage [1]
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break [2] them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

See also John’s Revelation, 5: 9-12

Read the Prayer of Saint Paul for enlightenment.

Dedicated to the memory of all veterans who gave their lives for us.

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;  and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” – The Apostle Paul

Keith Green (1953-1982), a radical disciple.

Here is one of those special gifts from Father’s right hand to the American Church in the 60’s and 70’s. He loved the Church but loved the Jesus he followed even more and was attempting to wake the Church from it’s sleep and return to authentic discipleship.

 

See this related post: The Church and Her Prophets

April 2011 Update :This was a synchroblog. Here are some of the other posts:

Listen to Keith’s ‘Make my Life a Prayer

A wonderful discovery regarding worship resources. I find encouragement from many places in the blog world and yesterday was an outstanding example. It was on a blog that I had not visited before (believe it or not) called “Stay on the Rock“, that turns out to be the blog of Lifewayworship.com. I don’t feel bad singing their praises since I have spoken several times of my appreciation for the worship resources of other denominational sources such as that of the United Methodist.

The sacrament of communion

What caught my attention first was the theme of the post: Worship at the communion table. For those that don’t already know, Lifeway is the publication arm of the Southern Baptist Convention of churches and is the largest supplier of protestant material. Many churches that are not Baptist use it as for resources.

The Baptist tradition as well as the larger evangelical church, has come under fire from those of the liturgical churches for a weak theology of worship by men the likes of J.I.Packer and John Stott, Anglicans, just to name a few. So you can imagine my delight to find someone in the inside of Lifeway worship team who is reading something outside the Baptist tradition like Robert Webber’s “Ancient-Future Worship”. The post let me know that the guys producing worship resources for the churches understand that the theology of the church is important. Just another example of how rich the different traditions are and that by being willing to consider what those outside our own limited tradition have to say can only enrich everyone.

I made a short comment on the post but I wanted to publicly say to the blogger and his team- “congratulations”, for their important contributions to the churches. If you visit the post, you will note at the bottom a link to a long list of church music deemed appropriate for the communion service including both traditional hymns and contempory choruses. Here again, the rich theology of the Lord’s Supper should dictate what is best appropriate to make this one of the most blessed experiences of our corporate life together.

So thank you Lifewayworship team for your faithfulness and for including some of this bloggers favorites such as “I Love Thy Kingdom”, “In Christ there is no east or west”, “One Day”, “The Wonderful Cross”, and “Come to the table”.

See my own post last year related to Communion

This is a good question to consider all this week as we relive the original Passion week of Jesus, the Christ. Why did He love us so much that He would endure such rejection and abuse as the sinless, holy one of God? Such questions should not encourage our own speculations but send us to the Scriptures themselves for answers. I invite you to submit comments with the Biblical answers that you find.

Meanwhile, here is a hymn that is found in many of the hymnbooks from various faith traditions, “Why Should he love me so?”. This one happens to be in Brazilian Portuguese and comes from the Seventh Day Adventist in Brazil. This is just how we sang it for twelve years with the churches in our adopted nation.

Is it not just amazing that we are seeing in the news at this time of Lent, nothing about the universal church retracing the historic steps that led to the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, but rather the latest status of Jerusalem? What was, according to the Biblical narrative, the day of Israel’s glory; the day that her divine calling for the world became a reality?

I submit to you that it was the day the infant Jesus was presented to God in the temple in accordance with the Law of the covenant and by faith in His promises to Israel. I’m thinking now of at least three converging themes on this wednesday: God’s provision of “the seed of the woman”, the person of Mary in this entire story as the “hand-maiden of the Lord”, the inauguration of the promised rule (kingdom) of God on earth, including the promised light to the Gentiles. No one captures this scene (Luke 2:21-35) better than Michael Card in this song , “Now that I’ve held him in my arms”.

If you are unable to view go here.

Related article : The Church’s Relation to Israel by Richard DeRidder

Another take on the True Community that we all are created to long for is represented in this song written and sung by an old favorite, Squire Parsons. There is just one minor adjustment that I would call your attention to, but for me it is an extremely important one; the pictures that were chosen for this video. 

According to the Biblical narrative, one of the essential elements of Jesus Christ identity has to do with his radical reconstitution of major elements of the Old Covenant faith tradition. Such integral factors as the Temple, the Law, the Priesthood, were reinterpreted by Him in such a way to announce that what these elements foreshadowed in the past, He himself was their ultimate fulfillment. This is what caused his most heated conflict with the institutional religious leaders and ultimately led to his crucifixion “outside the camp”. (see Hebrews 13: 12-14)

So when Squire Parsons sings about Beulah land, is he thinking of the old city of Jerusalem in Israel or is he longing for the Jerusalem that is above? The heavenly Zion, the eternal city of God, which is that community that God has prepared to satisfy all our longings. For me, it is obviously the one the Apostle John saw and testified to us about in the penultimate chapter of the Bible.

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