Christmas with a Capital C

Yes, I am recovering from my illness, slowly but surely!  I’m not 100% yet but I can’t miss the chance to delight in Christmas.  When else can one walk in the public spaces, malls and schools singing about Christ together with everyone else?  Even when I was in Thailand, a mostly Buddhist country, they had Christian Christmas carols playing everywhere! Amazing.

And yet…there is this battle between “Merry Christmas” vs “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays.” Why do North Americans insist on taking Christ out of this season?  As  the comedian says in Go Fish’s Christmas With a Capital C, “No one wants to say Merry Christmas because of the name of Christ.  After 2000 years he’s still intimidating people!” (approximate paraphrase!).

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  Luke 2:8 – 14 NIV

I could say a lot about Christmas; many have.  But what seems to touch my heart right now is the phrase that the angel said, “Do not be afraid.”

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive
Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God
appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

There are many in the world who are living in exile right now.  When you mention Christmas it reminds them of many things:  they’re away from family, they’re tired, lonely, sad, desperate, lost.  I think for some there is a fear in saying the name of Christ.  There is a power about it.  It makes us feel the depth of our emptiness if we are separate from God.

“Happy Holidays” is easier to say.  There is no suggestion of Lordship or obligation or conviction.  No mysterious sense of missing something.  We don’t have to really love to say “Seasons Greetings”.

I encourage you to remember this season that Christ is the reason for our joy and celebration at this time.  Not what we have or don’t have.  Not where we live or whether we are single or married.  But rather the hope that God promised us all those centuries ago that is fulfilled in His perfect Son, Jesus Christ.  And that this joy is for all people.  Let’s not be afraid!  Let’s love those who are hardest to love.  If God can do it, surely with His help, so can we!  And let’s remind people that this is the season of joy, of Christmas! Of the best gift of all time:  the gift of Christ!

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His Mercy is Our Song

Music by Mary!

Music by Mary!

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.  Psalm 100 KJV

As do millions of other humans planet-wide, I love music.  We used to sing the above Psalm at Bible camp and therefore the words are still firmly wedged in my mind.  Music can get a hold of you in a way that no other medium can.  Why else would radio stations still exist in this world of high-flying technology and digital video players?  We like to crank our favourite songs and A).  dance wildly, B).  cry our eyes out, or C).  write a blog…

BUT is music of God? Should we be so involved in it as Christians?

OF COURSE (see the above Psalm).  How do I know this…

Music, as mentioned in the Bible, goes quite a ways back in history.  Many of the Psalms written by David starts out with a note “for the director of music” which logically suggests that he anticipated that his writings would be put to music and sung.

By David’s time there was even a designated group of Levites who were set aside for the praise and worship team.  31 These are the men David put in charge of the music in the house of the Lord after the ark came to rest there. 32 They ministered with music before the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, until Solomon built the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. They performed their duties according to the regulations laid down for them. 1 Chronicles 6: 31, 32 NIV

We find this worship team mentioned many times throughout 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah.

12 All the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives—stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. 13 The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang:
“He is good;    
his love endures forever.”
Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud,14 and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.
2 Chronicles 5:12 – 14 NIV

“…for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God”…and aren’t we God’s temple?

We find mention of music and singing continuing on into New Testament times as well.  After Jesus ate the Last Supper with his disciples they sang a hymn.  When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.  Matthew 26:30 NIV

OK, time for the big debate–AS CHRISTIANS, WHAT TYPE OF MUSIC SHOULD WE SING or PLAY?

What does God say?

Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 5:18b – 20 NIV

Let the peace of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another wth all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your in your heart to God. Colossians 3:16 NIV 84

We are to sing “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (songs from the Spirit)” which kind of covers it all, from the Bible’s Psalm 100, to the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness, to the chorus Blessed Be the Name, to Manafest’s Human.  Do you notice, though, that it is not the type of song we sing that seems to be the most important thing, but rather that we sing with the right attitude–thanksgiving and gratitude to God.

It is good to praise the Lord
and make music to your name, O Most High,
proclaiming your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night,
to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
and the melody of the harp.

For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;
I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
How great are your works, Lord,
how profound your thoughts!
But you, Lord, are forever exalted.  Psalm 92:1 – 5, 8 NIV

So, there is a reason why music touches our souls–God designed us this way!  Our souls long to sing praises to our God, to share His incredible love for us, as Group1Crew writes in their song His Kind of Love:

There are no words, no phrase I could create
There is no melody that I could make
How do you sing about the love so deep
Without feeling like you missed something
I could try but I could not explain

His kind of love 
Is reckless for us
His kind of love it will never give up
‘Til the whole world knows how far He went to show
His kind of love

This is our God
He is strong and His mercy is our song
He won’t stop chasing us
That’s just His kind of love

God sings to us through bird song, whispering winds, the voices of our loved ones, through music.  He has given us so much and loves us with a depth that we can’t even imagine.  We learn in Luke 19:37 – 40 from Jesus that if His disciples didn’t cry out in song, the rocks would!

Do we want to leave the rocks to cry out the blessings of the Lord?  No, this is our job.

Therefore, sing and make music to the Lord!  Lift up your voice in song!  Sing of our God in a mighty voice as a fragrant offering to our God!  Try to explain in words how amazing is the grace of our God!  May He feel our thanks and our gratitude and may others feel His mercy and grace!