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Stories of Our Favorite Carols

Worship Christ the Newborn King

Today's Scripture - Matthew 2:2

Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

Today's Devotional

Our Scripture today is Matthew 2:2 which are the words of the wise men upon their arrival in Jerusalem after Jesus was born. They asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” Yes, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the King of Kings. It’s also a special time to worship this newborn king.

One favorite carol we sing every year calls us to worship. This carol is possibly the best-written, sacred Christmas carol of all time. The carol was written by an Irishman who tragically lost his missionary parents at a young age, flunked out of seminary and became a baker’s assistant. By the age of twenty this man was little more than a vagrant, moving from job to job, often unemployed, and homeless for weeks at a time.

In the early 1800’s James Montgomery finally got paid to do what he most loved to do – write stories for a newspaper. He was also learning firsthand about the hardships of being an Irishman under English rule. Montgomery began to write fiery editorials against the English. At the same time, he began to read his Bible in an attempt to understand the power that motivated his parents lives and ultimately led to their deaths.

As he read the Bible, James Montgomery had a change of heart. This change was revealed in an editorial he wrote in poetic form that was published on Christmas Eve 1816. The poem told the story of angels proclaiming the birth of a Savior for all people, English and Irish, rich and poor….

The poem was eloquent, beautiful and scripturally sound. This changed Irishman soon touched more lives for Christ with the stroke of his pen than his parents did in all their years of missionary work. The poem was titled “Nativity”. God obviously had his hand on Montgomery’s work. Twenty years after it was written, Henry Smart, one of England’s finest organists and composers, somehow discovered the poem. Inspired by the wisdom, power, fire, and beauty he saw in “Nativity,” Smart composed a tune to go with the poem. Today we sing this carol written by an Irishman and put to music by an Englishman, “Angels, From the Realms of Glory.”

God had his hand on the wise men as they searched for the newborn King. He had his hand on an Irishman and an Englishman, and he has his hand on you. Are you looking for Jesus? If you don’t know where to find him do as the wise men did. Ask someone. And when you find him worship the newborn king.

Think about these things as you sing, “Angels, From the Realms of Glory” And, my friend, come and worship – worship Christ the newborn King.

My Personal Reflection on Today's Lesson

Circle key words or phrases in today’s Bible reading. Then reflect on the following:

  • What message do these words or phrases have for me?
  • What new or re-newed insight did I gain from the readings or today’s thought?
  • What encouragement does God have for me today?

My Response to God Today

Write out a prayer to God, telling him what you learned today and asking him to meet a specific need in your life.

 

 

 

 

Born is the King of Israel

Today's Scripture - Luke 2:8-9

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.

Today's Devotional

One of the oldest Christmas ballads we sing today goes back to the 1500’s. Whoever was responsible for writing this carol was obviously incredibly enthusiastic about Christmas and fully understood the wonder of Christ’s birth, but didn’t have a full grasp of the Scriptures that told the story of that birth. During the Middle Ages, when “The First Noel” was written, there were very few Bibles in circulation. Common people rarely saw a Bible and even if they did, they probably couldn’t have read the words.

With no Bible to guide him, the writer of this carol surely drew from the stories he had been told about the events of Christ’s birth. Most things he recounted accurately, but he erred when he depicted the shepherds following the star to Christ’s birthplace.

Oh, what a privilege we have today to have personal access to God’s Word, and have the ability to read and understand it. We no longer need to be in the dark regarding what the Bible says. Now we have the responsibility to hold everything up to the light of Scripture. For example, when we sing that the shepherds looked up and saw a star shining in the east in “The First Noel” we are aware of today’s Scripture Luke 2:8-9 which says, “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.”

The Bible never mentions the star with the shepherds, only with the wise men. Nevertheless we can enjoy singing “The First Noel” because the spirit of this old hymn more than makes up for its deficiencies.

For the first three hundred years of its existence, “The First Noel,” was not allowed in most churches. Because the clergy disregarded this beautiful carol, it became the holiday voice of the people. Over the years English peasants adopted the Scandinavian custom of ushering in the Christmas season by lighting a Yule log. “The First Noel” became the song that was sung as a part of this custom. It was simply passed from generation to generation until it was finally published in 1833.

Today this song, obviously inspired by the story of the birth of a Savior and probably written by a common, illiterate man, remains one of the most loved carols of all time. Although we must keep in mind that the shepherds didn’t follow a star, we can also remember that “The First Noel” represents the real essence of Christmas: the announcement of Christ’s arrival on earth. The tradition of the Yule log may have died out, but the message of “The First Noel” still burns brightly.

Noel, noel, born is the King of Israel.

My Personal Reflection on Today's Lesson

Circle key words or phrases in today’s Bible reading. Then reflect on the following:

  • What message do these words or phrases have for me?
  • What new or re-newed insight did I gain from the readings or today’s thought?
  • What encouragement does God have for me today?

My Response to God Today

Write out a prayer to God, telling him what you learned today and asking him to meet a specific need in your life.

 

 

 

 

A Mighty Christmas!

Today's Scripture - Luke 2:10-12

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.”

Today's Devotional

I imagine you’ve sung the carol “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” already this Christmas season. Did you know that this is one of the most misunderstood carols of Christmas? It’s misunderstood because of two words and one missing punctuation mark. What we think of when we sing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is not anything like what the English peasants meant when they first sang this song more than five hundred years ago. When the unique lyrics of this wonderful carol are understood it quickly becomes more than just a jolly song, but one of the most profound and meaningful hymns in the world.

One of the misused words is the one that describes Christmas itself. When we say “Merry Christmas!” today the word merry means “happy.” When “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” was written, merry had a very different meaning. For example, Robin Hood’s Merry Men might have been happy, but the merry that described them meant “great” and “mighty.” In the Middle Ages a strong army was a merry army, a great singer was a merry singer, and a mighty ruler was a merry ruler. So when the English carolers of the Victorian era sang the words “merry gentlemen,” they meant great or mighty men.

The other misunderstood word is the word rest. This does not mean to put your feet up and relax. Although that sounds pretty good right about now! The word rest in “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” means “keep” or “make.” Now to completely uncover the mystery of meaning in this carol, a comma needs to be placed after the word merry. So in order to have the correct meaning in modern English, the first line of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” should actually read, “God make you mighty, gentlemen.”

Suddenly, understanding the true meaning of the words and intention of this old carol makes perfect sense. This wonderful carol puts to music the words of Luke 1:10-12 when the angel told the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy.” It is this news the carol says that makes us mighty men and women.

This story and many others that bring added meaning to songs we sing Christmas after Christmas are told in a wonderful little book written by Ace Collins, my discussion guest this week. If you would like a copy of Ace Collins” book “Stories Behind the Best-loved Songs of Christmas” you can e-mail me today and I’ll get one in the mail to you. I look forward to hearing from you.

May God, indeed, make you mighty as you remember Christ our Savior who was born on Christmas day…O what tidings of comfort and joy the news of his birth is.

Have a MIGHTY Christmas, dear friend.

My Personal Reflection on Today's Lesson

Circle key words or phrases in today’s Bible reading. Then reflect on the following:

  • What message do these words or phrases have for me?
  • What new or re-newed insight did I gain from the readings or today’s thought?
  • What encouragement does God have for me today?

My Response to God Today

Write out a prayer to God, telling him what you learned today and asking him to meet a specific need in your life.

 

 

 

 

Mary, Did You Know?

Today's Scripture - Luke 2:19

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Today's Devotional

One of the most precious verses in the Bible to me is Luke 2:19. Mary, Jesus mother, had been visited by an angel, became pregnant without a man, married Joseph, traveled to Bethlehem, gave birth and had just had a bunch of shepherds rush in to see her new baby. As these men left amazed and in a hurry to tell others about what they’d discovered, we are told that “…Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Dear, dear Mary – I wonder what she was thinking about.

One of my favorite Christmas songs asks that very question, “Mary, Did You Know?” Not only is this a wonderful song, the story behind the song is also inspiring. In his book Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas Ace Collins writes, “…this song’s gift to the world might have been lost forever if a set of loving parents had not chosen to believe in the promise and potential God placed in their child.”

Mark Lowry, a singer with the Gaither Vocal Band, started singing almost before he learned to talk. When he was in grade school he was often a problem in the classroom. At about the same time he was diagnosed with hyperactivity it became apparent that the boy had absolutely no athletic ability. To some Mark appeared to be little more than an energetic klutz, but his parents emphasized the positive and helped turn what could have been a curse into a blessing.

They encouraged Mark’s obvious love of and talent in music. Over the next few years, Mark became so successful in his singing career that he had to finish junior and senior high school by correspondence.

By 1984, Mark Lowry was living in Houston and was asked by his pastor to write something for the annual Christmas pageant. Mark began to consider what it would have been like to have been Jesus’ mother and then began to write these spine-chilling words. “Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water? Mary, did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters? Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod and when you kiss your little baby, you’ve kissed the face of God?”

After the pageant Mark filed his powerful poem away for several years. In God’s time Mark eventually became a member of the Gaither Vocal Band, met songwriter Buddy Green and “Mary, Did You Know” was put to music. For the first time in decades, a new Christmas song had became an important facet of traditional Christmas celebrations.

Yes, the very things that made Mark Lowry unique could have held him back, yet because his problems were viewed as gifts by his parents, Mark thrived. “Mary, Did You Know?” a song like no other Christmas carol ever penned, written about a mother like no other, came from the hand of a man like no other.

My Personal Reflection on Today's Lesson

Circle key words or phrases in today’s Bible reading. Then reflect on the following:

  • What message do these words or phrases have for me?
  • What new or re-newed insight did I gain from the readings or today’s thought?
  • What encouragement does God have for me today?

My Response to God Today

Write out a prayer to God, telling him what you learned today and asking him to meet a specific need in your life.

 

 

 

 

Silent Night, Holy Night

Today's Scripture - Luke 2:16

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

Today's Devotional

The simple Christmas carol, “Silent Night”, has been recorded more than any other song in history. Yet, the fact that we know it at all is a real answer to prayer. Created out of necessity and performed in a tiny village on a solitary Christmas Eve, “Silent Night” owes its debut to an organ that wouldn’t play and a priest who wouldn’t hold a Christmas service without special music.

A 26-year-old Austrian priest, Joseph Mohr was making last-minute preparations for a special Christmas Eve mass that he had planned and prepared for months. As Mohr cleaned and readied the sanctuary on the very cold afternoon, he discovered the church organ wouldn’t play. The frantic young priest struggled with the old instrument for hours, but the organ remained as still as the dark winter night. Realizing there was nothing more he could do, Mohr prayed for inspiration. He asked God to show him a way to bring music to his congregation for the year’s most meaningful and important worship service. In answer to his prayer, the Lord brought to his mind a Christmas poem that he, himself, had written two years before. He dug the written words from his desk, shoved the worn paper into his coat pocket and rushed out into the cold night.

Joseph Mohr went to see the struggling young schoolteacher who played the organ at his church. He begged him to write some music for his poem. The organist prayed and was quickly inspired to write a simple tune to accompany the words of Mohr’s poem. Just after midnight, on Christmas 1818, Father Mohr and his organist stood in front of their church and introduced a simple little song. They never would have guessed that this song would be remembered not only the next Christmas in their small village, but almost two hundred years later, around the world.

Sadly, in 1848 Joseph Mohr died penniless before being recognized as the carol’s writer. He never knew that by the late 1800s “Silent Night” had been translated into more than twenty languages. In 1905 it was first recorded and by 1960, the carol was recognized as the most recorded song in music history.
Created to make a Christmas service more meaningful, “Silent Night” is as powerful and fresh today as it was on the first Christmas Eve it was sung in a little Austrian church. Few words have better captured the story of the Savior born in a manger than the simple words of “Silent Night”. The answer to the prayer of a young priest nearly 200 years ago.

Silent night, holy night! All is calm, all is bright. Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child. Holy infant so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace.

My Personal Reflection on Today's Lesson

Circle key words or phrases in today’s Bible reading. Then reflect on the following:

  • What message do these words or phrases have for me?
  • What new or re-newed insight did I gain from the readings or today’s thought?
  • What encouragement does God have for me today?

My Response to God Today

Write out a prayer to God, telling him what you learned today and asking him to meet a specific need in your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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