WHAT CHILD IS THIS?

Lk.2:7 – And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Everything changes when your eyes are finally opened. The world is a different place. As the saying goes; the grass looks greener, the sky looks bluer, even the birds seem to be singing differently. Christmas itself takes on new meaning, finally you see Christ in the whole celebration. My first Christmas as a Christian found me rediscovering the old Christmas carols. I really never noticed the difference between Jingle Bells and Oh Holy Night until my eyes were opened to see Christ in Christmas. I was mesmerized and even overwhelmed as I saw the gospel story so clear in many of those beloved songs. Many of these Christmas songs that are played on radios, in the malls, and even the Christmas movies are loaded with solid Bible theology; who knew! Here are the words to one of those precious Christmas carols, take time and reflect on the power of these words.

WHAT CHILD IS THIS?

1. 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.

2. Why lies He in such mean estate,

Where ox and ass 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.

3. 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.

This song carries enough spiritual ammo to preach an entire conference on the mystery of God becoming a man. It speaks of the humility of His birth, surrounded by shepherds, oxen, and donkeys. It speaks of the fear of God, His still small voice, and His death and suffering for our sins. It also speaks of the glory of the Word becoming flesh, prophetic offerings, and the miracle of the virgin birth. How could I have missed this for all those years? I just want to be sure I don’t miss the power of the Christmas message this year.

HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING

Lk.2:13,14 – And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

The new birth makes everything new and special in our lives. I have been thinking this year about how much my new birth experience changed my view of everything related to Christmas. It changed my view of the Christmas traditions, especially the songs. I am still amazed at the beauty and the power of the historic Christmas carols that literally fill the air from Thanksgiving Day all the way until the New Year. Many of these songs are quite spiritual and carry the very spirit of revivals of long ago. One of those songs is HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING. It was originally a poem written by Charles Wesley and was soon adapted and changed by George Whitefield. It carries the power and revelation of these two spiritual giants. No wonder we are still singing this song almost 300 years later. Pay close attention as you read the words to this great Christmas hymn.

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King!”

Peace on earth, and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled.

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,

Join the triumph of the skies;

With th’ angelic host proclaim,

“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King!

Christ, by highest heaven adored:

Christ, the everlasting Lord;

Late in time behold him come,

Offspring of the favoured one.

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see;

Hail, th’incarnate Deity:

Pleased, as man, with men to dwell,

Jesus, our Emmanuel!

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King!

Hail! the heaven-born

Prince of peace!

Hail! the Son of Righteousness!

Light and life to all he brings,

Risen with healing in his wings

Mild he lays his glory by,

Born that man no more may die:

Born to raise the son of earth,

Born to give them second birth.

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King !”

Like many of the historic Christmas songs this one is filled with spiritual revelation. It speaks of reconciliation from sin, the joy of salvation, the messianic birth, the deity of Christ, the new birth, His healing power, and the mystery of God being born in human flesh. The song is absolutely breathtaking. So what shall I do? I am going to join with Charles, George, and the angels and sing the glory of Christ’s birth this Christmas.

CHRISTMAS WONDER

I remember the great tragedy of childhood when I finally realized that my mom and dad were really Santa Claus. I was about nine years old and I was devastated. How could Christmas ever be the same? The mystery and wonder were sucked out of my little world. From the time I was nine until I was twenty one Christmas was not quite the same. How could Christmas be Christmas without Santa? That was all about to change for me suddenly. It happened just after my conversion, Christmas of 1973, that the wonder of Christmas invaded my world again. This time it wasn’t make believe. I saw for myself the mystery of the birth of God’s only Son. I was reading Christmas cards and seeing the Bible verses regarding the birth of Jesus. Suddenly my eyes were opened to what Christmas was all about; God Himself I become a man. John the Apostle said it like this in Jn.1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth”. God had become a man! Unthinkable! A virgin had given birth to God’s only Son. Here is how Eugene Peterson describes this Christmas wonder.

“Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our preoccupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder. The wonder keeps us open-eyed, expectant, alive to life that is always more than we can account for, that always exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond anything we can make.Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our preoccupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder. The wonder keeps us open-eyed, expectant, alive to life that is always more than we can account for, that always exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond anything we can make.”

So have you lost the wonder of Christmas? You will not find it in the shopping mall or under the Christmas tree, this wonder can only be found at the manger, worshipping God’s only Son.

PRESENT WITH GOD

Ps.31:15 – My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!

There are two enemies of recognizing the Lord present in our life today; these enemies are the past and the present. Often, when someone’s relationship with the Lord cools off, they think of the good old days when “the Lord was really moving”. I have often run in to old friends who reminisce about what the Lord used to do in our church back “in the day”. I also am grateful for what the Lord has done over the years but I am also aware of His working right now. He is always working right under our very noses. That other enemy is our hope about future revival or other prophetic events. Remember when Martha told Jesus she knew Lazarus would be raised up at the last day? What was Jesus response ? “I am the resurrection right now.” Too often we put our expectation on some future event when the Lord is present and working today. Here is how Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes this.

“The most profound matter will be revealed to us only when we consider that not only does the world have its time and its hours, but also that our own life has its time and its hour of God, and that behind these times of our lives traces of God become visible, that under our paths are the deepest shafts of eternity, and every step brings back a quiet echo from eternity. It is only a matter of understanding the deep, pure form of these times and representing them in our conduct of life, then in the middle of our time we will also encounter God’s holy present. “My times are in your hand”. Serve your times, God’s present in your life. God has sanctified your time. Every time, rightly understood, is immediate to God, and God wants us to be fully what we are…. Only those who stand with both feet on the earth, who are and remain totally children of earth, who undertake no hopeless attempts at flight to unreachable heights, who are content with what they have and hold on to it thankfully—only they have the full power of the humanity that serves the opportune time and thus eternity.”

So we love Christmas past, we have some precious memories stored up there. We also know His coming is going to be quite amazing. What I want to focus on this Christmas is this; He is present today. Our today is in His hands. He is doing above what any of us can even conceive. What is our response? Be still; watch, wait, and listen. My today is in His hands.

NEW DAY – NEW SONG

Ps.96:1,2 – Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her king”. The words penned by Isaac Watts almost 300 years ago still resound throughout the earth. Joy has come to fill the hearts of all who have opened up to Jesus Christ our King. His second Advent will overwhelm the earth with unspeakable joy. No wonder every picture of the angels is a picture of singing. In His joyous presence there is nothing left to do, “Ps.96:1,2 – Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.” As we prepare for Christmas this year our hearts are also bursting with songs of joy. Christ has come, death has been defeated, our sin has been washed away, and we have received a new life. Here is how Spurgeon describes today’s text.

“O sing unto the Lord a new song. New joys are filling the hearts of men, for the glad tidings of blessing to all people are proclaimed, therefore let them sing a new song. Angels inaugurated the new dispensation with new songs, and shall not we take up the strain? The song is for Jehovah alone, the hymns which chanted the praises of Jupiter and Neptune, Vishnoo and Siva are hushed for ever; Bacchanalian shouts are silenced, lascivious sonnets are no more. Unto the one only God all music is to be dedicated. Mourning is over, and the time of singing of hearts has come. No dismal rites are celebrated, no bloody sacrifices of human beings are presented, no cutting with knives, and outcries of lamentation are presented by deluded votaries. Joy is in the ascendant, and singing has become the universal expression of love, the fitting voice of reverent adoration. Men are made new creatures, and their song is new also.”

If you are a new creature in Christ you understand what the joyful singing is all about. If you have not made peace with God, I beg you, don’t let another Christmas pass in your present condition. Go ahead and sing some of the joyful Christmas songs. As you sing the songs of the “Silent Night”, open your heart. Before long you too will be shouting songs of joy to the Lord.

THE PROPHETIC VOICE OF CHRISTMAS

Isa. 9:6 – For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;

And the government will rest on His shoulders;

And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Shortly after my salvation I found myself in Bible College preparing for the ministry. In that first semester I was taking the class of Isaiah. It was in the fall not long before Christmas when I remember hearing Isaiah’s prophesies about the birth of Christ. I was totally overwhelmed by the passages in Isaiah 7 and 9 that dealt specifically with His virgin birth and the supernatural nature of His ministry. I couldn’t fathom how Isaiah could have written those words 700 hundred years before His birth. I was getting a glimpse of the supernatural nature of the birth of Christ for the first time and I was totally stunned. God had become a man. He had become a man for me. The prophetic nature of the birth of Christ had captured me. Since then I have sensed the prophetic nature of Christmas. It hangs in the air at this time of the year. Here is how Bonhoeffer describes this verse.

“It is still seven hundred years until the time of fulfillment, but the prophet is so deeply immersed in God’s thought and counsel that he speaks of the future as if he saw it already, and he speaks of the salvific hour as if he already stood in adoration before the manger of Jesus. “For a child has been born for us.” What will happen one day is already real and certain in God’s eyes, and it will be not only for the salvation of future generations but already for the prophet who sees it coming and for his generation, indeed, for all generations on earth. “For a child has been born for us.” No human spirit can talk like this on its own. How are we who do not know what will happen next year supposed to understand that someone can look forward many centuries? And the times then were no more transparent than they are today. Only the spirit of God, who encompasses the beginning and end of the world, can in such a way reveal to a chosen person the mystery of the future, so that he must prophesy for strengthening believers and warning unbelievers.”

So that brings me to this thought, there is something mysterious and supernatural about Christmas. It seems to build up until Christmas Day when it literally fills the atmosphere. What is that? It is the Lord’s confirmation of the importance of His Son’s birth. As the day draws closer we too can prophesy with Isaiah, “A child is born for us, a son is given to us, His name is called Wonderful”.

INCANDESCENT

MERRY MONDAY ADVENT SEASON by Parris

 

“The people that is sitting in darkness saw a great light, and to those sitting in a region and shadow of death — light arose to them.” Matt. 4:16

Did you ever wonder why the scripture said “those that sit in darkness”? Makes one think it’s saying “to those that habitually make it their lifestyle”. It was 46 years ago on my Christmas break in my sophomore year that the light of Christ began to dispel the darkness that I was sitting in. How great was that darkness! Nine months later I found myself born again, married and off to bible school! Christ comes small in our lives like the babe in the manger born in a obscure village but little do we realize how big he gets in us! The star is still speaking to so many today that there is hope for you, freedom for you and forgiveness. Advent is upon us beckoning us to draw near-for he always comes. John Calvin said every human being is “formed to be a spectator of the created world and given eyes that he might be led to its author …. to cast our eyes upon the very beautiful fabric of the world in which God wishes to be seen by us. When those, who lay in darkness, are said to have seen a great light, a change so sudden and remarkable is intended to enlarge our views of the greatness of the divine salvation.”

Expositor Bible says; “Heavenly light, heavenly power, heavenly healing-these are the weapons of the new warfare: these the regalia of the new kingdom. No stinting now of the heavenly power; it flows in streams of blessing. It is daybreak on the shores of Galilee. The Sun of Righteousness has risen with healing in His wings.”

Take this advent season all in! Christ comes he always comes!

 

 

 

INCANDESCENT

 

The people that sat in darkness saw a great light-Resplendent!

 

In the vivid lifeless damp night came lustrous hope dancing-Effulgent!

 

Stretching through eternity flaming prophecy became ripe for beholding-Forceful!

 

Incandescent splendor overcame the ache erupting- Divine intervention!

 

They saw, they felt, they were changed- Bedazzled!

 

Shining Ears awakened to the song, glowing eyes reflecting the shine -Splendid!

 

Blazing Bethlehem star hangs in the sky pointing-Radiant!

 

Wherever the beam shone that night the shepherds saw a new world-Florescent!

 

Wise men ardent in their journey looked for another -Glowing!

 

Incandescent from the manger is a child found – SON OF GOD!

 

parris bailey

WAITING

Rev.3:20 – Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.

Advent is the season where Christians are waiting for Christmas, we are waiting for the appearance of Christ. I know we are waiting for the second Advent, the return of Christ at the end of the age, but what if He is among us and coming to us on a daily basis? Jesus said as much when He said that when we fed the hungry we were feeding Him, or if we visited a prisoner we were visiting Him. If we have eyes to see, He comes to us every day in the hurting people that are part of all of our lives. He is there when our friends are in the hospital, He is there when someone we know is in jail, He is there when someone loses a family member in death. Jesus said when we show love to those who are hurting we are showing love to Him. Here is how Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes this coming of Christ.

“Jesus stands at the door knocking. In total reality, he comes in the form of the beggar, of the dissolute human child in ragged clothes, asking for help. He confronts you in every person that you meet. As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you. That is the great seriousness and great blessedness of the Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us. Do you want to close the door or open it? It may strike us as strange to see Christ in such a near face, but he said it, and those who withdraw from the serious reality of the Advent message cannot talk of the coming of Christ in their heart, either.”

All of us fail to see Him in these arenas getting caught up in all of the important activities that crowd our lives. Maybe this Christmas season we can ask the Lord to open our eyes that we can see Him when He comes to us in these ways as we also wait for His soon Second Coming. When He does open our eyes then we must open our hearts to pour out His love on these hurting precious people. Maybe this is what Advent is about after all.

HIS SHOCKING BIRTH

Lk.2:6,7 – While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

It’s impossible for us to begin to understand the mystery of the human birth of the Son of God. How could the creator enter into His own creation? How could the creator of women be born of a woman? How could the One who feeds the whole earth be nourished from a woman’s breast? How could Someone who is all powerful be housed in the weakness of a human infant. As Paul the Apostle said, “Great is the mystery of godliness”. With all of our activities and distractions of the Christmas season it is easy to miss this incredible mystery that is all around. The Word of of God became a human and made His home in our midst. Here are some thoughts from Augustine on this Christmas miracle.

“Let’s blare “his glory among the nations, and his marvelous works among all the peoples”. He plays with a ball in a manger, but the manger contains the orb of the world. He drinks from His mother’s breasts but He’s fed by His Father’s Angels. He’s got Himself entangled with our mortality, but He drapes us with His own immorality. He enjoy’s adoration, and He’s tickled by lactation. He didn’t find a decent spot at the hostelry, but He’s made a nice nest for Himself in the hearts of all believers. He made infirmity look strong by making fortitude appear weak. Therefore, let’s look up at, more than we look down upon, His fleshly nativity! What did He do for us? After all, he raised humility to unheard of heights! All of which is another way of saying, let’s burn with His Charity so that we may enjoy His eternity!”

So let’s embrace the words of Augustine, “Let’s burn with His Charity (supernatural love) that we may enjoy His eternity”. What doe Augustine mean by this? It is the love of God that brought Christ to the earth. As we embrace Him His love begins to burn in us and through us. Others are swept up by His love and they too taste the precious love of our Savior. As we live this life of love we are preparing for the great eternal day when step into complete, infinite joy.

CHRISTMAS TREASURE

Lk.6:20 – And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God”.

How do you measure a really good Christmas? Is it the haul of presents and gift cards you got, the family reunions over holiday celebrations, or the bonus check at work? Obviously gift cards and prizes don’t last, the thrill is over pretty quick. The bonus usually disappears in the black hole of Christmas bills, and family time isn’t always what it is cracked up to be. Maybe the mystique of Christmas is much deeper than carols and candy canes, sleigh rides or sitting on Santa’s lap. Maybe its about the Savior’s birth and why He came, to restore man to a relationship of intimacy with God. Maybe Christ Himself in us is the true measure of a really good Christmas. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was in prison in Germany in WWII because of his faith in God. He wrote a letter to his fiancée from prison during Christmas season that speaks volumes about the true measure of Christmas time. Here is a portion of that letter.

“I think we’re going to have an exceptionally good Christmas. The very fact that every outward circumstance precludes our making provision for it will show whether we can be content with what is truly essential. I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious; the emptier our hands, the better we understand what Luther meant by his dying words: “We’re beggars; it’s true.” The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth. I think we’re going to have an exceptionally good Christmas. The very fact that every outward circumstance precludes our making provision for it will show whether we can be content with what is truly essential. I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious; the emptier our hands, the better we understand what Luther meant by his dying words: “We’re beggars; it’s true.” The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth.”

Amazing, “I think we are going to have an exceptionally good Christmas”. How could anyone have an exceptional Christmas, all alone in prison, separated from their loved ones? The answer is simple, we are not alone, we are never alone. Bonhoeffer believed that in the midst of horrible circumstances what really matters in life becomes more precious and even more real. So if you are going through some unusually tough time this Christmas, take Bonhoeffer at his word, “The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth.”