There is something intriguing and mysterious about the ancient words of the early Church, many of which were originally written in Latin and Greek. The words of the hymn, "O Come All Ye Faithful", was originally written in Latin as Adeste Fideles. We don’t know how many centuries ago it was written, or exactly who wrote it, but there are some who believe the original phrases were written by an order of monks and later translated into English.
When Isaac Watts was 15 years old he complained about “the atrocious worship” he had just experienced. Of course, this was in the year 1689 in Southampton, England. You see, at this point in history, in most European church services, the Psalms were put to music and sung just as they were translated into English. Even though young Isaac loved the Bible, he felt that these songs felt “unnatural” to sing in their modern-day English translations. Someone challenged him to not complain, but do something about it.
In 1744, Charles Wesley looked at the situation of the orphans in the areas around him, and the great class divide that was being experienced in Great Britain at the time, and longed for compassion and justice to reign in his world. From Haggai 2:7, he remembered the phrase, “what is desired by all nations will come,” and wrote the words: “Come, thou long expected Jesus… born to set thy people free.”
The original lyrics to Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, were written in 1739 by Charles Wesley. Charles was instrumental in the development of the Methodist movement, which was founded by his brother John Wesley. Only a few months before writing the words of this carol, Charles had a transforming spiritual experience. Later on, while walking to church on Christmas Day, he was inspired by the sounds of London church bells ringing.
Most babies have their names announced long before they are born these days. You may have noticed that announcing a baby’s name comes very soon after announcing if that sweet little bundle of joy is a boy or girl. Reliable medical technology has made this all possible. The prophet Isaiah and the angel Gabriel had no medical technology to back them up, and still, they each boldly announced the birth of a baby boy who would be named Jesus. Isaiah made his quite prophetic announcement about 700 years before Jesus was born.
In both of these passages, Paul and John are saying, in unison, that through Christ and the sacrament of baptism the boundaries of God’s family have been extended to include all nations. Our identity is first and foremost in Christ which makes us equal with each other in the sight of God. Differences and distinctions still matter because God makes us unique. However, our differences and distinctions don’t define us.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is arguably the greatest children’s book of all time. It was published in 1950 and written by the great Christian apologist and literary genius, C.S. Lewis. I realize that’s a bold statement, but I’m a huge C.S. Lewis fan. The Guardian conducted a survey in 2008 asking the question, “What is the greatest children’s book of all time?” and found that most people polled answered The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe so it’s not all my bias.
Children are many things. They are unique, individual creations made in the Image of God. They represent hope, joy, purity, innocence, potential, promise, etc. Thinking politically in an ancient context, children are signs of succession and a continuing legacy. Or, in the same context, they can represent a new order and threaten the powers that be. Children are also very vulnerable in any context but especially an ancient one.
This is part of Zechariah’s song as he prophesies concerning his son, John, who will be a prophet of God and prepare people to receive Jesus, the Messiah. Zechariah was mute because he didn’t initially believe the words of the angel Gabriel concerning the birth of his son. This prophecy occurs almost immediately after his voice returns. Zechariah confirms in writing that his child is to be named John rather than after his own namesake and then his voice returns.
Our world is full of division, injustice, and violence. This won’t always be the case. A time is coming when God will no longer tolerate their existence. Here, in Isaiah, is a picture of the peaceable kingdom that Jesus has already inaugurated through His life, death, and resurrection.
Yesterday, we kicked off our “This is Christmas” sermon series talking about tradition. One of the traditional Christmas songs I enjoy every year is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” It is biblically rich with many verses. This week, for our First 15 devotional time, we will pair a verse from the song with scripture and reflect on what God is saying to us.
In a few weeks, we will begin the countdown. You know the one - the New Year’s Eve countdown that we do in the final minute of this year, looking forward into the next. Many of you will celebrate this year, others can’t wait for the new year to begin, and some of you will simply sleep right through the passing from one year to the next.
Do you have a purpose, a vision, or an aspiration for your future? Baseball great, Yogi Berra once said, “If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.” This is true in our walk with God as well. However, there is a fine line between having a clear laid out plan and a clear vision for the future.
As we continue to think about ways to let go of our old selves and live fully into the new creation we are in Christ, let’s address regret. There are some of us who love to hang on to past failures, missed opportunities, and “what if’s.” But even the rest of us, who don’t tend to dwell on those regrets, can still get caught up in wondering what might have been.
From infancy, we begin striving for control. Our whole job, as developing human beings, is to develop control over ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally and socially. We start life being completely dependent on others, and in optimum circumstances, we eventually learn to self-regulate.