Winter Morning

Job 37: 5 – 6a God thunders wondrously with his voice; He does great things that we cannot comprehend. For to the snow He says, ‘Fall on the earth,’……

Psalm 19:1 The Heavens declare the glory of the Lord, the sky above proclaims His handiwork….

Walking outside this morning in snow up to my knees, I was praising God for His handiwork, thanking Him for snow and seasons.

There is a peace-filled calm in the early morning outside in freshly fallen snow.

A quiet hush that stills one’s soul, and a song of praise that arises to my Abba God, maker of Heaven and earth, provider, redeemer, and friend (Isaiah 51:13; 47:4; Psalm 25:14; John 15:14).

May this winter morning find you praising Him.

Isaiah 55: 10 – 11 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth;
    it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Psalm 96: 10 – 13 “The Lord reigns!  Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity.” Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for He comes,  for He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness,  and the peoples in his faithfulness.

Relocate

I’ve been mulling over the “gospel third way” as Tim Keller calls it to deal with life, to deal with feelings. David shows us how in the Psalms. Praying our feelings. Praying our doubts. Praying our fears. Praying our tears. Praying our praises. Praying our joys. Praying our sorrows. The Psalms are replete with all of this. Every moment we are to seek Him, pray all of life to Him. Continually seek His face, seek Him.

The heart of the matter as a Christian is to seek Him first in all things – seek His Kingdom. Jesus tells us this in Matthew 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. I am so thankful that shortly after becoming a Christian at the age of 16, God gave me this verse to be my life verse. It has been and continues to be the foundation of my life, my guiding star, my prayer, not only for me, but for each of my children, that they seek Him first in all their ways. This precept is laid out for us in the Old Testament as well:

Deuteronomy 4: 29 – But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Psalm 27: 8 You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.

1 Chronicles 16:11 Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!

Recently, while in the hospital for heart issues, I was thinking on Psalm 27, especially verse 8. No matter what we are going through our hearts should be seeking Him first, seeking His way.

Truly God is our light and salvation. There is nothing to fear. He is the stronghold of our lives. He hides us in His shelter in the day of trouble, in our troubles; He conceals us under His cover, He lifts us up and lifts our heads, provides hope and endurance for whatever trial we are dealing with. He teaches us His way. Ours is to wait for Him, to be strong, to take courage, and yes, wait for Him (see all of Psalm 27).

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire (meditate) in his temple.

And as I was preparing thoughts for this blog, I opened up the daily meditation from Henri Nouwen and felt it apropos to share. Henri’s thoughts echoing my own…

Jesus’ response to our worry-filled lives is quite different.

He asks us to shift the point of gravity,

to relocate the center of our attention,

to change our priorities.

Jesus wants us to move from the “many things” to the “one necessary thing.”

It is important for us to realize that Jesus in no way wants us to leave our many- faceted world. Rather, he wants us to live in it,

but firmly rooted in the center of all things.

Jesus does not speak about a change of activities, a change of contacts, or even a change of pace.

He speaks about a change of heart.

This change of heart makes everything different, even while everything appears to remain the same.

This is the meaning of “Set your hearts on his kingdom first . . . and all these other things will be given you as well.”

What counts is where our hearts are.

When we worry, we have our hearts in the wrong place.

Jesus asks us to move our hearts to the center,

where all other things fall into place.

Henri Nowen

Taste This Wisdom

“Wisdom is not to be found in the art of oratory, or in great books, but in a withdrawal from these sensible things and in a turning to the most simple and infinite forms. You will learn how to receive it into a temple purged from all vice, and by fervent love to cling to it until you may taste it and see how sweet That is which is all sweetness. Once this has been tasted, all things which you now consider as important will appear as vile, and you will be so humbled that no arrogance or other vice will remain in you. Once having tasted this wisdom, you will inseparably adhere to it with a chaste and pure heart. You will choose rather to forsake this world and all else that is not of this wisdom, and living with unspeakable happiness you will die.”
― Nicolaus Cusanus

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.  Hebrews 12:2

Ephesians 1:16 – 18

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

WPW

I have a condition known as Wolf-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome. Basically it means I was born with extra electrical pathways in my heart. I was in my 20s when officially diagnosed with it. I never really had it treated because mostly I was trying to ignore it.

I mean who wants to admit they have cardiac issues or any health issue for that matter – sometimes acknowledging the truth of a matter is very difficult. So, I mostly ignored the times my heart took off racing like a wild stallion. When it did, I used the vagal maneuvers my cardiologist had taught me. They usually worked until I reached my upper 50’s. (Read about WPW at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/wolff-parkinson-white-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20354626 and more about vagal maneuvers at https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/atrial-fibrillation/vagal-maneuvers-and-heart-rate ).

I had learned to ignore my body and what it was telling me as a kid. Growing up being sexually abused by my dad I had to split how my body felt and how I felt about my body into a separate compartment of my internal world in order to “act happy and normal” with the outside world. I mostly thought of my body as bad and tried to ignore it as much as possible.

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Along the healing path of life God has had me on I have learned over the years to pay more attention to the body He gave me which is made in His image. While in the Philippines I learned even more about listening to my body. The heat is intense and when we first arrived I thought I’d die as my heart would race often. I learned quickly that I needed to stay well-hydrated in order to keep the racing heart at bay. Several other healing influences that taught me more about self-care were the spiritual realization that if I’m to love my neighbor as myself I need to love myself. Recognizing that when a friend or family member was ill I was concerned and tried to help them by getting them to a doctor and getting medicine needed I was like, “why not do that for myself?” An ah-hah moment from God.

Another influence in learning to take better care of myself was a dear friend, Judy. I used to think she went to the doctor to often. The reality is she went for yearly checkups and she went when truly not feeling well. In the Philippines it’s common for people to do things together, so I and another friend started scheduling yearly checkups at the same time Judy did. It was fun for three or four of us to go to the doctor’s together and wait for each other while each had their private checkup.

Two books that strongly influenced me in better caring for my self were Living Like You Mean It by Ronald J. Frederick and The Body Keeps Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.

God has designed us spirit, soul, and body – – Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

As I’ve gotten older, WPW has become more of an issue for me. Our last year in the Philippines I was 58 and my heart was racing wildly for a few seconds or minutes almost daily. Needless to say, when we arrived in the USA I saw a cardiologist.

In the summer of 2019 I had what is known as an electrophysiology study and ablation done at Henry Ford Cardiac Center in Detroit. It worked great.

(An electrophysiology study (EP) is a test performed to assess your heart’s electrical system or activity and is used to diagnose abnormal heartbeats or arrhythmia. An ablation cuts the extra electrical pathway. Learn more at https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cardiac-ablation/about/pac-20384993 or https://www.henryford.com/services/electrophysiology/treatments/ablation).

But, since electricity likes to jump, sometimes the extra pathway is re-formed or another one comes along years later. I have a friend who has had four ablations done for the same issue as I have. I pray not to have to end up with that many, but I will be having another ablation done on January 18th.

electricity jumping

As I was pondering about WPW, this upcoming procedure, the providence of God, and resting in Him no matter what trial comes along, the thought came to me that WPW can stand for something else:

Wrestle, Prayer, Worship

Instead of WPW being a syndrome it can (and should) be a way of life for Christians. There are two definitions given for the word syndrome –

From https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/syndrome

Combining its two Greek roots, syndrome means basically “running together”.

Definitions

1: a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality or condition

2 : a set of concurrent things (such as emotions or actions) that usually form an identifiable pattern

So, while my physical heart may be displaying a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality or condition which in the case of WPW manifests in heart racing, trouble breathing and dizziness, my spiritual heart’s WPW is a set of concurrent things that usually form an identifiable pattern, a pattern every Christian should develop – one of honest wrestling with sins and past woundings; a prayer life that is unceasing; and worship. God’s deeds and love are truly amazing and we need to ascribe to the Lord the glory (worship) due His name.

We need to wrestle with our issues, delve into our past hurts, name them, lay them at the feet of Jesus. We need to wrestle with our anxieties, fears, concerns, name them, pray them to Jesus, just as the Psalms and so many other places in the Bible do. God wants our honesty. He doesn’t want plastic smiles and christianese speak that is not truthful – He wants our honesty. (Read more about christianese at https://www.dictionaryofchristianese.com/christianese/)

Suffering works God’s purpose. He loves that I struggle and persevere. He loves that I question and rage and am indignant at all this judgment and unrighteousness. He is sovereign, He reigns. Faith is not passive. Faith is active. Faith demands perseverance. Faith demands discipline to set my mind on Christ, to give thanks as a sacrifice of praise in the midst of storms and trials. My relationship to my Dad is so vital. He loves me. This I know. He cares about me. This I know. He holds me in His hands – this I know. And He loves to hear my questions and railings. This I know. He’s not mad at me for wrestling with Him. This I know. I am asking why. I cry. I rage. I hurt. And He loves me. This I know. I persevere. I seek Him. I praise Him. And underneath all, in the wrestling to rest, are His eternal arms (ref. Deuteronomy 33:27) (excerpt from unpublished Missionary Musings, Journal Reflections from a Borderline across Borders by Beth Symanzik, 2021.)

Amy Grant has a great song that speaks to this truth, Better Than An Hallelujah. Listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rm5kx3xqmg0.

God loves a lullaby in a mother’s tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes
God loves the drunkard’s cry, the soldier’s plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes
We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are; The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah
The woman holding on for life, the dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes
The tears of shame for what’s been done, the silence when the words won’t come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes
We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are, The honest cries of breaking hearts Are better than a Hallelujah
Better than a church bell ringing; Better than a choir singing out, singing out
We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are; The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

The truth is, the Psalms are filled with honest cries of breaking hearts. So in our wrestling we learn the heart of Jesus.

Of all the knowledge that we can ever obtain, the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of ourselves, are the most important. Jonathon Edwards

Prayer is the next thing. The following are just a few passages admonishing us to pray without ceasing, which goes hand in hand with wrestling and worship. In our trials, in our wrestlings, in every moment, pray. Prayer really is the life blood of the Christian. Martin Luther puts it this way, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”

  • Matthew 5: 9 – 13 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
  • Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
  • Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
  • Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
  • Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16 – 18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Worship, the last letter of the WPW abbreviation, is integral to the life of a Christian. Worship can be one of those nebulous words that we feel we may have some understanding of but not really. Here are a few quotes on worship to hopefully help clarify what worship is:

  • What is worship? It is essentially doxology, a giving of glory, praise, honour, and homage to God… “Godliness is a worship” wrote Swinnak. Worship comprehends all that respect which man oweth and giveth to his Maker…it is the tribute which we pay to the King of Kings, whereby we acknowledge His sovereignty over us, and our dependence on Him…all that inward reverence and respect, and all that outward obedience and service to God, which the word “godliness” enjoineth is included in this one word worship. (pg. 249 J.I. Packer A Quest for Godliness.)
  • Father, since Hebrews 12 deals with discipline, endurance, and struggling against sin and concludes with “offer to God acceptable worship”, is that our worship? To show You love and reverence? to fight and struggle against sin? to not be complacent? Do You view our struggles to walk Your way in the hard as worship? I think You do. I feel like You are saying that exactly: to press on, pursue joy, to diligently pursue Your holiness, to not get weary, to strive for peace with everyone, to strive for holiness without which we will not see You. This is worshipping You. (excerpt from unpublished Missionary Musings, Journal Reflections from a Borderline across Borders by Beth Symanzik, 2021.)

Worship is acknowledging His Sovereignty and giving thanks to Him in all things.

  • John 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
  • Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
  • Hebrews 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,
  • Revelations 13:3-4 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
  • Nehemiah 9: 5-6 Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, “Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you
  • Psalm 29:2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

God is Spirit and the Source of all love. Our spiritual journey calls us to seek and find this living God of love in prayer, worship, spiritual reading, spiritual mentoring, compassionate service to the poor, and good friends.Let us claim the truth that we are loved and open our hearts to receive God’s overflowing love poured out for us. And living fully each day let us share that love in all our wonderful and difficult relationships, responsibilities, and passages. The seeds of death are at work in us, but love is stronger than death. Your death and mine are our final passage, our exodus to the full realization of our identity as God’s beloved children and to full communion with the God of Love. Jesus walked the path ahead of us and invites us to choose the same path during our lifetime. He calls to us, “Follow me.” He assures us, “Do not be afraid.” This is our faith. Henri Nouwen

Isaiah 64:3,4 For when You did awesome things that we did not expect, You came down, and the mountains trembled before You. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.

Happy New Year

I want to share the thoughts of Henri Nouwen on this first day of 2021.

A New Beginning!
We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new. Imagine that we could live each moment as a moment pregnant with new life. Imagine that we could live each day as a day full of promises. Imagine that we could walk through the new year always listening to the voice saying to us: “I have a gift for you and can’t wait for you to see it!” Imagine.
Is it possible that our imagination can lead us to the truth of our lives? Yes, it can! The problem is that we allow our past, which becomes longer and longer each year, to say to us: “You know it all; you have seen it all, be realistic; the future will just be a repeat of the past. Try to survive it as best you can.” There are many cunning foxes jumping on our shoulders and whispering in our ears the great lie: “There is nothing new under the sun… don’t let yourself be fooled.”
When we listen to these foxes, they eventually prove themselves right: our new year, our new day, our new hour become flat, boring, dull, and without anything new.
So what are we to do? First, we must send the foxes back to where they belong: in their foxholes. And then we must open our minds and our hearts to the voice that resounds through the valleys and hills of our life saying: “Let me show you where I live among my people. My name is ‘God-with-you.’ I will wipe all the tears from your eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone” (Revelation 21:2–5).

I spent December 28 and 29 in hospital for a racing heart caused by Wolf-Parkinson-White syndrome. Now that I’m 60, experiences like that create sobering reminders that our time here on earth is limited. 2020 has been a year of health crisis for many. I’ve lost some friends to Covid. And all these experiences deepen my prayer life and thankfulness that God is my dwelling place. (Psalm 90). He is Emmanual, God with us, walking us on our path of life. He has always been and always will be.

Rather than try to just survive, we need to each learn to live in openness, looking for ‘ah-hah’ moments as a friend of mine says. There are always new experiences, new things to learn, deeper wisdom to gain. As Henri Nouwen says in the devotional above “live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new.” And as Moses prays in Psalm 90, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” I am grateful for His teaching, leading, guiding, wisdom. When I was 16 and a new Christian, He gave me Matthew 6:33 as my life verse, wisdom from Him on how to live. This is a prayer I pray daily not only for myself but for my children that each of us seek Him first in all our moments. In doing so, a habit of seeing a new beginning develops. Centering our thoughts on His Word develops habits of gratitude and thankfulness for each moment He allows us on earth.

I pray scripture often and this is a prayer based on Colossians 3 I pray for each person in my family quite often:

Prayer based on Colossians 3

(from Beth M. Symanzik’s Mom’s Book Of Prayers, 2014)

Dad, I thank You that we have been raised with Christ. I pray that each of us, _________________(names of family members), seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at Your right hand; that each of us set our hearts and minds to seek You first in all our ways (Matthew 6:33). I pray we each set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Remind each of us that as believers in Christ, we have died and our life is hidden with Christ in You. Help each of us put to death what is earthly in us – sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness. Help us put away anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from our mouths. Help each of us not to lie. Help us each continue to put off the old self and put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of You. Faith is active, help each of us work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, remembering You are our Great High Priest – You understand our struggles. Help each of us, since we are Your chosen, holy and beloved by You, to put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Help us each bear with one another, forgive each other – just as Christ has forgiven us may we also forgive. Above all these, help each of us, help _________________(names of family members), put on love which binds everything together in perfect harmony. May we each let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. And may we each be thankful. May Your word dwell richly in each of us. May we teach and admonish each other in wisdom. May we sings psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with thankfulness in our hearts to You our God and Father. Fill each of us with joy and with the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52). May whatever we do in word or deed, be done in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord, giving thanks always. In Christs’ precious name I pray, Amen and Amen.

May this new year find you walking your path of life seeking Him first in all your ways, every moment of your days.

Easy Chicken Teriyaki

Easy Teriyaki Chicken Recipe

A friend shared this recipe with me. Our family really likes it. We make lots of rice to go with it, too!!

Serving: 4 as a main course

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ⅓ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from 1½ medium or 1 large oranges)
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1½ to 2 lbs (about 6-7 medium) boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
  • 1 Tbsp oil (I use light olive oil)
  • 1½ Tbsp unsalted butter
  • Green onion and sesame seeds for garnish, optional

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together all marinade ingredients: ¼ cup soy sauce, ⅓ cup orange juice, 3 Tbsp honey, 1 tsp ginger and 1 tsp sesame oil.
  2. Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces and place into marinade. Stir and cover with plastic wrap and marinate on the counter 20 min.
  3. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil. Remove chicken from marinade with a slotted spoon, reserving marinade in the bowl. Add chicken to the hot pan and sauté, stirring occasionally until golden and cooked through (5 min).
  4. Remove pan from heat and transfer chicken to a bowl.
  5. Pour reserved marinade into the pan, add 1½ Tbsp butter and place back over medium/high heat. Bring to a boil stirring constantly until slightly thickened (1 min) then remove from heat. Add chicken back to the pan and stir to combine. Serve over hot buttery white rice garnished with fresh green onion and a sprinkle of sesame seeds if desired.

Notes

How to Peel and Grate fresh ginger: Peel with a spoon. It’s the easiest way to get the skin off. Grate peeled ginger with a fine grater or zester.

The Night That Changed Everything

Our family enjoyed a quiet, family Christmas Eve at home. It’s a bit strange not having extended family over although we did take some food and gifts to Kurt’s dad and enjoyed a short visit with him on Christmas Eve morning. I look forward to the time when inviting others over will be alright again, or at least when the weather will be warmer in the spring and summer to host outdoor gatherings.

Anyway, back to Christmas Eve. We had our own Christmas Eve Service at home. I based it on Luke 2 and corresponding hymns. It was a reflective celebration of Christ’s birth, His love for us, and a time of worship to Him. The celebration of Christmas, of Christ’s birth, truly is a celebration of the night that changed everything.

Silent Night has four verses. The second verse says, Silent night, Holy night, Darkness flies; all is light…and that is the truth. Christ’s coming to earth as a baby, The Word becoming flesh, His light shining and not overcome by the world (John 1:1 – 5)…Love’s pure light, His redeeming grace….the older I get the more reflective I’ve become on the love, mercy, and grace shown to us by God’s redemptive love wrapped in infant babe.

I hope this holiday season you’ll take time to reflect deeply on the amazing grace He showed in sending His only Son to earth, veiled in flesh, our Redeemer. We who’ve walked in darkness have seen a great light…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end
(Isaiah 9: 2, 6,7).

Below is the service we had in case you are interested in using any or all of it in your own family worship time.

Christmas Eve Service – family – 12/24/2020

Unison Reading:

  • God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

READ:

Luke 2: 1 – 7 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

SING:

Silent Night

1. 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, Sleep in heavenly peace

2. Silent night, holy night, Darkness flies, all is light;
Shepherds hear the angels sing,Alleluia! Hail the King!” Christ the Saviour is born, Christ the Saviour is born.

3. Silent night, holy night, Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing ‘Alleluia
Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born.

4. Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus Lord, at Thy birth.

READ:

Luke 2:8 – 14 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

SING:

Angels We Have Heard On High

1. Angels we have heard on high sweetly singing o’er the plains,
and the mountains in reply echoing their joyous strains.

Refrain:
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

2. Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be which inspire your heavenly song?
(Refrain)

3. Come to Bethlehem and see Christ whose birth the angels sing,
come, adore on bended knee, Christ the Lord, the newborn King.
(Refrain)

4. See him in a manger laid, whom the choirs of angels praise,
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid, while our hearts in love we raise.

Unison Reading:

  • Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10

SING:

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

1. Hark! the herald angels sing: “Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic hosts proclaim: “Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! the herald angels sing: “Glory to the newborn King!”

2. Christ by highest Heav’n adored, Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! the herald angels sing: “Glory to the newborn King!”

3. Hail the Heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth Born to give them second birth
Hark! the herald angels sing: “Glory to the newborn King!”

READ:

Luke 2: 15 – 20 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

SING

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
The end of fear for all who hear, The silent Word is speaking
This, this is Christ the king, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring him laud, The babe, the son of Mary.

3. So bring him incense, gold and myrrh, Come peasant king to love him;
The king of kings salvation brings, Let loving hearts enthrone him
This, this is Christ the king, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring him praise, The babe, the son of Mary.

Unison Reading:

  • When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Matthew 2:10-11

Joy To The World

1. Joy to the world, the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King:
Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

2. Joy to the world, the Savior reigns; Let men their songs employ:
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plain, Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

3. No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings flow; Far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found.

4. He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love, and wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love.

O Come, All Ye Faithful

1. O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him, Born the King of Angels
O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord!

2. Sing choirs of angels, sing in exultation,
O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above! Glory to God, all glory in the highest:
O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord!

3. Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning,
Jesus, to Thee be all glory given; Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing:
O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord!

Unison Prayer:

  • O God, Who by the birth of Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ did give Yourself to mankind; Grant that, being born in our hearts, He may save us from all our sins, and restore within us the image and likeness of our creator, to whom be everlasting praise and glory, world without end, Amen. (#685, United Methodist Hymnal).

Stollen

Growing up, my mom made a German sweet bread every Christmas season called stollen. Every year, as an adult, I get hungry for stollen and make it, carrying on the tradition my mom started in my childhood. Here is one recipe I use: Enjoy making it!

German Christmas Stollen

4 cups flour

6 tsps baking powder

2 eggs

1 stick butter, melted (1/2 cup)

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup milk

1 tsp. rum flavouring (optional)

pinch of salt

1/3 pound raisins

4 ounces candied fruit mix

1/4 pound almonds, chopped fine

Put all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Knead until smooth. Shape dough into a loaf. Butter baking sheet, place loaf on sheet and bake for one hour in a 350 degree F oven. Take out from oven, when done, and brush with melted butter. Put a glaze of confectioner frosting on and sprinkle with red and/or green sprinkles for Christmas!

EUCHARISTIC

The Christian life really is a journey. The imagery of hiking a trail really espouses the Christian journey. There is an entry point to the trail – for me it was when I was 16 and I said yes to Jesus. But that yes didn’t immediately culminate in total faith and dependence on Him. No, the journey requires step by step learning and seeking Him first. Much like a baby, born into the world grows, little by little, step by step.

And gratitude is key.

Our time in the Philippines really taught me the art of gratitude – a eucharistic life – eucharistic meaning a thank-filled life.

In Luke 22:19 Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them… In the original written language, Greek, the word eucharisteo is used, meaning He gave thanks. Charis is the root of eucharisteo and it means grace.

Grace can be seen as a gift – the bread, provision of food, is a grace. This is why we say grace, or say thanks, before meals – thankful to God our provider for the provision and grace of sustenance for our bodies.

Eucharisteo has joy wrapped in there as well. Chara, a Greek word is a derivative of charis. And when I learn all this, meditate on it, I think of Ephesians 5 where we are instructed to be imitators of Christ (v1), to give thanks (v4, 20), and also in Colossians where we are instructed to set our minds on things above (3:2), and give thanks (1:12; 2:7; 3:17; 4:2).

In our daily journey, remembering what Christ has done for us and giving thanks is the essence of a eucharistic life.

Journey on in His grace and peace, giving thanks in all things (1 Thess. 5:18)