Bless the Lord O my soul!

When we speak of God, often we seem to think of Him as the “good guy in heaven” but we don’t seem to think about who it is that we worship.  Oh yes, we call upon Him when there is trouble or when something doesn’t go our way, but we don’t recognize His hand in the blessings that we receive.

It is rather like the children at Christmas time.  We know their lists of toys that they just have to have this year, primarily because the advertisements tell us that they want these things.  When one or two of the “must have” toys are presented, after a perfunctory “oh yes!”, they settle back into the whining that comes from materialism. 

When we receive blessings from God, too often we think that we, somehow, are responsible for the receipt of those blessings.  Our financial status gives us our home and food.  Our educational status provides the work that brings riches to our account.  We take credit and forget that God is the Person who is responsible for all good things that come to us.

David knew this, and he expressed the goodness of God like this in Psalm 103:

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,  who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,  who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psaalm 103:1-5

I dare say that on an average, normal day, we don’t think about God forgiving our iniquity or redeeming our life from the pit.  I expect we do seek healing from Him if the need arises, but the rest is nowhere near the radar of our life.  It should be!  Forgiveness, healing, redemption, steadfast love and mercy … these things are worth so much more than presents around the tree.  These are the things that count eternally.  Oh that we would have an eternal perspective on our life, not a temporal one.

David continues:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.  As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.

Psalm 103:11-13

God is shown by David as a loving Father, a Father who shows compassion to His children.  A Father who has steadfast love for His children and who removes our transgressions, not because we are worthy of such action and not because we could do anything to remove them by our own actions, but because of His Son’s sacrifice on our behalf.

Again, David continues:

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,  to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

Psalm 103:17-18

Steadfast love – do we really know what that looks like?  In our culture, where divorce is so incredibly easy to obtain, simply by saying there are “irreconcilable differences”, where is steadfast love exhibited?  It is not on any of the television programs that I have seen.  It is not paraded in social media.

Steadfast love is shown by God to His children.  It is from everlasting to everlasting.  It is not transient or illusory.  It is not here today and gone tomorrow. It will not be extinguished because of something that we do. It is steady, like a rock, it is not going to go away simply because life got a bit messy and illness interfered with our plans.

Look around.  Bill and I have been married 34 years.  A number of couples in our church have been married in excess of 60 years and some are well into the upper 70-year range.  As long and meritorious as that is, it is just a tiny little amount when viewed from an eternal perspective.

David continues:

Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!  Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Psalm 103:20-22

I believe that we would be included in the last group mentioned – all His works in all places of His dominion. 

Beloved, don’t relegate God, the Creator, the Sustainer, the Author of our salvation, and the Lover of your soul to the top shelf of the closet.  Don’t neglect Him this year.  God, through His Word, the Bible, is calling you to bless the Lord. 

Blessing God and declaring His wondrous works toward us is something that should come naturally to the Christian.  We have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who took our place on the cross so that we could be with Him in heaven, forever.  Praising God should be something that we do with heartfelt gratitude for God’s mercy and love to us. 

Beloved, praise the Lord.  You will receive a blessing when you do, and you will want to continue to do it all day long!   Say it with David:

Bless the LORD O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Psalm 103:1

Father, forgive me when I have been too caught up on events and situations in my own life and I fail to Bless You as You deserve.  Forgive me when I attribute good things to actions that I have taken rather than recognizing that those things have come because of Your providence toward me.  Forgive me when I respond to illness with griping and complaining, rather than blessing Your name even for illness, knowing that Your will for me will prevail. Enable me to remember David’s pronouncement:  “Bless the LORD O my soul!”

WHAT IS WISDOM?

At the beginning of the new year, I thought we might consider wisdom, an attempt to bring wisdom front and center at the beginning of the year, rather than at the end! The perfect picture of someone thinking about wisdom may be the bronze statue by Auguste Rodin. 

Wisdom is a subject that is discussed often in Scripture. 

Moses told the people to keep the statutes and rules that came from God and which he was teaching the people, for this reason:

Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’

Deuteronomy 4:6

In 1 Kings we read of Solomon, David’s son, who asked God for wisdom so he could govern Israel.  God gave Solomon wisdom:

And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt

1 Kings 4:29-30

In the book of Job we find multiple references to wisdom, specifically asking where it comes from.  Here is one such reference:

“From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? …  And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.'”

Job 28:20,28

In reference to the Savior who would come, Jesus Christ, Isaiah wrote this of Him:

And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

Isaiah 11:2

In the book of Daniel, we read that God gave Daniel and his three friends wisdom and understanding, to be used in the worship of God. 

As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.  …  And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.

Daniel 1:17-20

In the book of Proverbs, Wisdom is personified as a woman.  See for example:

Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:

Proverbs 1:20-21

In the New Testament, wisdom is again referenced multiple times.  Here, in Luke, we read this of Jesus as a child:

And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. …  And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Luke 2:40, 52

The prophet Isaiah clarified the distinction between the wisdom of God and that of man when God stated:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

Paul wrote to the Corinthians that:

For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,”

1 Corinthians 3:19

So, what does wisdom look like?  See Proverbs 1:7 and 15:33:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.

In Colossians we are told that wisdom should abound in the Christian:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Colossians 3:16

James, Jesus’ half-brother, writes this of wisdom:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. …  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

James 1:5 and 3:17

Beloved, in 2021 let us be wise.  Not wise in our own eyes but let us be wise in Godly wisdom that comes from the Lord. 

Praise the Lord for His glorious works and for His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Father, thank You for the promise of wisdom from You if we only ask.  May we be wise, not in worldly wisdom but in the wisdom that comes from You through Your Holy Spirit in our lives.

“Good King Wenceslas”

Good King Wenceslas

“Good King Wenceslas” is a classic and popular Christmas carol about a king from Bohemia who journeyed through harsh winter conditions to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen, which is on December 26th. The most commonly sung version of the song was written by John M. Neale with help from his music editor Thomas Helmore in 1853.


The original lyrics were set to the melody of a 13th century Easter hymn called “Tempus adest floridum” (“The time is near for flowering”).  This tune was included in the 1582 hymn book Piae Cantiones  and was originally from Finland.

Wenceslas was a real person: the Duke of Bohemia, a 10th-century Christian prince in a land where many practiced a more ancient religion. In one version of his legend, Wenceslas was murdered in a plot by his brother, who was under the sway of their so-called pagan mother.

Following his death, Wenceslas became a saint and martyr revered especially for his kindness to the poor.

We are besieged each day with people who claim to need assistance but who are actually charlatans who seek to get riches from others simply by asking and appearing destitute.  We become numb to the plight of others because we are too afraid of being “taken”.  Realistically, however, if we do give to one who is really not needy, the fault is credited to them as sin. Our obligation is to give. 

Often, however, the people in need are not standing on the street corner with cardboard signs around their necks.  No, often the people in need are sitting near you in church, are in line at the fast-food chain, are looking at you in the hope that you can help them, but they are unwilling to let their guard down and express their need to you.

The cure for this dilemma – being a friend to others and becoming aware of the need that they have.  Jesus put it this way:

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Matthew 22:37-39

In Luke 10:29-37 we read the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The Jewish man was robbed and left for dead alongside the road going to Jerusalem.  The road was known for the bands of robbers who attacked travelers.  Three men passed by this poor man.  Two of them saw him and just left him to his misery, failing to help in any way.  One man traveling on this road was a Samarian, a sworn enemy of the Jews.  You would think that this man would pass on by and that the others would have helped their fellow man.  But, the Samaritan helped the Jew, taking him to safety in an inn and telling the innkeeper that he would pay for the care of the man upon his return.

In verse 36 Jesus posed the question to the lawyer:  “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 

The lawyer responded that it was the man who showed mercy, and Jesus said that he should “go, and do likewise”.  Verse 37.

Beloved, we are to be Jesus’ hands and feet. We are to “go, and do likewise,” just as the Samaritan man helped the traveler, we are to help those we come in contact with who may need our help. 

When there is a need, don’t depend on the other guy to take care of it.  You do it.  Pray about the situation and then let the Lord lead you as you minister to the one in need. 

Start with a smile.  That often will make all the difference in the world to someone who has not had the benefit of a smile for a long time.  Not a plastic smile that actually means “I’m too busy to do anything or talk to you so I’ll smile and that’s my good deed!”  No, smile and mean it.  Then graduate to speaking with the other person and soon you will know how to address their need.

The Good King Wenceslas did just that.  It was cold and he provided the peasant food and fuel for the fire. 

We can do that too.

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:40

Father, forgive me when I have walked away from those who are in need, when I could have helped them if only I had desired to do so.  May I truly desire to help others as Christ has commanded, not for blessing to me but for glory to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

THE FRIENDLY BEASTS

THE FRIENDLY BEASTS

One of the very oldest Christmas songs is still regularly sung today and is considered a traditional Christmas carol.  It is  “The Friendly Beasts”.  The song is about the animals (a donkey, cow, sheep, camel, and dove) present at Christ’s birth during the nativity scene and the gifts they bring to baby Jesus.

The original lyrics of the song were written by an unknown author in 12th century France and the song is set to the melody of the Latin song “Orientis Partibus.”

The modern English words were written by Robert Davis in 1920. Over the years, the song has been recorded by several famous singers including Burl Ives, Harry Belafonte, Johnny Cash, and Garth Brooks.

Scripture never says anything about the animals that were in the stable where Mary and Joseph went and in which the Babe was born.  But this ancient Christmas song depicts what the animals may have given as they ministered to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

Here are the lyrics for this beloved carol:

Jesus our brother, strong and good
Was humbly born in a stable rude
And the friendly beasts around him stood
Jesus our brother, strong and good.

“I, ” said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
“I carried his mother up hill and down;
I carried his mother to Bethlehem town.”
“I, ” said the donkey, shaggy and brown.

“I, ” said the cow, all white and red
“I gave him my manger for his bed;
I gave him my hay to pillow his head.”
“I, ” said the cow, all white and red.

“I, ” said the sheep with curly horn,
“I gave him my wool for his blanket warm;
He wore my coat on Christmas morn.”
“I, ” said the sheep with curly horn.

“I, ” said the dove from the rafters high,
“I cooed him to sleep so that he would not cry;
We cooed him to sleep, my mate and I.”
“I, ” said the dove from the rafters high.

Thus every beast by some good spell
In the stable dark was glad to tell
Of the gift he gave Emmanuel,
The gift he gave Emmanuel.

Here is this ancient Christmas song as performed by From the Morning on YouTube, www.fromthemorning.net

Father, we know that this song is not from Scripture, but we ache when we think that Your Son was relegated by mankind to birth in a stable, and we like to think that the animals made the Lord Jesus welcome as they acknowledged Him as their Creator, too.  I pray, Father, that I would do what I could to help others as the animals did in this delightful song.

COME THOU LONG EXPECTED JESUS

Charles Wesley wrote Come Thou Long Expected Jesus in 1744.  It was first published in his “Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord” hymnal. Wesley wrote “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” with the a dual purpose in mind:  first, that people would remember Advent and Christmas as commemorating the nativity of Jesus and, second, that people would prepare for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as King and Sovereign over all. 

The hymn came into popular knowledge across Christian denominations in England through the ministry of the popular Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon.  He preached a Christmas sermon in London in 1855 when he was 21 and included sections of “Come thou long expected Jesus” in it. The point he was illustrating is that there are very few who are “born king” and that Jesus was the only one who had been born king without first being a prince.

The lyrics of “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” focus on God choosing to give a Messiah to the world in the form of Jesus. It also focusses on the Old Testament Israelites longing for the Messiah to come and take the burden of sins from them to take them upon himself. It is postulated that the last line of the first verse may have come from Wesley being inspired by a 17th century philosopher; Blaise Pascal, who claimed that “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every person that cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator.”

The Christmas carol is unique insofar as it does not go into detail about the nativity itself.  The carol, however, reaches into our hearts because it touches upon a longing that is common to each of us.  It is  a desire taught throughout the Bible that the Messiah would meet a deep need of all people, the coming of the Lord to both the Jews and the Gentiles. 

While the Israelites are the featured people in the Old Testament, even there God has stated that He rules over the whole earth and over all the nations. 

This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?

Isaiah 14:26-27

In teaching about the end times, Jesus told the people that they needed to be careful because the day will come suddenly like a trap, and it will come to all who dwell in the earth. 

“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Luke 21:34-36

Today, 2,000 years since the Lord Jesus spoke these words to those around Him, we are still waiting for that day to come, the day when Jews and Gentiles will be united with the Lord.  Indeed, there will no longer be Jew or Gentile, we will all be Christians, looking to the Lord as our Savior Redeemer. 

This beautiful Christmas carol expresses this desire eloquently, and it is as applicable today as it was when Wesley penned the words.  Come Lord Jesus, come.

Here is this carol as sung on YouTube by My House Worship Sessions.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Father, I pray that people who don’t know the Lord Jesus Christ would, today, come to Him in faith, believing that He is God and that He died for their sins, accepting Christ as their Savior Redeemer.  I pray for those who are yearning for peace and joy, but who are looking for these things in the world, rather than in Jesus.  I pray that those who seek peace and joy will find it this Christmas as they approach the manger and see the King. 

O HOLY NIGHT

In 1847. Placide Cappeau, a wine seller from southern France, was asked by the local parish priest to write a festive poem to celebrate the church organ’s renovation. Cappeau felt it should be accompanied by music, so approached his friend Adolphe Charles Adam.   

The text of the carol reflects on the birth of the Savior as well as on His life, ending with the words that all oppression shall cease because of His presence.  The last lines of the poem exclaim our response to Christ’s life: “Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, let all within us praise His holy name”.  Indeed, this carol prompts such praise, most frequently accompanied by tears, as we bask in the light of Christ’s love and our redemption.


The full lyrics to this carol are as follows:

O Holy Night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night divine


Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here come the wise men from Orient land
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

Listen to a performance of “O Holy Night” by André Rieu and His Johann Strauss Orchestra as they performed the carol live in London. This video was taken from the DVD Christmas in London.

Father, we praise Your Name for giving us Your Son as our Savior and Redeemer.  Thank You that through Jesus, we are released from the bondage of sin and death and we can claim life eternal through faith in Him.  Thank You for gracing people with the ability to compose poems and write music so that we can praise You through song.  We praise You as we celebrate the birth of Your Son.

Of the Father’s Love Begotten

The history of Christmas carols is wonderfully interesting. In 375 A.D. Christians first recognized December 25 as Christmas Day. At this point in time, however, there were no “Christmas carols” but rather the people sang hymns. Hymns were considered to be more solemn and religious in nature. Carols, on the other hand, were considered dances accompanied by music. One of the earliest Christmas hymns, of which we are aware, was likely “Jesus Refulsit Omnium” (“Jesus, Light of All the Nations”), written by St. Hilary of Poitier in the 4th century.

Another early Christmas hymn is “Corde natus ex Parentis” (“Of the Father’s Love Begotten). Christian poet Aurelius Clemens Prudentius wrote the Latin poem that inspired this song in the 5th century, but it wasn’t set to music until centuries later. When it was set to music, the tune used was entitled “Divine Mysterium”.

In Luke 9 we read of the account of Jesus’ Transfiguration. As the three disciples were thinking of making booths to Jesus, Elijah and Moses, they heard God speak:

And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”

Luke 9:35

In Matthew 3 we read of Jesus baptism by John, as follows:

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said,This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:16-17

God’s love for His Son is clearly documented in Scripture. That love existed from eternity past and it will continue forever, as the resurrected Christ is now seated beside the Father interceding with the Father on behalf of His people.

Listen to this beautiful, age-old Christmas hymn as sung on the album “Hymns for All Saints: Advent, Christmas & Epiphany” by Concordia Publishing House 2005. The hymn is sung by a traditional a cappella choir. The words of the hymn are shown along side beautiful stained glass windows showing a variety of nativity-related scenes. Let the message and the glory of the hymn sink into your consciousness as you listen to the words and music.

Beloved, even though COVID-19 likely will make celebrating Christmas with family and friends difficult, celebrating the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ can be done in the quiet of your own heart and soul. Praise God the Father for the gift of His Son. Praise the Lord Jesus Christ for leaving His home in heaven and coming to this sin-ridden world to save us from our sins. Praise the Holy Spirit for His guiding us to God through faith in His Son.

Christ is the risen Lord and Redeemer of His people. Praise Him always, and especially at this season celebrating the His incarnation.

Father, help me to celebrate the birth of Christ during this difficult time with a pandemic raging, and social and political unrest overwhelming us at every turn. May the peace of Christ be with us in our celebration whether it be in a large group or individually. May the joy of Christmas be with us and may the light of Christmas be evident in our visage and in our interactions with others.

It is December 1 and it is the month when we celebrate Christmas!

In a year characterized by stay-at-home orders, quarantine and isolation, it is hard to realize that Christmas is upon us. COVID-19 has played havoc with our calendars, with our sense of time, with disruption of our celebrations like birthdays and anniversaries, … with our life as we knew it.

Things are different now. We don’t have the whole family visiting in person; rather, we do it through zoom conferences. At least then we can see them and hear them. Almost like being together!

But the story of Christmas does not change, even if all else around us is different. Christmas is about the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, coming as a baby into our fallen world. He came to this world and showed us how we are to live. He taught us what we are to do and how we are to care for our neighbor. He illustrated love, compassion, patience and goodness in all His interactions with people, even when the people rejected Him and hated what He stood for. Moreover, He came for the sole purpose of being the sacrificial offering to pay for the sins of His people. His resurrection from the dead gave proof that He was who He said He was — the son of God and the Savior Redeemer of His people.

All that in mind, for the next 4 weeks we will be focusing on Christmas carols, some of which may be familiar and some may be new, but all will be uplifting as we consider the Babe in the manger.

The first song is one that might not be familiar, but it is an extraordinarily wonderful song telling the story of Simeon, the old man in the temple who had been told that he would not die until he had seen the Savior.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

Luke 2:25-35

Listen to Michael Card sing “Now that I’ve held Him in my arms” in this short video presentation. The lyrics are presented below the video panel.

Michael Card singing Now That I’ve Held Him In My Arms

That old man in the temple
Waiting in the court
Waiting for the answer to a promise
And all at once he sees them
In the morning sunshine
A couple come and carry in a baby

Now that I’ve held Him in my arms
My life can now come to an end
Let Your servant now depart in peace
Cause I’ve seen Your salvation
He’s the Light of the Gentiles
And the glory of His people Israel

Mary and the baby come
And in her hand five shekels
The price to redeem her baby boy
The baby softly cooing
Nestled in her arms
Simeon takes the boy and starts to sing

Now’s the time to take Him in your arms
Your life will never come to an end
He’s the only way that you’ll find peace
He’ll give you salvation cause
He’s the Light of the Gentiles
And the glory of His people Israel

Source: LyricFind Songwriters: Michael Card

May you have a Blessed Christmas this year!

Father, thank You for sending Your Son into our fallen world so He could be our Savior Redeemer. Thank You for Your grace, mercy and love extended to us through Christ our Lord.

Thanksgiving during a pandemic is, well, different!

In his Thanksgiving Day address to the country in 1963, President John F. Kennedy said:

Let us therefore proclaim our gratitude to Providence for manifold blessings–let us be humbly thankful for inherited ideals–and let us resolve to share those blessings and those ideals with our fellow human beings throughout the world.”

Indeed, Thanksgiving Day is a time for us to remember the many ways that we have been blessed during the past year, even if this past year brought COVID-19 to our homes.

In years gone by, the traditional day was celebrated with the best china, glassware, linens and, of course, the best food that the family could afford. It was also a time for the family to gather, from various parts of the city, state, or country, to celebrate together.

Now, Thanksgiving in the midst of a pandemic, is far different. Many people are still traveling to visit family, but the CDC asserts. strongly, that such activity is to be avoided. Too much possibility that families will infect each other with the virus and then those people will travel back home infecting even more along the way.

Of course, in school we learned that the Thanksgiving meal was in celebration of the harvest and of the bounty that the country afforded the Pilgrims.  So, in keeping with the “bounty” part of the holiday, we have food that is a traditional part of the celebration.

But the centerpiece of the meal is the turkey! This year, rather than having a whole turkey with drumsticks and wings, we are having a turkey breast. It will be smaller, not as jazzy as the whole bird, but it will still be yummy!

Before eating, we “say grace”, a time when we thank the Lord for the manifold blessings that he has provided for us, focusing primarily on the food we are about to eat!

Holiday traditions and stories are important to keep us together and to define who we are.  Traditions and stories play a critical role in our life before God as He states in His Word.

For example, the Passover Meal is a time when the story of the Exodus is retold each year, even today, thousands of years after the event.  Scripture admonishes us to teach our children about God’s acts in our life.

The act of thanksgiving is described and discussed often in the Scriptures.  The Old Testament described the peace offering that was made to God in thanksgiving in Leviticus 7.

In 1 Chronicles 16:7 we read that David appointed that songs be sung in thanksgiving to God.

“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.”

Psalm 69:30

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,” [ESV]

Psalm 50:4

Scripture tells us that “grace” is more than just saying a quick prayer before the meal, although grace and thanksgiving are frequently paired.  In 1 Corinthians 1:4, Paul states:

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you.”

Paul is giving thanks to God for the grace given to the Church in Corinth, a church that he established, counseled, and nurtured.

I remember learning the term G-R-A-C-E by the phrase “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.”   But, grace is so very much more than this trite phrase defines.

  • Grace provides us with God’s love.  Paul says: “and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 1:14
  • Grace enables us to do the will of God.  1 Corinthians 12:4-6 tells us: “”Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”
  • Grace provides forgiveness of sin.  “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,…”  Romans 5:20
  • Grace enables Christians to love others.  “We love because he first loved us.”  I John 4:19.
  • Grace provides us with the opportunity to fellowship with God.  “”Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power…. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.”  Ephesians 3:7, 10-12.

I pray that we are thankful daily not just for the material blessings we have from our Father but also for the grace given to us by the Lord. Remember this marvelous gift of grace from God and include it with humble gratitude in your prayers of thanks to God our Father.

Father, we thank you for Your love that you extended to us while we were yet sinners, before we could even think of loving You. Thank You for Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf, and thank You for the Holy Spirit who indwells us and is transforming us into the image of Your Son. Thank You for our country and the freedom to worship that is provided. We pray that our leaders and those in authority over us would look to You, Father, for wisdom, guidance and discernment as they lead us in these difficult times. Thank You, Father, for Your presence and for Your mighty hand.