Spoiler Alert : nothing profound or thought-provoking here – just fun!
We just had our first snow of the season in East Tennessee. The mountains received significantly more than we did in the valley, but it was still pretty as it covered the grass and laid softly on the leaves and branches in the back yard. When I looked out the window and saw the first snow, I was reminded of a video I made of Snickers and Cuddles as they ran in the snow wearing their yellow slickers, complete with reflector strip across their back end, in case they get lost at night!
We adopted them from Young Williams Animal Shelter here in Knoxville. Bill always says that they “won the lottery” when we brought them home with us, but I believe that we were the winners in those transactions when you think of all the joy and love they provide on a daily basis.
Here is the video — please bear with it for about 9 seconds and you will see them come streaking in from the right side of the screen. Cuddles is the one with her tail curved over her back – Snickers has the straighter tail. The video always brings a smile to my face. I hope you enjoy it as well.
Happy New Year and, if you have snow, enjoy it before you have to start shoveling your way out of it! I know shoveling can be a bear, but enjoy the beauty for a little while. Please don’t let the obligation to get going eliminate your appreciation of the beauty of God’s creation, even in a little snowflake.
Blessings to you today, and throughout the new year.
We have spoken of the way, in 1818, this carol came about. From the majestic heights of the Austrian Alps we see the image of the village covered in snow and the profound silence that the snow brings.
While the carol is a calming influence in a season of tumultuous activity, the carol is also calming because of its sound theology. Let us look at the words of this carol and consider the Scripture that relates to each stanza.
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.
The prophet Isaiah foretold in Isaiah 7:14:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
This prophecy was quoted in Matthew 1:23 with a small addition, the meaning of the term “Immanuel”:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to her son, Jesus. Indeed, she confirmed that this prophesy was being fulfilled when she said, in Luke 1:34:
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
Then there is the phrase “Sleep in heavenly peace”. Jesus is, truly, the source of peace. When His disciples were afraid, He said:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
The peace Jesus provides is overwhelming, and is heavenly peace!
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!
While the Holy Scripture does not use the word “quake” to describe the shepherds on that hillside, the Scripture does support the concept in Luke 2:9 where we read:
“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.”
I have to say, if I saw an angel of the Lord, with the glory streaming from the angel surrounding me, I believe that I would be filled with fear and would likely “quake” too!
Then we read in Luke 2:13-14 that there was great singing by the heavenly host:
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!”
I can’t write these words without smiling and hearing in my soul the choir singing these words during Christmas anthems. Another way to say “Glory to God” is by use of the word “Alleluia” or Hallelujah meaning “God be praised”.
“Christ the Savior is born”. The angel told Joseph that Jesus was going to be the Savior of men when he announced to him that his betrothed was with a heavenly child.
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
The angels also announced this to the shepherds on that hillside so long ago:
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
When Jesus became an adult, He ministered three years and then “set His face toward Jerusalem” so that He could fulfill the mission assigned to Him by the Father — being the sacrificial lamb crucified in atonement for the sins of His people. He was, is and forever will be our Savior.
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.
It is true that the babe in the manger was the Son of God, and it is also true that He was “love’s pure light”. Jesus said:
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
I doubt that the Babe in the manger had either a radiant face or a halo around His head as depicted in religious art. But radiance does apply to our Lord. Think of the description of Jesus when He was transfigured before three of his disciples. Matthew describes it as follows:
And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.
Redeeming grace was truly brought to earth when Jesus was born. Paul sums this up in Galatians 4:4-5 where he says:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
The carol concludes with the profound statement “Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.” This is, too, an accurate statement and it is an affirmation of faith and belief in that wonderful Babe.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11. Jesus is Lord of all, and He was Lord even as the Babe. He gave up His heavenly place so He could save us from our sins; but He was no less Lord when He was a man than when He was in heaven. The God/Man Jesus Christ is and always has been part of the Triune God, from the time before time began and He will remain such when time no longer exists and we are in heaven for eternity. Jesus is Lord. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!
Yes, the beautiful carol “Silent Night” sums up the theological point that Jesus is the Son of God, Who was born of a virgin and Who came into this world for the purpose of redeeming us from our sin. The Babe Who is the Lord of all. The salvation story is on full display in this beautiful carol. Praise the Lord!
May the blanketing silence of snow cover you, whether literally or figuratively, so that you experience the peace that our Savior brings to your heart and soul even in the hectic days of the Christmas season. The Psalmist says it this way:
“Be still and know that I am God.”
Psalm 46:10. Unfortunately, we cannot be still so that we can know God when we are running frantically in hyper-mode to get everything accomplished that we think needs to be done. Nor can we be still so God can make Himself known to us when His voice is drowned out by the cacophony of electronic beeps and tones, television’s call to view programs of no redeeming value, malls demanding that you purchase goods that you think will satisfy hunger and need but which will only wind up stacked against the wall, unused. You can likely add other scenarios that keep you from being silent before God.
Remember the silence of that holy night when Mary and Joseph looked with loving eyes at the Babe Who was born so miraculously.
Perhaps listening to Silent Night will get you into the stillness mode. Here is “Silent Night, Holy Night” as sung by Saint Michael Singers on the album Gloria.
Do whatever it takes to let yourself “Be still”. You will be glad you did and your relationship with your Father will grow stronger this Christmas season.
Father, thank You for Your Word that tells of the birth of Jesus even hundreds of years before it occurred. Thank You for Your Word that speaks to us today, thousands of years after Jesus was born, telling us of His birth, death, resurrection, ascension and promised return. Help me to keep my eyes on You and Your gift to us, the Babe in the manger who became our Sacrifice on the Cross and is now our Savior in Heaven. Give me the grace to “Be still”, even when chaos reigns around me, through the power and love of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Savior.
Anyone who has stood outside while snow is falling has heard “the sound of silence”.
The blanket of snow simply muffles sounds that ordinarily would be heard.
It is a silence that is palpable, beautiful and spell-binding.
That snowy silence was the impetus behind the Christmas carol “Silent Night” which is a staple in the Christmas collection of carols for thousands of churches. Even secular groups will sing the song because of its incredible imagery, beautiful lyrics and soul-calming theme.
Here is the story behind the creation of this beautiful Christmas classic.
In 1818, Josef Mohr was assistant pastor of the St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, a village near Salzburg in the Austrian Alps. He was in a meditative mood as he walked home after a Christmas presentation in a friend’s home. He walked along the longer path to his home which took him to the top of a hill.
Surrounded by the majestic Alps, from his vantage point over the village, Mohr looked down on the peaceful snow-covered village. He experienced the awesome silence of the night as he looked at the shining scene below him that looked rather like a Christmas card. As he pondered on the scene, he remembered a poem that he had written a couple of years earlier which described the night when angels came to the shepherds on a hillside to announce the birth of the Messiah.
While Mohr had words that he believed would be a good Christmas carol for the congregation to sing at the Christmas Eve service, he did not have any music. So, he went to see the church organist, Franz Gruber. In short, Gruber had to have a melody that could be sung that evening with a guitar since the organ was out of commission. Gruber composed the music for Mohr’s poem and they sang it that evening without the organ. The congregation loved the carol, and it is reported that many of the people had tears in their eyes from its beautiful rendition.
Later, the organ builder came to repair the St. Nicholas church organ, and, when completed, he asked Gruber to play a tune to test the repair. Gruber sat down at the organ and began playing the melody he had written for Mohr’s Christmas poem. Struck by the beauty of the piece, the organ builder took copies of the music and words of “Silent Night” back to his own Alpine village, Kapfing. There, two well-known families of singers, the Rainers and the Strassers, heard the song. They were so thrilled with “Silent Night” that both groups put the new carol into their Christmas season repertoire.
The rest, as they say, is history. The carol swept the world and now it is sung in over 300 languages worldwide.
The words of the carol are beautiful but their power comes from the fact that the carol is also theologically sound, quite a powerful combination! In the next post, we will examine how theologircally sound this wonderful Christmas carol is. In the meantime, Here is a rendition of the carol by The Piano Guys in their album “A Family Christmas”.
May the blanketing silence of snow cover you, whether literally or figuratively, so that you experience the peace that our Savior brings to your heart and soul even in the hectic days of the Christmas season. The Psalmist says it this way:
Be still and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10. Perhaps listening to Silent Night will get you into the stillness mode. Do whatever it takes to let yourself “Be still”. You will be glad you did and your relationship with your Father will grow stronger this Christmas season.
Father, help me to keep my eyes on You and Your gift to us, the Babe in the manger who became our Sacrifice on the Cross and is now our Savior in Heaven. I pray that my soul would rest in Your peace despite the calendar demands and obligation. Give me the grace to “Be still”, even when chaos reigns around me, all this is through the power and love of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Savior.
Even as I write this post, winter storm Jonas is still pummeling the New England coast with rain, sleet, heavy snow and pelting winds although it has now pretty much finished its work in the southern United States. We knew it was coming … all week long we were told by the weather forecasters that a monster storm was brewing and it would bring drenching rains for days on end in the south and snow that could be measured in feet, not inches, farther north and along the eastern coastline.
People were warned to be prepared. Of course, in our area, we are told that there is a 10% chance of snow and, within an hour, the stores are out of bread and milk. So, with a 100% chance of snow predicted, my husband went to a convenience store to pick up a gallon of milk, fully expecting that there would be none. However, he found that there was a healthy supply of both milk and bread. He expressed his surprise to the cashier and was told “you need to look at the shelves where the beer is usually found!” Apparently, for some folks, beer is more important to have on hand during a snow storm than milk and bread, if you are expecting to be in the house for a number of days.
Preparation is important. At the house, we have firewood stacked outside and an immediate supply next to the fireplace.
The fireplace has an insert that makes it a wood burning stove, so when the temperature started falling, my husband built a fire and we were toasty warm … hot in fact, the room was 82 degrees at one point! But we were prepared. If power goes out, we can cook on the top of the stove. We had the food we needed, the heat we needed, everyone was inside, and all was well.
Although the snow did not materialize in any significant amount at our house, it did in surrounding areas. For us, it was just enough to make the neighborhood pretty. There is something so serene and still when snow is falling.
Even the canine members of the family were prepared. We put their yellow slickers on them and turned them loose in the backyard. They loved to run and sniff the snow, in fact, Snickers tried to catch the flakes with her mouth.
The video is of the two of them in the back yard – wait for the first 8 seconds and then you will see the two yellow streaks pass by the field of view! I hope it brings a smile to your face.
Preparation. People prepared for several days to be ready to withstand any difficulties that may arise in this storm. We prepare for a great many things … academic tests, surprise celebrations for loved ones, the potential of a new baby, transfer to a new job, moving to a new community, company coming for dinner … yes, we prepare for many things.
The question is whether we have prepared for the ultimately important thing … where we will spend eternity.
In the Old Testament, King Belshazzar decided to give a feast for one thousand of his lords and officials. You can read about this extravaganza in Daniel chapter 5. While they were reveling and using the vessels from the Lord’s House to drink their wine, the king was rightly disturbed when he saw a hand writing on the wall of the palace. Ultimately, the Lord’s prophet Daniel was called to interpret the writing.
“And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.
Daniel 5:25-31 [ESV]
Belshazzar believed himself to be above reproach – he was king and nothing could harm him. Certainly not anything that would arise during his festival! He forgot that God was responsible for his position and that God could snuff out his life, literally, in a heartbeat. In short, he ran out of time to prepare to meet God.
In the New Testament, Jesus tells a parable of the rich man who had so much bounty from his farm that he didn’t know what to do. So he built larger barns to store his grain and his goods. Then he said:
“And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’” “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'”
Luke 12:19-20 [ESV]
The man in Jesus’ parable ran out of time to prepare to meet God and, based on God’s referring to him as “Fool,” it would appear that he was not ready. He had placed so much emphasis on his personal abilities that he gave himself all credit and left nothing to God. In this case, his eternal destiny was decided by his own foolish refusal to acknowledge his need for God. In short, he ran out of time to prepare to meet God.
Preparation. Scripture says that preparation for our eternal salvation is simple and yet profound.
“if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
Romans 10:9-10 [ESV]
Are you prepared? Where will you spend eternity? Now is the time of salvation!
Father, thank you for your provision of salvation and for the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for the indwelling Holy Spirit and for the work of the Spirit in prompting your children to come to you. I pray that you would use my life as a witness for you, and that these few words would be used by your Spirit to prompt people to search your word and so come to a realization of the saving work of our Lord on their behalf.
We are getting ready to go on a short camping trip and in considering the things to take, I remembered a camping experience in March 2014 where I thought I had covered all the bases, but, the Horrible/Wonderful Camping Trip was the result!
One month earlier we had adopted Cuddles, the first of our two miniature pinchers.
She was just getting used to us at home when we took her on a camping trip with our then 7-year old grandson who wanted to go camping for “Spring Break” which happened to be toward the end of a very cold winter.
While our grandson had been in the RV before, Cuddles had not. (Picture of us on the way to the RV … excitement and anticipation oozing out of every pore!)
The response of our canine daughter was much less than enthusiastic when the sounds of travel in the RV began, and when she was harnessed into a seat which she did not particularly appreciate.
When we arrived at the huge campground we found only one other RV and it was being stored, not used. (This shows a big campground that is not filled with campers … picture this with rain and mud, then you get the idea!)
Another clue that this was going to be a memorable (?) trip was the weather – not only was it cold, we drove through heavy rain all the way to the campground. But Grammy and Papa persevered because they had promised a camping trip and, by golly, we were going to produce on our promise!
Cuddles, on the other hand, was not as excited since she was a bit more realistic … going to the bathroom in freezing cold rain, on wind-swept frozen grass is just not her cup of tea. (Here she is shown shortly before this trip in our backyard with her coat on, standing at the window while looking at the snow … “do I really have to get in that? I am, after all, a member of the family!”)
And the 7-year-old grandson anticipated, correctly, that it was likely going to be his job to walk Cuddles at the campground, with his jacket on and hood up, until she went to the bathroom since Grammy and Papa were old, or rather “seniors”!
We, however, dismissed the bad weather outside because we were ready for inside recreation. We came armed with games, DVDs and video games to play since the rain would prevent us from doing much outside – but within minutes the [new] DVD player developed a thumping sound that permeated the heart and mind of all of us. It was a pitiful sight to see us viewing Wallace and Grommit when we missed every 4th word or more because of the persistent pounding.
When the movie failed, we decided to run some water in the sink for hot chocolate — and the frozen hose burst. Same held true with the shower hose, so our entertainment became a trip to a delightful RV supply store with Papa and the grandson installing replacement hoses and faucets.
Thinking, perhaps, that a rest might have helped the DVD, we tried the movie again but Wallace and Grommit still thumped their way through missing words.
We noticed a “dog park” when we pulled into the campground, so we promptly took off for that once the rain had ended. When we got there, we saw all the elements of a doggy playground … teeter/totter, tunnel, low fence to jump, ramp up to a trestle and a ramp down on the other side, with a lot of room to run and all of it was fenced so no leash was needed. Just what the doctor ordered after confinement in the RV. But, it was MUDDY after all the rain … no grass, just mud. When our grandson started to run to entice Cuddles to run, both the dog and the boy rained mud and neither of them liked it!
We marched back to the RV with one very dejected young man. But then he cheered up when he remembered that we always had a campfire to make s’mores. (Note, this is the campfire our grandson was dreaming of!)
But, Papa correctly said no campfire that night because the wind was blowing far too hard: a campfire would not burn as it was too windy and too wet, not to mention cold! Dejection reigned supreme!
But Dejection had met its match when it encountered Grammy!
I had seen a “portable s’more maker” advertised in a catalog. It looked interesting so I purchased it. When it came, I described it to a coworker and she said: “A portable s’more maker? That’s a pile of wood and a match!”
Well, no one really took me seriously, but my time to shine had come … I looked at my grandson and said “We don’t need a campfire because we can make s’mores inside where it’s warm with Grammy’s portable s’more maker!”
While he was a bit of a doubter at first, when I brought out the box, the potential promise of s’mores was too strong — he was willing to open it, just in case I was right. The ceramic pot with sterno fuel provides the heat to cook, or burn, the marshmallow, as your discriminating taste may prefer. He loved it and we had fun making s’mores that evening, even if it was blustery outside in the frozen, virtually empty campground. Papa even joined in the fun although it was a bit crowded around the small “campfire” in the RV.
We left the campground early the next day and returned to the warmth of the fireplace at home and talked about our camping trip … laughing about the broken hoses, the dog park mud, the empty campground, and the inside s’mores.
I had planned for a camping trip because it was something that our grandson said he wanted – what he really wanted was time with us and memories that were unique to our experience. Those he got in abundance.
How like our relationship with God. In Deuteronomy 11:13 we are commanded
“to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul”.
This commandment did not end when Jesus arrived because He reiterates this as the greatest commandment for us in Matthew 22:37.
In fact, Jesus promised that His Spirit would be with us, enabling us to do that which He commanded. See John 14:16-17:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
How do we show our love? Think about your first love, your spouse, children, or parents. The ways love can be expressed are as many and myriad as there are people.
But one of the prime characteristics of love in action is that you spend time with the object of your affection. This love does not ignore the many obligations that we have on a day-to-day basis; nor does this mean that all the time together must be at play. But spending time with the one you love is paramount, just as is your desire to do so.
So, we say we love the Lord. Do we desire to be with Him? How do we show our love for God?
Psalm 106:1 says:
“Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”
In Psalm 77:12, David says:
“I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.”
Do you meditate on Jesus?
Do you contemplateHis worthiness for praise and glory?
Do you read His Word and feed upon it?
Do you worship Him privately as well as in corporate worship with other believers?
Do you praise Him for all His marvelous works?
Do you joy in your relationship with Him?
The camping trip certainly could have been better from a camping perspective … but the time we spent with our grandson was wonderful as well as memorable.
Now, remember that the Lover of your soul, the omnipotent, creator God, the One who has loved you since the foundation of the world.. it is this God Who desires to spend time with you!