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(81 posts)

Tonight will find our family at home. The Lady of the house will have prepared a table of hors d’œuvre, and we will spend the evening quietly together—as quietly as ten people can, that is. We will read the Gospel from the book of Luke and open gifts; and we will continue the tradition that was begun 15 years ago, when I brought home a worn copy of The Complete Works of O. Henry from a used book store. It was our second Christmas as a married couple, and our oldest child was a baby. We were living in an apartment not unlike the one you will soon enter. We read The Gift of the Magi, and have done so every Christmas Eve since. I would like to share that tradition with you today. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas. There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating. While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad. In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young.” The “Dillingham” had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good. Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling—something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim. There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art. Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length. Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy. So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet. On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street. Where she stopped the sign read: “Mme. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.” One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the “Sofronie.” “Will you buy my hair?” asked Della. “I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take yer hat off and let’s have a sight at the looks of it.” Down rippled the brown cascade. “Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand. “Give it to me quick,” said Della. Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present. She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation’as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim’s. It was like him. Quietness and value—the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain. When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends’a mammoth task. Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically. “If Jim doesn’t kill me,” she said to herself, “before he takes a second look at me, he’ll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do—oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty-seven cents?” At 7 o’clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops. Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: “Please God, make him think I am still pretty.” The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two—and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves. Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face. Della wriggled off the table and went for him. “Jim, darling,” she cried, “don’t look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It’ll grow out again’you won’t mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say “Merry Christmas!” Jim, and let’s be happy. You don’t know what a nice—what a beautiful, nice gift I’ve got for you.” “You’ve cut off your hair?” asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor. “Cut it off and sold it,” said Della. “Don’t you like me just as well, anyhow? I’m me without my hair, ain’t I?” Jim looked about the room curiously. “You say your hair is gone?” he said, with an air almost of idiocy. “You needn’t look for it,” said Della. “It’s sold, I tell you—sold and gone, too. It’s Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered,” she went on with sudden serious sweetness, “but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?” Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year’what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on. Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table. “Don’t make any mistake, Dell,” he said, “about me. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first.” White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat. For there lay The Combs—the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims—just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone. But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: “My hair grows so fast, Jim!” And then Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, “Oh, oh!” Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit. “Isn’t it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You’ll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it.” Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled. “Dell,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep “em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.” The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men—who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

We Don’t Even Have a Chimney

Tuesday··2006·12·05 · 8 Comments
Memo to the comprehension-impaired: This post is not about Santa or people who deceive their children. It is primarily about the sin of some of those people against the rest of us who choose truth, and are quite satisfied with Jesus alone. It is written, first, in zeal for the truth, and second, as a call to, and in hope of, repentance. It happens. Some school teacher tells the truth about the mythical fat man from the North Pole, and parents flip out as though something wrong has been done. Christian parents, whom I would expect to love truth, are often as outraged as the pagans. Now, I agree that it is within the parents’ rights (legally, if not morally) to tell their children whatever they want. Let them tell their children that a jolly fat man who lives at the North Pole—there is no land at the North Pole, by the way—makes an annual visit to every good child (Romans 3:10–18) on the planet via a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. Let them say that the moon is made of cheese, global warming is a legitimate threat, Ralph Nader would make an excellent President, and they can accomplish anything with enough self-esteem. Parents are certainly entitled to decide what to tell their children, and I am right out front in the battle against anyone who says otherwise. That is why we homeschool. On the other hand, my right to teach my children whatever I see fit does not translate into an obligation on anyone else to back up my story. I have no right to wax indignant because someone says there is no Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, or Santa Claus. “But,” you say, “They don’t have to go out of their way to do it. Furthermore, not all truth must be told. Some truth should not be told.” Then you might give an example of crossing the street to tell someone they’re ugly , which is a ridiculous comparison, for a few reasons. First, ugly is subjective. That anyone is ugly is neither true nor false. Second, supposing ugly is a fact, there could never be a good reason for saying so. What kind of person would do that? Third, and most importantly, it would be highly unusual for anyone to be forced to declare someone to be ugly. Anyone who spends a lot of time with children will inevitably be faced with the necessity of either affirming or denying Santa Claus. Any teacher committed to telling the truth, no matter how studiously he avoids the subject, will eventually have to say, “No, sorry, it’s just a story.” You have no right to object to that, and to expect them to cross their fingers and lie. Then there are the children who know the truth. Eventually, they learn to avoid the subject and keep quiet. Little kids haven’t learned that, and they don’t have the skill to maneuver through this minefield as adults can. Sometimes, they are just going to blurt out, “There’s no Santa Claus!” There is no malice or guile in that, and I would be ashamed to hear my children say otherwise when they know the truth. Children lose any illusion of innocence far too soon as it is. I will not teach them to lie for any reason. “But,” you say again, “Surely you tell your children stories; not everything you tell them is technically true.” Yes, we tell stories, and some of them are real whoppers; but we call them fiction. We don’t actually convince our children that there really are trolls living under bridges or pigs that can build houses or bears that eat porridge. We never try to convince them of anything that is not true. The possible example you’re thinking of right now? No. I don’t need to know what it is, the answer is, “No. Absolutely not. Nope; not that, either.” As aggravating and absolutely wrong as it is to expect complicity in deceit, worse is the scorn that is often heaped upon those who choose to tell their own children the truth. I’m talking about Christians who look down on others for telling their own children the truth. We are stealing joy from our children. We are “miserable, dour adults” who “suck the fun out of” Christmas, “so-called ‘Christians,’” “jerks” [Update: Add “ashen and odious” to the descriptions of a Christ-only Santa-free Christmas]. That attitude is astonishing. First, to be contemptuous of others for telling the truth—for telling the truth!—is audacious beyond description. Second, to think that the legitimate focus of Christmas is somehow lacking, and that a fairy tale can add anything to the true story of God incarnate, born of virgin, without sin, who lived and died to bear my sin and secure eternal life for me! The true story of the incarnation alone needs a companion fairy tale, or Christmas won’t be fun! Such attitudes are unworthy of Christians. Tell your children whatever you want. That really is not my concern, or the focus of this article. Your children will probably grow up just fine, although many have testified to the harm done to their faith when they learned the truth about Santa. Just don’t expect complicity from me. Don’t expect sympathy when you throw your temper tantrums over the gall of some teacher who told the truth. Don’t expect an apology when your child discovers that mine doesn’t believe in Santa. You see, if maintaining your deceit requires me to be deceitful too, you’re on your own. If that “suck[s] the fun out of” your Christmas, I’m afraid you’ve missed Christmas anyway.

Christmas Music

Wednesday··2007·11·21 · 10 Comments
I was what “the best Christmas albums ever” are, and particularly, which Messiah production, and why? So these are my recommendations. I haven’t listened to many different Messiah productions, but of those I have, I like this one best. Why? I just do. I’m not aficionado enough to go into all the nuances of nuance—“Well, it has a robust bouquet and tantalizes the palate with hints of elderberry and currants”—I just like it best. I’m in need of some new Christmas music myself. These are probably not “the best Christmas albums ever,” but here are some of my favorites: Christopher Parkening & Kathleen Battle, Angels’ Glory. I believe the sopranos in Heaven’s choir sound like Kathleen Battle, and Christopher Parkening’s guitar rivals any angel’s harp. Maybe I exaggerate. Or maybe not. Dallas Brass, Christmas Brass. I’m sure there are other Christmas brass albums equal to or better than this (like this one by the Westminster Brass, for example), but I’ve got this one, and I like it. Joni Eareckson Tada, John MacArthur, Robert & Bobbie Wolgemuth, O Come, All Ye Faithful. This is one of four hymn albums done with The Master’s College Choral. Each comes with a hardcover book of historical sketches and meditations on the hymns it contains. Joni Eareckson Tada & Bobbie Wolgemuth, Christmas Carols for a Kid’s Heart. Similar to the previous album, this is one of four, also accompanied by a hardcover book. These are some of the best children’s productions I’ve heard. Charlotte Church, Dream a Dream. I like this one in spite of the Ave Maria. California Guitar Trio, Christmas Album. This one is fun for anyone who likes the guitar. It includes a couple of stupid songs, but since it’s all instrumental (nobody sings) they’re still enjoyable. Nat King Cole, The Christmas Song. He’s Nat King Cole. Need I say More? This man sang. Not like what commonly passes for singing in pop music today. No moaning, groaning, whining, growling, yelling, screaming, . . . Just clear singing with the beautiful voice God gave him. And enunciation! He obviously believed vowels and consonants had fixed phonetic values. So do I, because they do. However, to prove I’m not completely rigid in my standards, I also like: Stan Boreson & Doug Setterberg, Yust Go Nuts at Christmas. If you weren’t raised among early twentieth-century second and third-generation Scandinavian-Americans as I was, you probably can’t appreciate this one. You’ll probably just think it’s stupid. Well, actually, it is stupid. Here’s a sample. Do you have any recommendations for me?

Have Yourself a Mercenary Christmas

Wednesday··2007·12·19 · 7 Comments
It seems that no matter how hard we try to be frugal, we always end up spending too much at Christmas time. Then we wrap up all that money and lay it on the floor under a tree, where anyone could walk in and carry it off. This has been a worry of mine for years, but no more. Son #3 has assembled a razor-sharp squad of mercenaries to provide security this Christmas season. They have been instructed to be on the look-out for fat guys in red suits who have been known to take credit for the hard work of parents around the globe. Intruders will be shot on sight. No prisoners will be taken.
We did our best to guard the goods this year, but we briefly lost the high ground to a post-Christmas enemy surge. After a tense stand-off, our forces were able to flank the enemy drive her back. Happy New Year!
What does the statement that Jesus is the Son of God mean? Jews and Muslims maintain that this claim makes Christianity polytheistic. Unitarians and Jehovah’s Witnesses, on the other hand, believe that the biblical designation Son of God indicates that Jesus was a unique being, in a special class by himself, but still a created being not possessing divinity in the same sense as the Father. This is not a new idea, but goes back to the Arian heresy of the first century AD. Even before that, the phrase Son of God was not commonly understood in the biblical sense. John’s Gospel was written to present Jesus as the Son of God to peoples who would have been confused by the title, Jews who used it as a title for the coming human Messiah, and Greeks whose mythology included many sons of gods. John’s Gospel was concerned with destroying those misconceptions and introducing the Son of God as no less than God Incarnate. Packer writes, [John] does not bring the term Son into his opening sentences at all, instead, he speaks first of the Word. There was no danger of this being misunderstood; Old Testament readers would pick up the reference at once. God’s Word in the Old Testament is his creative utterance, his power in action fulfilling his purpose. The Old Testament depicted God’s utterance, the actual statement of his purpose, as having power in itself to the effect the thing proposed. Genesis 1 tells us how at creation “God said, Let here be . . . and there was . . .” (1:3). “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made. . . . He spoke, and it came to be” (Ps 33:6, 9). The Word of God is thus God at work. John takes up this figure and proceeds to tell us seven things about the divine Word. (1) “In the beginning was the Word” (1:1). Here is the Word’s eternity. He had no beginning of his own; when other things began, he—was. (2) “And the Word was with God” (1:1). Here is the Word’s personality. The power that fulfills God’s purposes is the power of a distinct personal being, one who stands in an eternal relation to God of active fellowship . . . (3) “And the Word was God” (1:1). Here is the Word’s deity. Though personally distinct from the Father, he is not a creature; he is divine in himself, as the Father is. The mystery with which this verse confronts us is thus the mystery of personal distinctions within the unity of the Godhead. (4) “Through him all things were made” (1:3). Here is the Word creating. He was the Father’s agent in every act of making that the Father has ever performed. All that was made was made through him. . . . (5) “In him was life” (1:4). Here is the Word animating. There is no physical life in the realm of created things except in and through him. Here is the Bible answer to the problem of the origin and suntenance of life, in all its forms: life is given and maintained by the Word. Created things do not have life in themselves, but life in the Word, the second person of the Godhead. (6) “and that life was the light of men” (1:4). Here is the Word revealing. In giving life, he gives light too; that is to say, all people receive intimations of God from the very fact of being alive in God’s world, and this, no less than the fact that they are alive, is due to the work of the Word. (7) “The Word became flesh” (1:14). Here is the Word incarnate. The baby in the manger at Bethlehem was none other than the eternal Word of God. And now, having shown us who and what the Word is—a divine Person, author of all things—John indicates an identification. The Word, he tells us, was revealed by the Incarnation to be God’s Son. “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father” (1:14). The identification is confirmed in verse 18: “The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father” (KJV). Thus John establishes the point at which he was aiming throughout. He has now made it clear what is meant by calling Jesus the Son of God. The Son of God is the Word of God. We see what the Word is; well, that is what the Son is. Such in the prologue’s message. When, therefore, the Bible proclaims Jesus as the Son of God, the statement is meant as an assertion of his distinct personal deity. The Christmas message rests on the staggering fact the child in the manger was—God. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 56–57.
Jesus is fully God; but he was also fully man. This is a mystery that has been explained, and explained away, in several ways. Many have committed heresy on this count. I doubt that any have, or ever will, explained it adequately. J. I. Packer writes, The Word became flesh: a real human baby. He had not ceased to be God; he was no less God then than before; but he had begun to be man. He was not now God minus some elements of his deity, but God plus all that he had made his own by taking manhood to himself. He who made man was now learning what life felt like to be a man. He who made the angel who became the devil was no in a state in which he could be tempted—could not, indeed, avoid being tempted—by the devil; and the perfection of his human life was achieved only by conflict with the devil. The epistle to the Hebrews, looking up to him in his ascended glory, draws great comfort for this fact. “He had to be made like his brothers in every way. . . . Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. . . . For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been temped in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb 2:17–18; 4:15–16). The mystery of the Incarnation is unfathomable. We cannot explain it; we can only formulate it. Perhaps it has never been formulated better than in the words of the Athanasion Creed. “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man . . . perfect God, and perfect man . . . who although he be God and man: yet he so not two, but one Christ; one, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh: but by taking the manhood into God.” our minds cannot get beyond this. What we see in the manger is, in Charles Wesley’s words, Our God, contracted to a span; Incomprehensibly made man. Incomprehensibly. We shall be wise to remember this, to shun speculation and contentedly to adore. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 57–58.

Christmas Favorites

Thursday··2008·12·25 · 3 Comments
These are a few of my favorite Christmas hymns. They are lesser known than many others, which may be part of their appeal to me. I am pretty sure I have never sung them in a worship service. Links open videos in popup windows. In the Bleak Midwinter Text: Christina G. Rossetti, 1830-1894 Music: Gustav Holst, 1874-1934 Tune: Cranham Meter: Irregular In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, in the bleak midwinter, long ago. Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain; heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign. In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. Angels and archangels may have gathered there, cherubim and seraphim thronged the air; but his mother only, in her maiden bliss, worshiped the beloved with a kiss. What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; yet what I can give him: give my heart. Of the Father’s Love Begotten Text: Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-405) Music: Plainsong, 13th century Tune: Divinum Mysterium Meter: Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be, He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He, Of the things that are, that have been, And that future years shall see, evermore and evermore! At His Word the worlds were framèd; He commanded; it was done: Heaven and earth and depths of ocean in their threefold order one; All that grows beneath the shining Of the moon and burning sun, evermore and evermore! He is found in human fashion, death and sorrow here to know, That the race of Adam’s children doomed by law to endless woe, May not henceforth die and perish In the dreadful gulf below, evermore and evermore! O that birth forever blessèd, when the virgin, full of grace, By the Holy Ghost conceiving, bare the Savior of our race; And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer, First revealed His sacred face, evermore and evermore! This is He Whom seers in old time chanted of with one accord; Whom the voices of the prophets promised in their faithful word; Now He shines, the long expected, Let creation praise its Lord, evermore and evermore! O ye heights of heaven adore Him; angel hosts, His praises sing; Powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King! Let no tongue on earth be silent, Every voice in concert sing, evermore and evermore! Righteous judge of souls departed, righteous King of them that live, On the Father’s throne exalted none in might with Thee may strive; Who at last in vengeance coming Sinners from Thy face shalt drive, evermore and evermore! Thee let old men, thee let young men, thee let boys in chorus sing; Matrons, virgins, little maidens, with glad voices answering: Let their guileless songs re-echo, And the heart its music bring, evermore and evermore! Christ, to Thee with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee, Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving, and unwearied praises be: Honor, glory, and dominion, And eternal victory, evermore and evermore! I Wonder as I Wander Text: Appalachian carol Music: John Jacob Niles Tune: I Wonder as I Wander Meter: Irregular I wonder as I wander out under the sky, How Jesus the Savior did come for to die. For poor orn’ry people like you and like I; I wonder as I wander out under the sky. When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow’s stall, With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all. But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall, And the promise of ages it then did recall. If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing, A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing, Or all of God’s angels in heav’n for to sing, He surely could have it, for he was the King. Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming Text: German carol, 16th century Music: Geistliche Kirkengesäng, Cologne, 1599; harmonized by Michael Prætorius Tune: Es Ist Ein’ Ros’ Meter: Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung, Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung. It came, a flow’ret bright, amid the cold of winter, When half-spent was the night. Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind; With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind. To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Savior, When half-spent was the night. The shepherds heard the story, proclaimed by angels bright, How Christ, the Lord of glory, was born on earth this night. To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger found him, As angel heralds said. This flow’r, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air, Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness ev’rywhere. True man, yet very God; from sin and death he saves us And lightens ev’ry load. O Savior, child of Mary, who felt our human woe; O Savior, King of glory, who dost our weakness know, Bring us at length, we pray, to the bright courts of heaven And to the endless day. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence on the cor anglais (English horn) and organ, the guitar, and a rather unusual chorale arrangement Tune: Picardy Meter: Let all mortal flesh keep silence, And with fear and trembling stand; Ponder nothing earthly minded, For with blessing in His hand, Christ our God to earth descendeth, Our full homage to demand. King of kings, yet born of Mary, As of old on earth He stood, Lord of lords, in human vesture, In the body and the blood; He will give to all the faithful His own self for heavenly food. Rank on rank the host of heaven Spreads its vanguard on the way, As the Light of light descendeth From the realms of endless day, That the powers of hell may vanish As the darkness clears away. At His feet the six wingèd seraph, Cherubim with sleepless eye, Veil their faces to the presence, As with ceaseless voice they cry: Alleluia, Alleluia Alleluia, Lord Most High!

The Longest Day

No, not D-Day, or even a book or movie about that momentous event. I’m talking about yesterday, on which day we embarked upon our annual Christmas shopping trip. The day actually went reasonably well this year, considering the nature of the adventure (definition 1a), but drug out—if memory of Christmases past serves—to an unprecedented length. There are two philosophies of shopping. Plan One begins with a plan and a list, which is rigidly followed. Plan Two is to wander up and down every aisle of every store in town, buying nothing, until, having seen every single item available, the weary-almost-to-the-point-of-collapsing shoppers retrace their steps, having mostly decided what they will purchase. Plan One ends happily at home in a short time with every item on the list marked off. Plan Two culminates in an actual collapse at home, with the proponent of Plan Two complaining to the proponent of Plan One about her his or her exhaustion and sore feet, and the advocate of Plan One rolling his eyes in frustration giving an understanding hug and rubbing her his or her feet. I’m not going to say who leans toward which plan, or the extent to which I have exaggerated one of them. I’ll just say we managed to strike a reasonably happy medium in method, but still stretched it out to epic length’hence the lateness of this post.

The Worst of Christmas

I don’t know, but this abomination by Bob Dylan could be the worst Christmas performance of all time: Worst or not, I don’t think it’s the most annoying. That distinction goes to Paul McCartney. If I was Jack Bauer, and I wanted to beat some intel out of the Fat Man, I’d stick him in a room and play this repeatedly: I know I’d crack by about the third time through. By the fifth, I’d sell out anyone. And it’s no more charming performed by puppets. McCartney apparently built upon his previous experience of annoying Christmas songs with the Beatles: It’s enough to make my inner curmudgeon mumble, “Humbug!”
Well, like I said on Monday, it’ll be mostly filler for the remainder of the year. Today, I just have a couple of Christmas gift suggestions (in case you haven’t gotten mine yet). The Snuggie (not that hilarious—ha ha!—thing you used do to each other back in junior high) Wii Fit

Answering a Cynic

Among the goodies opened last night: Now I can see what that story we read last night was all about. No, not that story, this story. But speaking of that story, last week I posted a link to this cynical angle on O. Henry’s classic tale. Humorous, I thought, but wrong. True, Della’s hair will grow back. Also true, Jim’s watch is gone. Sure, he can conceivably buy it back, but it will most likely be long gone before he can save that much. He might as well forget it. But like Della’s hair, which will grow back to receive the combs, he will eventually get another watch to join the fob. It won’t be the watch, but it will be a watch, and for all intents and purposes, they will eventually realize what they had intended that Christmas Eve. Yes, Jim’s sacrifice is greater—which, in the Christ & church/husband & wife metaphor, is perfectly reasonable—but, because of love, that places a greater burden of regret upon Della than Jim. However, and also because of the love that flows in both directions, there need be no regret on either part, but rather a three-fold joy: first, the joy of giving; second, the joy of receiving; and third, the joy of observing the other’s pleasure in both giving and receiving. This year was our twentieth Christmas reading of The Gift of the Magi. I guess we’ll ignore the cynics and continue.

More Gift Ideas

Tuesday··2009·12·29 · 5 Comments
Just a reminder: I haven’t received my Christmas gifts from most of you yet. I know, it’s difficult to know what to get the man who has . . . oh, you don’t know what I’ve got, do you? Well, I don’t have these: Either one or both would be fine. Thanks. “You can tell it’s Mattel—it’s swell!“

Some Unchristmasy Thoughts

Monday··2010·12·27 · 2 Comments
Most of us are still in holiday mode, and will be, to some extent, through New Year’s Day (or even Epiphany, for church calendar devotees). However, I’ve had a couple of non-holidayish thoughts this morning that I might as well dump here. 1. George Bailey is no hero. So you give loans to individuals who are not really good risks. Unless you have a good scriptwriter, a good share of them default on their loans. The bright side is that George Bailey’s Building and Loan is way pre-21st Century, so Congress and the President don’t jump to stick the taxpayers with the tab. 2. Aren’t black and white colors? I know, black and white are not technically colors, but when we use them to describe people, skin tone is in mind. I watched an old episode of Law & Order last week in which a murder was committed to cover the alleged fact that a man who had passed for white was actually black. Notice: I do not say to cover the fact that he had black ancestry, but that he was black. Well, I looked at him and concluded that he was, in fact, white. Yet throughout the program, it was insisted that he was black. Why is that? We all know that if a black African marries a fair-skinned, blond Swede, their children will be black, regardless of the fact that one parent fairly glows in the dark. They are actually half black and half white, so why do we call them black? Because of their skin color, of course, and no other reason. In fact, if each of those children, their children, and all successive generations, marry fair-skinned Swedes, it will take a few generations before a white child is born. That child—according to the Law & Order writers, at least—will only be said to “pass” for white. Again, why is that? The first generation, a full half white is not merely said to pass as black, but is said to be black. Yet generations later, the child who is white in appearance, and retains only a trace of African blood, is not really white, but only passing? Why is the black person with some white ancestry not said to be passing for black? Am I wrong to draw the conclusion that, according to Law & Order, at least, everyone wants to be white? My question, the one I really want to ask, is this: Is this how people—black, white, violet, or turquoise—think? Is there anyone in the real world (Hollywood and Berkeley are not real world places) who thinks like this? And a second question, one of those rhetorical ones of which you are expected to see the answer self-contained: isn’t this just more proof that it’s way past time to drop the language of race and acknowledge that there is but one race, that all of our different ethnicities and cultures are united in one blood? As Christians—speaking now only to those whose faith rests solely on the Christ of the Bible—it should be so for us. We should recognize only one division among men: the division between those who are united in Christ, and those who are not. Christ came to redeem multitudes from all the peoples of the world, different in many superficial ways, but all sinning sons and daughters of Adam. Maybe this is Christmasy after all.

Just be thankful it’s not Feliz Navidad

Is it too early to start playing Christmas music? I played a little yesterday. I just wanted to be the first to post that this year. If you’ve looked for an original Looney Tunes animation of this song—and who hasn’t?—you know it can’t be found. That’s because it was never a Looney tunes bit. That’s right, it’s a fraud. According to one source, it was “recorded by North Carolina disc jockey Denny Brownlee. When he was threatened by Warner Brothers with a lawsuit, the song was re-released and attributed to ‘Seymour Swine and the Squealers.’” I figured as much. Everyone knows that stutterers don’t stutter when they sing.

Hymns of My Youth II: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, When he opens no one will shut, When he shuts no one will open. —Isaiah 22:22 O Come, O Come, Emmanuel O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. O come, O come, Thou Lord of might, Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height, In ancient times didst give the law In cloud and majesty and awe. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny; From depths of hell Thy people save And give them vict’ry o’er the grave. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here; o drive away the shades of night And pierce the clouds and give us light. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. O come, Thou Key of David, come, And open wide our heavenly home where all Thy saints with Thee shall dwell— O come, O come, Emmanuel! Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968).

Worship Christ, the … King

Monday··2011·12·19 · 2 Comments
Angels from the Realms of Glory Angels from the realms of glory, Wing your flight o’er all the earth; Ye who sang creation’s story Now proclaim Messiah’s birth. Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. Shepherds, in the field abiding, Watching o’er your flocks by night, God with us is now residing; Yonder shines the infant light: Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. Sages, leave your contemplations, Brighter visions beam afar; Seek the great Desire of nations; Ye have seen His natal star. Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. Saints, before the altar bending, Watching long in hope and fear; Suddenly the Lord, descending, In His temple shall appear. Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. Sinners, wrung with true repentance, Doomed for guilt to endless pains, Justice now revokes the sentence, Mercy calls you; break your chains. Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. Though an Infant now we view Him, He shall fill His Father’s throne, Gather all the nations to Him; Every knee shall then bow down: Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. All creation, join in praising God, the Father, Spirit, Son, Evermore your voices raising To th’eternal Three in One. Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. Don’t get me wrong, I like this hymn. I like the theology it preaches, and I’ll admit liking it on the sentimental grounds that I’ve grown up with it and have always liked it. Still, I don’t care for the last line of the refrain: “Worship Christ, the newborn King.” We are not called to worship a baby Jesus (as many Roman Catholics sometimes do), nor were the shepherds. The angels announced “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” That Savior just happened to be an infant at the time, but his age was not really relevant to the shepherds. They didn’t go to Bethlehem to worship a newborn king, they went to worship the King who was, at the moment, newly born. John MacArthur writes, Christmas is not about the Savior’s infancy; it is about his deity. The humble birth of Jesus Christ was never intended to be a façade to conceal the fact that God was being born into the world. —John MacArthur, God’s Gift of Christmas, (Thomas Nelson, 2006), 9. To slightly paraphrase the sixth stanza of the hymn, and the refrain, Though an Infant then they viewed Him, He shall fill His royal throne, Gather all the nations to Him; Every knee shall then bow down. Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the sovereign King.

The Firstborn of All Creation

Tuesday··2011·12·20 · 1 Comments
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. —Colossians 1:15–20 Paul says Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). Those who reject the deity of Christ have made much of that phrase, assuming it means Jesus was a created being. But the word translated “firstborn” is protokos, which describes Jesus’ rank, not His origin. The firstborn, the protokos, in a Hebrew family was the heir, the ranking one, the one who had all the rights of inheritance. And in a royal family, the protokos had the right to rule. Christ is the One who inherits all creation and has the right to rule over it. In Psalm 89:27, God says of David, “I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” There the meaning of “firstborn” is given in plain language: “the highest of the kings of the earth.” That’s what protokos means with regard to Christ—He is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16). God has appointed His Son “heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2). He is the primary One, the Son who has the right to the inheritance, the ranking Person, the Lord of all, heir of the whole of creation. —John MacArthur, God’s Gift of Christmas, (Thomas Nelson, 2006), 14–15.
Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” —Matthew 1:23 The name Immanuel is the heart of the Christmas story. It is a Hebrew name that means, literally, “God with us.” It is a promise of incarnate deity, a promise that God Himself would appear as a human infant, Immanuel, “God with us.” This baby who was to be born would be God Himself in human form. If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: “God with us.” We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ, but the greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth! Immanuel, infinitely rich, became poor. He assumed our nature, entered our sin-polluted world, took our guilt on Himself although He was sinless, bore our griefs, carried our sorrows, was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). All of that is wrapped up in “God with us.” —John MacArthur, God’s Gift of Christmas, (Thomas Nelson, 2006), 20–21.
Here’s a side to the Christmas story that isn’t often told. Those soft little hands, fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb, were made so that nails might be driven through them. Those baby feet, pink and unable to walk, would one day walk up a dusty hill to be nailed to a cross. That sweet infant’s head with sparkling eyes and eager mouth was formed so that someday men might force a crown of thorns onto it. That tender body, warm and soft, wrapped in swaddling clothes, would one day be ripped open by a spear. Jesus was born to die. —John MacArthur, God’s Gift of Christmas, (Thomas Nelson, 2006), 108–109.

Hymns of My Youth II: I Heard the Bells

This hymn may raise eyebrows as a Christmas hymn, having no reference to Christ, and probably being acceptable to anyone with a vague belief in a benevolent god. Still, to those of us who know the one true God of the Bible, it speaks of the eschatological hope that belongs to us alone. My hymnal has the verses of this hymn rearranged, as in the recording below. I thought it best to present them in their original order. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day I heard the bells on Christmas day Their old familiar carols play, And wild and sweet the words repeat Of peace on earth, good will to men. And thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom Had rolled along th’unbroken song Of peace on earth, good will to men. Till ringing, singing on its way The world revolved from night to day, A voice, a chime, a chant sublime Of peace on earth, good will to men. And in despair I bowed my head “There is no peace on earth,” I said, “For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men.” Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail With peace on earth, good will to men.” —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968). Additional information from This hymn was written during the American civil war, as reflected by the sense of despair in the next to last stanza. Stanzas 4–5 speak of the battle, and are usually omitted from hymnals: Then from each black, accursed mouth The cannon thundered in the South, And with the sound the carols drowned Of peace on earth, good will to men. It was as if an earthquake rent The hearth-stones of a continent, And made forlorn, the households born Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Lord’s Day 52, 2011—Christmas Day

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Hymn 12. (c. m.) Christ is the substance of the Levitical priesthood. Isaac Watts (1674-1748) The true Messiah now appears, The types are all withdrawn; So fly the shadows and the stars Before the rising dawn. No smoking sweets, nor bleeding lambs, Nor kid nor bullock slain; Incense and spice of costly names Would all be burnt in vain. Aaron must lay his robes away, His mitre and his vest, When God himself comes down to be The off’ring and the priest. He took our mortal flesh, to show The wonders of his love; For us he paid his life below, And prays for us above. “Father,” he cries, “forgive their sins, For I myself have died;” And then he shows his open’d veins, And pleads his wounded side. —from The Psalms & Hymns of Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Book II: Composed on Divine Subjects (Soli Deo Gloria, 1997). 11Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, 13waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. style="margin: 0 0 1em 0; text-align: right;">—Hebrews 10 The Imperfect And The Perfect Priesthood. It is to the contrast between Christ and the ancient priesthood that I ask your attention; between the priesthood of the earthly and of the heavenly temple. It is this contrast that brings out the true nature and character both of Christ and of His work. I. The many priests and the one.—‘Every priest,’—‘this man,’ or ‘this priest.’ The Old Testament priests were many. Not one of them fully accomplished the priestly work. A continual succession was needed; and even by these many the work was not done. It remained at the last just where it was at the first. For these many were, after all, not doers of the work, but symbols or prophetical representatives of the great Doer of it all who was to come. They said, ‘The work shall yet be done; it shall be done completely; God shall be approached; the conscience shall be purged; but not by us; the Doer shall come; He will accomplish what we can only foreshadow.’ These many passed away, and in their stead there came the one—one to do the work which hundreds and thousands of priests and Levites could not do. Yes, one Doer; one work; one sacrifice; one blood shedding; one atonement. Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. What a contrast! The whole tribe of Levi for ages; the tens of thousands of sacrifices; the rivers of bloodshed, and all incomplete! And, on the other, the one single Man, taking up the incomplete work of these thousands, and doing it all at once! This Man! This Priest! But what a Man! What a Priest! The High Priest of the good things to come! The others might do their symbolic work well; but the real priestly final work was beyond their power. That consummation was reserved for the greater than Aaron or Moses, the Son of God Himself. O finished work, how sufficient! O perfect High Priest, how glorious and complete! II. The many sacrifices and the one sacrifice.—In two senses were the sacrifices many. They were many (1) as to number, almost innumerable; (2) as to kind, burnt offering, trespass offering, sin offering, meat offering, drink offering, peace offering. Christ’s sacrifice was one, in both of these aspects. Only one sacrifice, once offered; and all the various kinds of sacrifice gathered, in Him, into the one sacrifice, which by its fullness satisfies the utmost need of the worshipper in every case. One full, complete, perfect sacrifice! ‘It is finished;’ ‘by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.’ His one sacrifice did the whole work. ‘By Himself He purged our sins;’ by His blood He purged our consciences. Let that one sacrifice do its work for us. We need no more. III. The many ministries and the one ministry.—Besides the offering of sacrifice, there were many duties connected with priestly ministry, some smaller, some more important. Each day and hour had their ministries or services. In a hundred different ways they ministered. Priest and Levite ministered in the various parts of the manifold temple worship. But now Christ has taken up all their various ministries into Himself. All the little or great things which we need as the sinful or the helpless, are ministered by the one priestly servant. Through His hands alone come to us the numerous blessings which we need every hour. Let us deal with Him about these. He is exalted a Prince and Saviour to bestow these. We have not to deal with many priests, nor are we perplexed with many ministers. All the channels and instruments through which blessings come to a sinner are now found in Jesus only. His one ministry has superseded all the rest. It is with His one priesthood that we have to do. IV. The daily and the everlasting work.—It is the daily many, and the everlasting one that are contrasted. Oh, what a routine of endless sacrifice and service for ages,—daily, daily,—yes, almost every hour! Always doing, never done! Each hour a repetition of past hours, without prospect of end! But the daily ceased, and the ‘for ever’ came at length. Everlasting salvation; eternal redemption! Once and for ever! Once for all! No second sacrifice; no daily repetition. How unsatisfactory that daily work; how satisfying, how pacifying, how perfecting that one everlasting atonement! Yes, it is for evermore! He has offered it once for all! What a gospel is brought out to us in the contrast between the daily and the forever! A pardon that lasts for ever! A peace that lasts for ever! A salvation that lasts forever! A reconciliation that lasts forever! V. The effectual work and the ineffectual.—What was daily offered up could never take away sin; it could not purge the conscience, nor give us confidence in drawing near to God. But the one true work was ‘for sin;’ i.e. it was meant to take away sin. The other sacrifices could not. This could and did. It was truly and fully sin bearing. Nothing else can avail but this. Guilt but half borne, half exhausted, will avail nothing. Sin laid on any one save the appointed priest and sacrifice, will not be taken away. It must remain. The one Sin bearer is He ‘who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.’ He is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. He has finished transgression and made an end of sin. VI. The standing and the sitting down.—The priests and Levites all stood. From morn to night they stood. There was no time for sitting down, for at any time they might be called on to offer a sacrifice; so that their work was never done. There was no place for sitting in any part of the temple where the service was going on, and. the sacrifices were offered. There were rooms at the side for sitting, but not in the courts of the altar and laver. There the priests must stand or move about. Theirs was perpetual and unfinished work, as their posture indicated. The king might sit when ruling and judging. The prophet might sit when giving his message. But the priest must stand. What a symbol was the priestly posture! What a truth was embodied in it! The one Priest sat down. As soon as He had finished His sacrifice He sat down. And this said, in language beyond mistake, both to heaven and earth, ‘It is finished!’ He sat down’ (1.) On the throne of grace.—The mercy seat was His throne. He sat down to dispense the free love of God to sinners. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace. (2.) On the seat of honour.—The throne of grace is the throne of heaven. It is the seat before which the ‘many angels’ as well as the ‘elders’ and ‘living creatures’ bow, singing, ‘Blessing, and honour, and glory’ (Revelations 5:11, 12). (3.) On the place of power.’The Father’s right hand is the place of power. Seated there, He is, in every sense, ‘able to save to the uttermost.’ (4.) On the height of expectation.—His throne is a ‘glorious high throne.’ From it He looks down on earth, sees its iniquity and rebellion, and calmly waits for the time, when His enemies shall be made His footstool, and earth become His glorious kingdom. Are we, too, looking for this? “Sit Thou at my right hand,’ is the Father’s word to the Son. In answer to that He sat down, and He is now sitting. That throne He occupies for us. From that throne He dispenses the gifts which, as the glorified Christ, He has received for the rebellious. All that belongs to Him of excellence and fullness is there; it is there for us. The glory of His person, the riches of His varied offices, the suitableness of His great propitiation, and the love of His gracious heart, are all there,—available for sinners, and that to the uttermost. Such is their value, and such their efficacy, that no amount of evil in us, of whatever kind, can in the least obstruct that availableness. It may be the evil of long and dark transgression, or of obduracy and stout-heartedness, or of backsliding and inconsistency and worldliness, or of imperfect faith and feeble repentance; it may be evil committed before our connection with this High Priest, or evil after our connection with Him, or evil in our deficient way of apprehending His work, or evil in our want of love and confidence, evil in our defective sense of sin and guilt, the evil of a hard and stony heart,—it matters not. None of these evils in us can exceed the boundless value of the expiation or the Expiator; nor surpass the divine perfection of the finished work either as bearing upon God or man; nor neutralize the preciousness of the blood of the Lamb; nor prevent the great burnt offering from sheltering the sinner beneath its wide shadowing and impenetrable canopy; nor repel the free love that comes out from the cross to the unworthiest of the sons of Adam; nor render less potent the fragrance of the sweet incense that is continually going up from the golden altar of ‘the more perfect tabernacle not made with hands.’ The fullness of the finished work covers all deficiencies, were they a thousand timed greater than they are or can be. Nothing but our rejection of that fullness, and our preference for something else, can prevent our being saved by it. Its sufficiency is infinite; its suitableness is perfect; its freeness unconditional; its nearness like Him in whom we live, and move, and have our being. Such is the provision made for the taking away of our sin, and for our drawing near to God. Such is the great love of God. There is nothing like it for greatness, either in heaven above or in the earth beneath. Truly He has no pleasure in the sinner’s death. He is not seeking occasion to destroy him; He is not trying to find out reasons for rejecting him or for disregarding his cries; He is not waiting for further amendment and repentance, or greater earnestness or bitterer remorse. He is stretching out His hands to him, just as he is. He is most sincerely desirous to bless even the worst. His compassions are infinite; His bowels yearn over His prodigals; He wants them to come back to His house. He knows what hell is, and He wants to save them from it; He knows what heaven is, and He wants to win them to it. His grace and pity are beyond all measure; and he who, on the credit of the divine testimony to them, given in the word of the truth of the gospel, goes to Him for pardon and life, shall be welcomed and blest, receiving not only what he goes for, but exceeding abundantly, above all he asks or thinks. —Horatius Bonar, Light & Truth: Bible Thoughts & Themes Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Thy King Cometh

Merry Christmas, from Händel, to me, to you. 08 Behold, A Virgin Shall Conceive (Alto Recitative) Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel— God with us. Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23 09 O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings (Alto Aria, Chorus) O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain: O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Isaiah 40:9; 60:1 10 For Behold, Darkness Shall Cover The Earth (Bass Recitative) For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Isaiah 60:2-3 11 The People That Walked In The Darkness (Bass Aria) The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. Isaiah 9:2 12 For Unto Us A Child Is Born (Chorus) For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 14 There Were Shepherds Abiding (Soprano Recitative) And there were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. Luke 2:8–9 15 And The Angel Said Unto Them (Soprano Recitative) And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10–11 16 And Suddenly There Was With The Angel (Soprano Recitative) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Luke 2:13 17 Glory To God In The Highest (Chorus) Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:13 18 Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter Of Zion (Soprano Aria) Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee; he is the righteous Saviour, and he shall speak peace unto the heathen. Zechariah 9:9-10

On the Third Day of Christmas

Tuesday··2011·12·27 · 1 Comments
Today I finally learned what the Twelve Days of Christmas are. In case you care, they begin with Christmas Day, and end with Epiphany on January 5th. And, as you know, they have their own song.

Lord’s Day 52, 2012

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting? ” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. —1 Corinthians 15:54–57 Hymn for Christmas Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (345–≈413) Having now reached the end of its track the sun begins its journey back. This is the dawn of the year: the hours of daytime will now increase, with the powers of light and grace that attend the birth of Christ, whom heaven gave to earth. The planet, rejoicing, blushes, glad so to be honored. O sweet lad, child of a virgin and the Word, that the angel brought, and Mary heard the wisdom of ages attended you from the day of your birth. You always knew the order of all creation and those things no mortal can understand— how millennia passed and then God deigned to show himself to men, redeem us from sin and moral blindness, and save us through His loving Kindness from our idolatry and worse, the guile of the devil and his curse from the brink of the smoky pit, He snatched us back. Our ruin, while He watched, he could not suffer. He assumed a mortal body, fragile, doomed. to break death’s chains, He came, and to bring mankind back to our God and King. It was upon this very day that God put on our mortal clay. The noble virgin’s time is near, and—joy to the world! — her Child is here whose infant tears perfume our air, as foul as privies everywhere, to the sweetness of mountain spikenard. The rough turns smooth and every hard boulder is gentled, covered in moss. All nature exults! And the least of us, the simplest herdsman, prays, and his sheep and cattle adore the baby, asleep in the rude cradle. All the nations throughout the world for generations numberless will declare their love and faith in Him—but the children of Isaac and Abraham refuse. Maddened by Furies perhaps, the Jews are obstinate, deny each sign and wonder. This child of David’s line they shall one day confront on high and then confess their error, cry vain tears, as they hear the trumpet blare for the end of days, for He will be there judging each one according to his proper deserts. And then, O Jew, you shall be sensible of your loss, and understand how, on that cross, He suffered for us and there destroyed mortality. From the awful void of the tomb He saves us all, that black abyss from which He brings us back. —Hymns of Prudentius, ed. David R. Slavitt (Johns Hopkins University Press). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Christmas Eve, 2012

Monday··2012·12·24 · 2 Comments
Wishing you a blessed incarnation celebration. For more good Christmas music, click here. For bad, click here.
Jesus didn’t come for the manger. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. —John 1:14

Things That Amuse Me at Christmas

Because you want it . . .

Hope from Humility

Humanity is lost and fallen. We were separated from God because of our sin, and our only hope of forgiveness was for someone completely innocent of any wrongdoing to take all the punishment for our crimes. Such a perfect life and a perfect love were impossible for any human to achieve, so God Himself did it for us. He sent His Son from eternity into mortality, from glory into flesh, and from a throne to a manger. Ultimate hope was born in ultimate humility. —John MacArthur, God’s Gift of Christmas (Thomas Nelson, 2006), 6.

No End in Itself

As we look forward to celebrating the incarnation of our Messiah, let us remember that we are not to obsess over a baby in a manger. The birth of Jesus is no end in itself, but is part of the fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption. Jesus exercised the offices of prophet, priest, and king in his role as mediator, and especially took on human flesh that he might suffer in that flesh, offering himself as a substitutionary sacrifice, to atone for the sins of his people. —The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), xi.

Let Jesus Define Himself

The Jews were waiting for a Messiah to liberate them from roman rule and set up an earthly kingdom. They were wrong about who their Messiah would be. They were not the last to pin their hopes on mistaken expectations. The problem of misguided expectations is common to mankind. We regularly trust the wrong people or expect them to provide what they cannot or should not give. Some Americans expect our superior armed forces to keep us perfectly safe. Some expect their skills to make them prosperous and secure. Jesus says the wise man builds his house upon the rock—not “a” rock, but “the” rock, that is, Jesus, the Christ (Matt. 7:24). Still, those who try to build on the rock can suffer disappointment, if they remake Jesus in their own image. How so? They may expect Jesus to make life easy. They may think they can know Jesus as Savior but not as Lord. But we must let him define himself: he is both Savior and Lord. —Daniel Doriani, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 13.

More about Him, Less about Us

My soul exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. And His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him. He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed. " />He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever. —Luke 1:46–55 Such is the extent of our natural self-centeredness that even our praise to God betrays a focus on self. In her Magnificat, Mary sets a better example. Mary had good reason to magnify the Lord. She had been promised a son—not just any son, but the Son of God, conceived by the spirit of the Most High God. Her Magnificat is a song of gospel joy. Yet in it Mary says nothing specific about her son. This is the reason for her praise, but she does not mention it explicitly. Why not? The answer is that Mary had the godliness to look beyond her gift and praise the God who gave it. To magnify means to enlarge, and what Mary wanted to enlarge was her vision of God. Her goal was to show his greatness. She wanted to magnify God, not her own position as the mother of the Son of God. She knew that she was blessed because of who God was, not because of who she was. Therefore, she wanted God to be seen to be great, not herself. The way to show this was not by thinking only about what God was doing in her life, but by enlarging her vision to see the majesty of God. . . . It is right for us to praise God for what he has done, as Mary did. But sometimes even our worship of God can be somewhat self-centered, as if the really important thing is what God has done for us. We need to look beyond this to see God as he is in himself, and to praise him for being God. Then, when we speak about what God has done for us—as we should—it will be more about him and less about us. —Philip Ryken, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 74–75.
My soul exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. —Luke 1:46–47 This is what every Roman Catholic needs to hear this season: Mary needed a Savior; so do I, and so do you. The mighty God reaches down in mercy, lifting the humble to greatness. Mary herself was the perfect example. No one was lowlier than she was—a poor, young peasant girl from Nazareth. She was nobody from nowhere, and she knew it. She was also a sinner, which is why she praised God as her Savior. This is one of Luke’s favorite titles for Jesus. Mary used it because she needed to be saved as much as anyone else. And by his grace god saved her. He saw her lowly condition. He did great things for her, such as putting a child in her virgin womb, and sending his Son to be her Savior. God reached down and saved her. This is why all generations call Mary blessed: she was blessed by the undeserved favor of a merciful God. —Philip Ryken, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 76.

The Visitation

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant— As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old— Salvation from our enemies, And from the hand of all who hate us; To show mercy toward our fathers, And to remember His holy covenant, The oath which He swore to Abraham our father, To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins, Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace. —Luke 1:68–79 The Song of Zechariah teaches us something very fundamental about salvation. What is salvation? According to Zechariah, it is something that comes from God, and not from us. The priest blessed God for visiting his people (Luke 1:68). This was something he had experienced personally when the angel appeared to him at the temple. But this visitation was not for him alone. By sending the angel, by giving Elizabeth a baby, and especially by putting his Son in the virgin’s womb, God was visiting his people. He was entering our situation from the outside, because without his intervention, we could never be saved. Salvation is not a human invention, but a divine visitation. It is not something we achieve by going to God, but something God has done by coming to us in Christ. No one is ever saved except by the grace of God. —Philip Ryken, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 93.

First, but Second

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant— As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old— Salvation from our enemies, And from the hand of all who hate us; To show mercy toward our fathers, And to remember His holy covenant, The oath which He swore to Abraham our father, To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins, Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace. —Luke 1:68–79 Roman Catholics worship saints.* While Protestants scoff, we often hold our revered ones too highly. Worse, we often think too highly of ourselves. Let us be reminded that the only thing that gives any of us significance† is the same thing that gave John the Baptist significance. There were two parts to Zechariah’s blessing. First, he blessed God for the visitation of his salvation (Luke 1:68–75). Then he blessed his newborn son (Luke 1:76–79). The order is significant. In spite of his fatherly pride, Zechariah recognized the subordinate position of his son. John was the last the last and greatest prophet of the old covenant, but what made him great was his relationship to Jesus. He was first in the birth order, but second in significance. Zechariah understood this, so his benediction was mainly for Jesus. Nevertheless, John had an important part to play in the coming of salvation, so he too received a blessing. —Philip Ryken, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 95. * Yes, I know: dulia, latria, blah, blah, blah. Prayer is worship. Period. † Including unbelievers who, as bearers of the imago Dei, glorify God one way or another.

Prepare to Die

Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation, Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel. —Luke 2:29–32 Are you ready to die? only one thing is needed: Simeon began his song by speaking of his final departure, his dismissal unto death. Some people . . . infer from this that he was an old man. That may be true; however, Luke never tells us how old he was. All he tells us is that once Simeon had seen Jesus, he was ready to die—to be released from his watch post. This was partly because of the special promise that he would not see death until he had seen the Christ. But the principle also had a wider application. Anyone who had seen Jesus with the eyes of faith is prepared to die. And anyone who has not seen him—whether young or old—is not ready to die at all. When we see Jesus and his salvation we are ready to be dismissed from this life in peace and enter the life to come. Have you seen Jesus by faith? Have you seen him crucified for your sins? Have you seen him raised for you salvation? It is then and only then that anyone is prepared to die. —Philip Ryken, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 126–127.

The Sermon in Simeon’s Song

Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation, Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel. —Luke 2:29–32 The New Testament call to evangelism and world missions begins, not with the “Great Commission,” but in Luke 2. The baby in Simeon’s arms was not only for Simeon to see, or just for the Jew, but for everyone. In the gospel of Luke, every time someone prophesies about Jesus we learn a little bit more about who he is and what he came to do. Simeon is the one who takes the gospel and makes it global. Earlier, when the angle spoke to the shepherds, the good news about the coming of Christ was specifically for the people of Israel (Luke 2:10). But Simeon had good news for the whole world. The salvation the God provided in Jesus is for everyone to see. It is for “all peoples” (Luke 2:31). To make his meaning clear, Simeon went on to specify that Jesus came for the Gentiles as much as the Jews. This is the basis for our evangelistic outreach around the world. Simeon’s prophecy was about global evangelism. Jesus is God’s light to the nations. The whole world is covered with darkness through sin, but Jesus has come to dispel the darkness, to shine the light of salvation into every dark corner of every dim heart. It is because of him that we have a gospel that we can take to all nations and offer to everyone. We can say to people, “Look, here is salvation. Jesus Christ is God’s light for the world. See him and be saved.” This was the sermon in Simeon’s song. —Philip Ryken, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 127.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. —John 1:1 One of the first rules of hermeneutics is that the original meaning of the text—that is, how the original audience would have understood it—is the meaning of the text. So what did the Apostle John mean by calling Jesus “the Word”? According to Richard Phillips, One of the earliest Greek philosophers was Heraclitus (sixth century BC). He thought about the fact that things constantly change. His famous illustration was that you can never step twice into the same river; it is never the same because the water has flowed on. Everything is like that, he said. But if that is true, how can there be order in the world? His answer was the Logos, the word or reason of God. This was the principle that held everything together in a world of change. There is a purpose and design to the world and events, and this is the Logos. The Logos fascinated Greeks from Heraclitus onward. What keeps the stars in their courses? What controls the seasons? Order and purpose are revealed everywhere in the world. Why? The answer is the Logos, the divine logic. The Word. Plato said, “It may be that some day there will come forth from God a Word, a Logos, who will reveal all mysteries and make everything plain.” In a stroke of divine genius, John seizes on this word and says, “Listen, you Greeks, the very thing that had most occupied your philosophical thought and about which you have been writing for centuries—the Logos of God . . . has come to earth as a man and we have seen him.” —Richard D. Phillips, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 143–144.

Word and Life

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. —John 1:4 Romans 10:17 tells us that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” This is also the message of John 1:4. We should observe the link between John 1:4 and the preceding ones, that is, between Jesus as the Word and Jesus as the Life. It is through God’s Word that Christ’s life comes to us. This means that if you want to be green and growing—if you want to be flourishing with spiritual life—then you need to be drinking from God’s Word. Psalm 1 speaks of the man who is “blessed,” whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Ps. 1:2–3). —Richard D. Phillips, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 152.

Lord’s Day 51, 2013

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. —Philippians 2:6–8 Hymns of Thanksgiving Hymn XI. On the Birth of Christ. Augustus Toplady (1740–1778) Amplest grace in thee I find, Friend and Saviour of mankind, Richest merit to atone For our sins before the throne. Born to save thy church from hell, Once thou didst with sinners dwell; Was to earth a prophet giv’n, Now our Advocate in heaven. Well might wond’ring angels cry, “Glory be to God on high, Peace on earth, good will to men, Lost mankind is found again.” Join, my soul, their holy song, Emulate the brighter throng, Hail the everlasting word, Welcome thy descending Lord? Grace unequall’d! Love unknown! Jesus lays aside his crown, Clothes himself with flesh and blood, Takes the manhood into God. Harden’d rebels tho’ we are, Lo, he comes to sojourn here: See him lie where oxen feed, This his chamber, hay his bed! God (O hear it with surprise!) For a manger leaves the skies. By assuming flesh beneath, Render’d capable of death. From their Maker turn’d aside, As in Adam all have died, So whoe’er his grace receive, Shall in Christ be made alive. —The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady (Sprinkle Publications, 1987). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Light Dispels Darkness

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. —John 1:4–5 ESV From the beginning, the forces of darkness have tried to extinguish the light. Satan caused Herod try to kill the infant Jesus. He caused Philip the Tetrarch to kill John the Baptist, who “came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him” (John 1:7). Satan tempted Jesus to abandon his path to the cross. Finally, when Jesus was laid in the tomb and it appeared that Satan had won, Jesus rose from the dead, once and for all declaring his dominion over death. The darkness cannot extinguish the light. The world cannot overcome the light of Christ, but how often his own people neglect it. Are you seeking to grow in grace through the light that shines in God’s Word? Are you walking in the light? In other words, are you living in conscious fellowship with Jesus, obeying his Word, living in step with his Holy Spirit, and enjoying his blessings of righteousness, peace, and joy (Rom. 14:17)? Walking in the light of Christ is the only way to live in the power of his salvation. You will never get rid of the darkness within you by trying to remove it yourself or by following some manmade program of life improvement. You don’t take a bucket into a basement to bail out the darkness; you turn on the light and the light chases it away. John writes in his first epistle: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). —Richard D. Phillips, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 158–159.

The Privilege of Adoption

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. —John 1:12–13 Salvation brings with it many benefits, but the greatest of all is adoption as children of God. True faith in the true light brings the greatest of all privileges: “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). People work all their lives to receive titles and privileges—to become vice president or chairman of the board. Others dream of being the son or daughter of some noble king or high official. But John holds before us the highest possible privilege: to be brought into God’s family and become his blessed children. Having the “right” to become God’s children through faith in Jesus, we experience a change of status. Just as we adopt children, giving them all the rights of family members, God adopts us into a loving Father-child relationship. Jesus is God’s true son, and we may be adopted as sons and daughters in him. —Richard D. Phillips, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 167.

Love of Darkness

There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. —John 1:10–13 Jesus came as the Light of the world. It is by this light that truth is revealed to all people. Yet that light is rejected, because the natural man loves darkness and hates light (John 3:19–21). And it is not only the irreligious and those who might be considered “bad” people who prefer darkness, but also those who are commonly considered “good.” John 1:10 tells us why irreligious people reject Christ: they are spiritually darkened and morally depraved. But John 1:11 shows why moral and religious people often reject Jesus. They want to keep his glory for themselves. They don’t want to trust and worship a Messiah; they want to be Messiahs; they want to be worshiped. Instead of humbling themselves before a Savior, the moral achievers want to be glorified for their own works. The irreligious love darkness because it provides a cover for their sin. But the religious unbeliever loves the darkness because it makes him seem so much better by comparison. In the dark, the light of a candle shines brightly. But when the full, blazing light of the sun rises up, candles are shown up as the dim lights that they are. The true light that is Jesus Christ came into the world to enlighten everyone. He exposes the dimness of every other supposed light and shows even the religious people’s need for a Savior. In the presence of Christ and his holy perfection, we are forced to humble ourselves and confess our wickedness. This is why the Jewish leaders hated Jesus. Sadly, many today would rather put away the Savior, even to their own ultimate destruction, just as Israel did, rather than put away their pride and humble themselves before Jesus. We should realize that the example of the Jews condemns us all. Far from thinking, “What terrible people they were,” we should realize that they were the most enlightened of all people. We are no better. Apart from God’s saving grace, we all reject Jesus rather than humble ourselves, confessing and forsaking our sin. The example of Israel merely shows the total depravity of the human heart and our total need for the saving grace of God to enable us to believe. —Richard D. Phillips, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 171–172.

God Speaks in Him

Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus “is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature.” If we want to know God, we must know Jesus. Jesus came to provide the perfect revelation of God that men could receive. John describes him as “the only God, who is at the Father’s side.” This is why Jesus is greater than John the Baptist or Moses, not to mention Mohammed or the pope. Jesus is himself very God of very God, one in the divine Trinity. He is in intimate fellowship of love with God the Father; literally, John says, he is “in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18 KJV). Here, then, is the one who can show us God. Mark Johnson explains: “If God is to be known, it can only be as he is made known by Someone who already possesses true knowledge of him. Jesus is that Someone. Because of who he is—the eternal Son of God—he is uniquely qualified to reveal God.” This means that Jesus is the gloriously sufficient Savior for all who long to know God. The Greek word translated “made known” (exegesato) gives us our word exegete, a word Bible scholars use for interpreting the Bible. We exegete Scripture to give a full account of its meaning. This is what Jesus does—he interprets and explains and exposits God to us. To know what God is like and what God intends for the world, we need only study Jesus Christ. This is why John called him “the Word&rdquo: God speaks most plainly and eloquently in him. This is what we most greatly need, and what we should all most frequently seek: to know God through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). —Richard D. Phillips, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 184.

The Glorious Cross

The cross was an ugly thing. A brutal, bloody tool of torture and death, it was not merely a symbol of horror, but an actual horror. Yet God, as he so often does, turned that reality on its head in the crucifixion of Christ. The cross was the greatest display of the glory of God’s grace. On the very brink of his entry into Jerusalem, starting the final countdown to his crucifixion, Jesus said to his disciples, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). Jesus was not talking about the hosannahs that would greet his entry. The people were looking for him to be glorified by an ascent to military and political power. William Barclay writes, “By glorified they meant that the subjected kingdoms of the earth would grovel at the conqueror’s feet; by glorified he meant crucified. To the world, the cross was the most shameful of all things. It involved physical torture, personal humiliation, and a cursed death. This was Giod’s way of showing us the shame of our sin. But because the perfect son of God died in this way for us, the cross displays the grace of God to the highest glory of his name. And it is by seeing the glory of God’s grace in the cross that we are saved. Is the cross your glory? Is it your hope? Is it the place where your sins were put away and God’s glory shines into your heart? Paul speaks for every Christian heart when he exclaims, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:4). —Richard D. Phillips, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 186.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here; Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death’s dark shadows put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. O come, Thou Wisdom from on high, And order all things far and nigh; To us the path of knowledge show, And cause us in her ways to go. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny; From depths of hell Thy people save, And give them victory over the grave. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. O come, Desire of nations, bind All peoples in one heart and mind; Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease, Fill all the world with heaven’s peace. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives Isaiah 61:1 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 ev’ry nation, Joy of ev’ry 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. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne

Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. John 1:1 Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown When Thou camest to earth for me; But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room For Thy holy nativity. O come to my heart, Lord Jesus— There is room in my heart For Thee! Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang, Proclaiming Thy royal degree; But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth, And in great humility. O come to my heart, Lord Jesus— There is room in my heart For Thee! The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest In the shade of the forest tree; But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God, In the deserts of Galilee. O come to my heart, Lord Jesus— There is room in my heart For Thee! Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word That should set Thy people free; But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn They bore Thee to Calvary. O come to my heart, Lord Jesus— There is room in my heart For Thee! When the heav’ns shall ring, and the angels shall sing At Thy coming to victory, Let Thy voice call me home, saying “Yet there is room— There is room at My side For Thee.” My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus, When Thou comest and callest for me! —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

Hark! the Herald Angels Sing Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased. Luke 2:14 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 th’angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!” Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King.” Christ, by highest heav’n adored; Christ the everlasting Lord! Late in time, behold Him come, Offspring of the Virgin’s womb: Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail th’incarnate Deity, Pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King.” Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun 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.” —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).
This song drives me to fits of schizophrenia. It’s a beautiful Christmas song, with a haunting melody that draws the listener in and leaves him aching for more. On the other hand, there is the grammar. Oh, the grammar! The objective “I” is almost too much to bear. Sometimes I just hum loudly and pretend not to notice. See if that works for you.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse . . . Isaiah 11:1 Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung! Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung. It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter, When half-gone was the night. Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind; With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind. To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Savior, When half-gone was the night. This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air, Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere. True Man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us And lightens every load. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Winter Holidays, 2014–15: Filler #1

The kids are home from college, so it must be time for Christmas break. From now until New Year’s Day, I’ll be taking it easy, doing as little as possible. What you see below is an example of what you’ll find here in the following days. Have a blessed Christmas and New Year.

Winter Holidays, 2014–15: Filler #2

Shifting the mood a little from yesterday: I Was Santa Claus at the Schoolhouse

Winter Holidays, 2014–15: Filler #3

For your Christmas Eve, Fernando Ortega: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Winter Holidays, 2014–15: Filler #4

Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace!

Winter Holidays, 2014–15: Filler #5

Now, for something completely different:

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: As with Gladness Men of Old

As with Gladness Men of Old When they saw the star, they rejoiced . . . and worshiped Him. Matthew 2:10–11 As with gladness, men of old Did the guiding star behold, As with joy they hailed its light, Leading onward, beaming bright, So, most gracious Lord, may we Evermore be led to Thee. As with joyful steps they sped To that lowly manger bed, There to bend the knee before Him Whom Heaven and earth adore, So may we with willing feet Ever seek the mercy seat. As they offered gifts most rare At that manger rude and bare, So may we with holy joy, Pure and free from sin’s alloy, All our costliest treasures bring, Christ, to Thee, our heav’nly King. Holy Jesus, every day Keep us in the narrow way; And when earthly things are past, Bring our ransomed souls at last Where they need no star to guide, Where no clouds Thy glory hide. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Winter Holidays, 2014–15: Filler #6

More Stan and Doug: “The kids think Santa Claus is dead.”

Winter Holidays, 2014–15: Filler #7

The world’s greatest guitar with one of the greatest sopranos:

Winter Holidays, 2014–15: Filler #8

Another from Christopher Parkening and Kathleen Battle:

I’m Telling You Why

Last Christmas Eve, for the first time in several years, I got sick and was forced to break (I think) a six-year daily posting streak. I meant to return sooner, but [insert excuse here]. I hope to get back on schedule in 2016. This is my contribution to the 2015 Christmas season. See you again, Lord willing, in 2016.I hate it when people adapt Christian words to secular songs, especially when the original is utterly pagan. Nevertheless, I have done this. Please don’t use it for your Lord’s Day worship service. Jesus Has Come Down from His Throne The saints all sing out: No more need to cry, We have a way out From way up on high— Jesus has come down from his throne. And this is the gist: He’s paid the full price; Without a doubt, His death does suffice— Jesus has come down from his throne. He sees your sins a-heaping, He knows that you’re a fake, He knows you’ve not done as you should, So he did it for your sake. Oh! We have redoubt To which we can fly; Now we can tout Salvation brought nigh— Jesus has come down from his throne.
My favorite Norwegian soprano, Sissel Kyrkjebø:

What We Celebrate at Christmas

A Hebrews 11:4 moment with R. C. Sproul.

Lord’s Day 52, 2017

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. —Luke 4:18–19 CCIII. Christ's Message. Luke iv. 18, 19. Philip Doddridge (1702–1751) Hark the glad sound! The Saviour comes, The Saviour promis’d long! Let ev’ry heart prepare a throne, And ev’ry voice a song. On him the Spirit largely pour’d Exerts its sacred fire; Wisdom and might, and zeal and love His holy breast inspire. He comes the pris’ners to release In Satan’s bondage held; The gates of brass before him burst, The iron’ fetters yield. He comes from thickest films of vice To clear the mental ray, And on the eye-balls of the blind To pour celestial day. He comes the broken heart to bind, The bleeding soul to cure, And with the treasures of his grace T’ inrich the humble poor. His silver trumpets publish loud The Jub’lee of the Lord; Our debts are all remitted now, Our heritage restor’d. Our glad Hosannas, Prince of Peace, Thy welcome shall proclaim; And heav’n’s eternal arches ring With thy beloved name. —Philip Doddridge, Hymns Founded on Various Texts in the Holy Scriptures (Salop, 1755). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about #LordsDay from:thethirstytheo !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");
For unto us a child is born . . .
Buon Natale, feliz Navidad, merry Christmas.
Fröhliche Weihnachten.

Popular Lies, Biblical Truth

Santa Claus is not the worst Christmas lie.

Holidays Are for the Birds (or vice-versa)

Surviving Thanksgiving* When I was a young turkey, just new to the coop, My big brother Mike took me out on the stoop. Then he sat me down, and he spoke real slow, And he told me there’s something I needed to know; His look and his tone I will always remember, When he told me of the horrors of Black November. “Come about August, now listen to me, Each day you’ll get six meals instead of just three. And soon you’ll be thick, where once you were thin, and you’ll grow a big rubbery thing under your chin. And then one morning, when you’re warm in your bed, In’ll burst the farmer’s wife, and hack off your head. Then she’ll pluck out your feathers so you’re bald and pink, And scoop out all your insides, leave you in the sink; And then comes the worst part,” he said, not bluffing, “She’ll spread you wide open and pack you with stuffing.” Well, the rest of his words were too grim to repeat, I sat on the stoop like a winged piece of meat, And decided right then, to avoid being cooked, I’d have to lay low and remain overlooked. I began a new diet of nuts and granola, High-roughage salads, juice, and diet cola; And as they ate pastries, chocolates, and crepes, I stayed in my room doing Jane Fonda tapes. I maintained my weight of two pounds and a half, And tried not to notice when bigger birds laughed. But ’twas I who was laughing, deep under my breath, As they chomped and they chewed, ever closer to death; And sure enough, when Black November rolled ’round, I was the last turkey in the entire compound. So now I’m a pet in the farmer’s wife’s lap. I haven’t a worry, so I eat and I nap. She held me today, while sewing and humming, And smiling, she said, ”Now, Christmas is coming . . .” * Very few of these stories are original (Ecclesiastes 1:9), but most are revised and rewritten my own way. This one is almost entirely verbatim as I found it, with only a few minor revisions to improve the meter. I wish I could give credit to the original author, but I never knew who that was.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Savior of the Nations, Come

Savior of the Nations, Come NUN KOMM, DER EIDEN HEILAND Savior of the nations, come, virgin’s Son, make here Thy home! Marvel now, O heav’n and earth, that the Lord chose such a birth. Not by human flesh and blood, but the Spirit of our God, was the Word of God made flesh— woman’s Offspring, pure and fresh. Wondrous birth! O wondrous Child Of the Virgin undefiled! Though by all the world disowned, still to be in heav’n enthroned. From the Father forth He came and returneth to the same, captive leading death and hell— high the song of triumph swell! Thou the Father’s only Son, hast o’er sin the vict’ry won. Boundless shall Thy kingdom be; when shall we its glories see? Brightly doth Thy manger shine, glorious is its light divine. Let not sin o’ercloud this light; ever be our faith thus bright. Praise to God the Father sing, Praise to God the Son, our King, Praise to God the Spirit be Ever and eternally. —Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017). The current hymnal for this series is Hymns to the Living God, recently published by Religious Affections Ministries. This is such a good hymnal that I’m pretty sure I could happily post every hymn it contains, but I’ll be limiting selections to hymns I have never posted here before, especially those unfamiliar to me (of which there are many). For more information and to purchase this hymnal, visit Religious Affections Ministries.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Comfort, Comfort Ye My People

Comfort, Comfort Ye My People GENEVAN 42 Isaiah 40:1–5 Comfort, comfort ye My people, speak ye peace, thus saith our God; comfort those who sit in darkness, mourning ’neath their sorrows’ load. Speak ye to Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them! Tell her that her sins I cover and her warfare now is over. Yea, her sins our God will pardon, blotting out each dark misdeed; all that well deserved His anger He no more will see nor heed. She hath suffered many a day, now her griefs have passed away; God will change her pining sadness into ever-springing gladness. For Elijah’s voice is crying in the desert far and near, bidding all men to repentance, since the kingdom now is here. O that warning cry obey, now prepare for God a way; let the valley rise to meet Him, and the hills bow down to greet Him. Make ye straight what long was crooked, make the rougher places plain, let your hearts be true and humble, as befits His holy reign; for the glory of the Lord now o’er earth is shed abroad, and all flesh shall see the token that His Word is never broken. —Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017). The current hymnal for this series is Hymns to the Living God, published by Religious Affections Ministries. This is such a good hymnal that I’m pretty sure I could happily post every hymn it contains, but I’ll be limiting selections to hymns I have never posted here before, especially those unfamiliar to me (of which there are many). For more information and to purchase this hymnal, visit Religious Affections Ministries.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: On Jordan’s Banks

On Jordan’s Banks the Baptist’s Cry PUER NOBIS On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry announces that the Lord is nigh; awake and hearken, for he brings glad tidings from the King of kings. Then cleansed be every breast from sin; make straight the way for God within; prepare we in our hearts a home, where such a mighty Guest may come. For Thou art our salvation, Lord, our Refuge and our great Reward; without Thy grace we waste away, like flow’rs that wither and decay. To heal the sick stretch out Thine hand, and bid the fallen sinner stand; shine forth, and let Thy light restore earth’s own true loveliness once more. All praise, Eternal Son, to Thee whose Advent sets Thy people free; whom with the Father we adore, and Holy Ghost for evermore. —Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017). The current hymnal for this series is Hymns to the Living God, published by Religious Affections Ministries. This is such a good hymnal that I’m pretty sure I could happily post every hymn it contains, but I’ll be limiting selections to hymns I have never posted here before, especially those unfamiliar to me (of which there are many). For more information and to purchase this hymnal, visit Religious Affections Ministries.

Happy Hollandaise

Putting in his dentures one morning, a man noticed an alarming amount of wear on his teeth, so he made an appointment with his dentist to have them examined. “That’s really quite disturbing,” said the dentist. “That upper plate is only six months old, and it won’t last another three. I’ve never seen erosion like that. What have you been eating?” The man replied, “All I can think of is that about four months ago, my wife made some asparagus and put some sauce on it that was really delicious—Hollandaise, I believe. I loved it so much I now put it on everything—meat, toast, fish, vegetables, everything.” “Well,” said the dentist, “that’s probably the problem. Hollandaise sauce is made with a lot of lemon juice, which is highly corrosive. It’s eaten away your upper plate. I’ll make you a new plate, and this time use chrome.” “Why chrome?” asked the patient. The dentist replied, “It’s simple: There’s no plate like chrome for the Hollandaise.”

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Christ Is Coming! Let Creation

Christ Is Coming! Let Creation CWM RHONDDA Christ is coming! Let creation from her groans and travail cease; let the glorious proclamation hope restore and faith increase; Christ is coming! Christ is coming! Come, Thou blessed Prince of Peace, come, Thou blessed Prince of Peace. Earth can now but tell the story Of Thy bitter cross and pain; she shall yet behold Thy glory, When Thou comest back to reign: Christ is coming! Christ is coming! Let each heart repeat the strain, let each heart repeat the strain. Long Thine exiles have been pining, far from rest, and home, and Thee; but, in heav’nly vestures shining, they their loving Lord shall see: Christ is coming! Christ is coming! Haste the joyous jubilee, haste the joyous jubilee. With that blessed hope before us, let no harp remain unstrung; let the mighty advent chorus onward roll from tongue to tongue: “Christ is coming! Christ is coming! Come, Lord Jesus, quickly come, come, Lord Jesus, quickly come!” —Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017). The current hymnal for this series is Hymns to the Living God, published by Religious Affections Ministries. This is such a good hymnal that I’m pretty sure I could happily post every hymn it contains, but I’ll be limiting selections to hymns I have never posted here before, especially those unfamiliar to me (of which there are many). For more information and to purchase this hymnal, visit Religious Affections Ministries.

Christmas Eve. 2018


Christmas Day, 2018


I Wonder as I Wander


In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Hark, the Glad Sound!

Hark, the Glad Sound! The Savior comes GRÄFENBERG Hark, the glad sound! The Savior comes, the Savior promised long! Let ev’ry heart prepare a throne, and ev’ry voice a song. He comes the pris’ners to release, in Satan’s bondage held; the gates of brass before Him burst, the iron fetters yield. He comes the broken heart to bind, the bleeding soul to cure, and with the treasures of His grace t’enrich the humbled poor. Our glad Hosannas, Prince of Peace, Thy welcome shall proclaim; and heav’n’s eternal arches ring with Thy beloved Name. —Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017). Right tune, wrong hymn: The current hymnal for this series is Hymns to the Living God, published by Religious Affections Ministries. This is such a good hymnal that I’m pretty sure I could happily post every hymn it contains, but I’ll be limiting selections to hymns I have never posted here before, especially those unfamiliar to me (of which there are many). For more information and to purchase this hymnal, visit Religious Affections Ministries.

We Three Kings



Who Is Jesus?

The Gospel
What It Means to Be a Christian

Norma Normata
What I Believe

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