“O Holy Night”

O Holy Night

 

The Christmas carol, “O Holy Night” has a fascinating history.  It was first written as a French poem in 1847 by Placide de Roquemaure, and was set to music by Adolphe Charles Adams that same year.  In 1855, the Unitarian minister, John Sullivan Dwight translated the song into English.  The song was made popular in the United States by abolitionist during the American Civil War.  According to tradition, “O Holy Night” played a significant role in causing a Christmas day cease fire during the Franco-Prussian War.  And in 1906 it was the first song ever played over the radio.  You can read more details about the history of the song here, https://www.beliefnet.com/entertainment/movies/the-nativity-story/the-amazing-story-of-o-holy-night.aspx, a reprint from “Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas” by Zondervan.

O Holy Night!

The stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees!

O hear the angels’ voices!
O night divine,

Oh night when Christ was born,
O night divine
O night divine.

            One of my favorite lines in the carol is, “A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.”  Jesus came to bring us hope. Paul, in I Timothy 1:1, states that Christ Jesus is our hope.  Peter explains that hope further in I Peter.  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (I Peter 1:3-4). “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming” (I Peter 1:13).  Our hope is in the fact that Jesus died for our sins, was raised back to life, and is coming back to Earth to live with us eternally.

Today, we are accustomed to talking about hope as wishful thinking.  I hope for a large, year-end bonus.  I hope one day the Lions will win the Super Bowl.  I hope to win a new car.  Each of these statements are just my desires or my wishes; they do not foretell the future. However, Jesus came to bring us an entirely certain hope.  A definite hope that cannot change.  The hope talked of in the Bible is not wishful thinking, but rather an absolutely true promise of things to come.  A hope that will never fail us, never disappoint.  We can choose to put our hope in our church, our job, our spouse, or other earthly things.  However, over the course of time all of those options will bring disappointment. On the other hand, living for the promise of the kingdom will bring us perfect, eternal life.

Everyone puts their hope in something.  Kyle Idleman suggests you can tell what you have put your hope in, by observing what you spend your time and money on, or what makes you worried or mad.  So what about you?  What are you putting your hope in?

 

-Jill McClain

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You Died

Col 3 3

Colossians 3:1-3

3 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

I wonder how those believers in Jesus understood those words when Paul first penned that letter to them. “you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God”. He told them that they died. What would it have meant to them to hear that they had died? Obviously they were still physically alive and breathing. They were not zombies or vampires or other popular dead, but not fully dead creatures. What part of them was dead.

Sometimes today we speak metaphorically about death. “I’m brain dead” means that I did something without thinking it through, it was silly or stupid. “I’m dead tired” means that I need some sleep.

I think that Paul was telling the believers in Christ at Colossi that when they were baptized into Jesus Christ, that part of their nature that was under the control of “the flesh” or their brokenness and alienation from God had died. Apart from Christ, that which drives us or controls us is sin living within us. When we come to Christ, that part that controls us is put to death. Our focus is no longer to satisfy our sinful desires. We live by the spirit of God, our life is now found in God. It has not yet been fully revealed. We are still living under the influence of sin, and the new nature has not yet been fully realized in our daily living. That process, known as sanctification, is ongoing. It requires, as Paul goes on to say, a daily putting to death of things like “immorality, evil desires, greed, rage, malice, slander”.

We’re baptized into Christ, then you died, and rose again. Your new nature has not yet been fully revealed and won’t be until the coming of Jesus, but as you live as a follower of Jesus in this present age, you die to your old self a little more each day as you live by the spirit of God in practical ways.

-Jeff Fletcher

Labor Pains

1 Thess 5 3 (1)

I Thessalonians 5:1-3

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

While I’ve never been a pregnant woman, I’ve been married to one who gave birth eleven times… so I’m pretty well acquainted with the whole “sudden labor pains” phenomena. Fun fact… my youngest son, James, came so quickly that I acted as his midwife. We were at home… no midwife in sight…. And she said “I need to push”…and I tried to persuade her to wait. (Don’t ever tell a woman in labor about to push a baby out to wait, if you know what’s good for you). She did NOT wait. She had reached the point of no return.

Paul uses this analogy to help us understand both the suddenness and inevitability of the return of Jesus. His return will happen suddenly.

It’s been a nearly 2000 year long labor… but it’s getting close. Jesus is coming soon. Are you ready?

-Jeff Fletcher

To Encourage One Another

1 thess 4 16

I Thessalonians 4:13-18

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

The first Christians lived in anticipation of the near return of Jesus from heaven. He left by rising up into the clouds…. He said he would come back in the same way to bring their reward, the fullness of the Kingdom of God. They hoped that he would come in their lifetime. As his coming, or parousia, took longer than they anticipated, some of the believers began to die. This left those still living concerned. What’s going to happen to those who died before Jesus returned, would they miss out on his Kingdom when he returns?

Paul writes this letter out of a pastoral concern to give encouragement to these grieving (and scared) believers. He clearly tells them what will happen. Those who are still alive when Jesus comes will not have any advantage over those who died. In fact, when Jesus returns the trumpet will sound and those who have died will actually be the first to rise-they will come up from out of their graves to meet Jesus in the air. After they have risen, the living believers will rise up to join them and meet Jesus in the air together with those who died.

He then gives the assurance that we will be with the Lord forever. This is the fulfillment of our hope… life in the coming Age. The present, evil age will come to an end, and the kingdom of God, beginning with Jesus’ reign over all the earth will begin.

Paul concludes his letter by encouraging the church to comfort each other with these words. It was intended to offer comfort and hope to grieving believers whose loved ones had died before the coming of Jesus.

Today, as we wait for the return of Jesus, just as in the first century, believers die while waiting for Jesus. While nothing can take away the grief of losing someone we love, we can still receive, and give comfort to one another with the knowledge that when Christ returns, the dead in Christ will rise first, we will rise up to meet them with Jesus, and then, we will be with them and with the lord forever.

Personally, I’ve got several people that I can’t wait to see again. I’m sure you do too.

-Jeff Fletcher

I’ve Got to Tell Somebody

John 1_41 42

John 1:35-42

Not much story about Andrew is recorded in the Bible, but his enthusiasm for sharing with his brother is of special note. We believers have found the Messiah, The Christ, the savior of Israel and coming King. Are we as excited to share with our relatives, friends, and neighbors as Andrew was? We should be. As the popular hymn says, “The need of the world is Jesus.” We should be about the business of proclaiming the gospel message at every opportunity we meet. The messiah has appeared and died for our sins. He will appear the second time to restore the earth wide Kingdom to his Father. This is good news and every body needs to know about it.

-Larry Rankin

More and More

1st Thessalonians 4

1 Thess 4 1 

This is one of my favorite chapters.  I will explain why shortly; first,  I want to point out that this chapter talks about living to please God. Verse 1 not only asks, but urges us in the Lord Jesus to please God more and more. It says to control our bodies in a way that is holy and honorable. We are told to love each other. It seems like I have heard that before?  How about in Mark 12:30-31 New International Version (NIV) where it says:

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

 

If we follow those commandments, we will please God. And if it is mentioned more than once, it must be important.

 

Now the reason this is one of my favorite chapters is because it speaks about the sleep of the dead. It says that one day Jesus will return and those who have fallen asleep have hope. We have HOPE! Hope of what you ask? Hope of meeting the Lord in the air and being with Him and God FOREVER! Verse 18 says to encourage each other with these words.  So I tell you encourage each other that we will be able to live for eternity with not only other believers but also God and Jesus.

 

Tomorrow we will talk about the last chapter of 1st Thessalonians, Chapter 5.

 

-The Ransoms

Actively Waiting

Hebrews 11

Hebrews 11_6

Here it is – the faith chapter!  When I think of the book of Hebrews, this is the chapter that comes to my mind!  Because this chapter is pretty well known it can be easy to get in the habit of skimming.  We know most of these stories already, and their outcomes.  When you read today I challenge you to slow down and really think about each person mentioned here.  Maybe God will speak to you in a new way through one of these old stories!

Verse 1 starts us off with a great explanation of what faith is exactly.  Faith is defined as having complete trust in someone or something, in our case, faith is having complete trust in God’s promises!  As we go through and read about all of these people such as Enoch, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and so many others that are labeled as faithful servants who had complete trust in God and His promises, reflect on your own life.  What an honor to be commended for your faith and specifically mentioned in scripture as these “ancients” were!  If someone was to write your life story that people could read for years to come, would it include a sentence like verse 2?  Would you be commended for your faith and held up as an example for living as a trusting servant of God?

I’m going to finish this post off a little sooner than my previous ones, simply because I think this chapter should speak uniquely to each of you.  So, to wrap up I want to focus on the last two verses.

Verse 39 talks about how all of the people mentioned were not able to receive what was promised in their lifetime. Can you imagine how big their faith had to be for them to remain faithful through such intense and difficult situations, and yet not see what was promised?  Some of the people went through horrible persecutions and struggles, but here they are commended for their faith.  Despite all they went through, they kept an intense trust in God because they knew one day He would fulfill His promises.  I know I personally struggle to trust God in daily situations, even though I’m closer to that promise than any of those “ancients” were!  I think this chapter sets up a great example for us, however difficult it may be to follow.  And verse 40 explains why… because God has something better planned that is going to be made perfect.  As cliché as it may be, God’s timing is intentionally designed for perfection one day.

It can be discouraging to day after day wait for a promise to be fulfilled, and I think all of the ancients felt the same!  When we have something so good and perfect waiting for us, it’s hard to just wait.  But I don’t think God has called us to “just” wait.  I think we need to wait actively!  All of the people mentioned in this chapter weren’t sitting alone in their houses until they died waiting for a promise to come through, they were out living and serving a faithful God!  We don’t know how long we are going to have to wait, but we do know that there will be a day when God’s promises come true.  So, while we wait, what are we doing to showcase commendable faith to others?  Are we being good examples like the ancients?  Let’s be active wait-ers that excitedly look towards the day of Jesus’ return!

-Sarah Blanchard