Saturday, December 03, 2011

Daily Devotional Saturday December 3rd

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” Hebrews 1:1-2 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

"Thou art all fair, my love."
Song of Solomon 4:7

The Lord's admiration of his Church is very wonderful, and his description of her beauty is very glowing. She is not merely fair, but "all fair." He views her in himself, washed in his sin-atoning blood and clothed in his meritorious righteousness, and he considers her to be full of comeliness and beauty. No wonder that such is the case, since it is but his own perfect excellency that he admires; for the holiness, glory, and perfection of his Church are his own glorious garments on the back of his own well-beloved spouse. She is not simply pure, or well-proportioned; she is positively lovely and fair! She has actual merit! Her deformities of sin are removed; but more, she has through her Lord obtained a meritorious righteousness by which an actual beauty is conferred upon her. Believers have a positive righteousness given to them when they become "accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:6). Nor is the Church barely lovely, she is superlatively so. Her Lord styles her "Thou fairest among women." She has a real worth and excellence which cannot be rivalled by all the nobility and royalty of the world. If Jesus could exchange his elect bride for all the queens and empresses of earth, or even for the angels in heaven, he would not, for he puts her first and foremost--"fairest among women." Like the moon she far outshines the stars. Nor is this an opinion which he is ashamed of, for he invites all men to hear it. He sets a "behold" before it, a special note of exclamation, inviting and arresting attention. "Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair" (Song of Sol. 4:1). His opinion he publishes abroad even now, and one day from the throne of his glory he will avow the truth of it before the assembled universe. "Come, ye blessed of my Father" (Matt. 25:34), will be his solemn affirmation of the loveliness of his elect.

Evening

"Behold, all is vanity."
Ecclesiastes 1:14

Nothing can satisfy the entire man but the Lord's love and the Lord's own self. Saints have tried to anchor in other roadsteads, but they have been driven out of such fatal refuges. Solomon, the wisest of men, was permitted to make experiments for us all, and to do for us what we must not dare to do for ourselves. Here is his testimony in his own words: "So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun." "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." What! the whole of it vanity? O favoured monarch, is there nothing in all thy wealth? Nothing in that wide dominion reaching from the river even to the sea? Nothing in Palmyra's glorious palaces? Nothing in the house of the forest of Lebanon? In all thy music and dancing, and wine and luxury, is there nothing? "Nothing," he says, "but weariness of spirit." This was his verdict when he had trodden the whole round of pleasure. To embrace our Lord Jesus, to dwell in his love, and be fully assured of union with him--this is all in all. Dear reader, you need not try other forms of life in order to see whether they are better than the Christian's: if you roam the world around, you will see no sights like a sight of the Saviour's face; if you could have all the comforts of life, if you lost your Saviour, you would be wretched; but if you win Christ, then should you rot in a dungeon, you would find it a paradise; should you live in obscurity, or die with famine, you will yet be satisfied with favour and full of the goodness of the Lord.

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Today's reading: Ezekiel 42-44, 1 John 1 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Ezekiel 42-44

The Rooms for the Priests

1 Then the man led me northward into the outer court and brought me to the rooms opposite the temple courtyard and opposite the outer wall on the north side. 2 The building whose door faced north was a hundred cubits long and fifty cubits wide. 3 Both in the section twenty cubits from the inner court and in the section opposite the pavement of the outer court, gallery faced gallery at the three levels. 4 In front of the rooms was an inner passageway ten cubits wide and a hundred cubits long. Their doors were on the north. 5 Now the upper rooms were narrower, for the galleries took more space from them than from the rooms on the lower and middle floors of the building. 6 The rooms on the top floor had no pillars, as the courts had; so they were smaller in floor space than those on the lower and middle floors. 7 There was an outer wall parallel to the rooms and the outer court; it extended in front of the rooms for fifty cubits. 8 While the row of rooms on the side next to the outer court was fifty cubits long, the row on the side nearest the sanctuary was a hundred cubits long. 9 The lower rooms had an entrance on the east side as one enters them from the outer court....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: 1 John 1

The Incarnation of the Word of Life

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.

Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But 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, purifies us from all sin.

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

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Amasa [Ăm'asă]—burden-bearer.

  1. The son of David’s half-sister Abigail whom Absalom made captain of his rebel army (2 Sam. 17:25; 19:13; 20 ). Amasa was completely defeated by his cousin Joab in the forest of Ephraim (2 Sam. 18:6-8). David not only forgave Amasa but gave him Joab’s place (2 Sam. 19:13). Joab treacherously slew him (2 Sam. 20:9-12).
  2. The name of an Ephraimite who with others resisted the bringing into Samaria the Jews Ahaz had made prisoners ( 2 Chron. 28:12).
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The Council of Nicea

John 1:1-18 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God" (vv. 1-2).

In the history of Christian doctrine, the cities of Antioch and Alexandria stand out as centers of theological development in the early church. Many of the major promoters of heresy hailed from these cities, but defenders of orthodoxy came from both cities as well. When it came to the debates over the deity of Christ, Antioch, which is located in modern Turkey, was a center of Monarchian thought. And of those Antiochenes known for their denial of Christ's deity, none are more famous than Arius.

Arius wanted to preserve monotheism, and he believed that any attempt to equate Jesus with the Father destroys the biblical affirmation that there is but one, true God (see Deut. 6:4). According to Arius, God the Father alone is eternal and uncreated. Everything other than the Father is created, and this includes His Son, whom the Father made before anything else. The Son is a perfect creature, but He is a creature nonetheless - even if He was the agent through whom the Father created everything else.

During the early part of the fourth century, Arius came to Alexandria and began promulgating His views. He soon ran into difficulties because the Alexandrian theologians held to a more orthodox view of Christ's deity. In the year 321, Bishop Alexander expelled Arius from the city. Yet Arius' popularity grew while he was in exile and soon the entire Roman Empire became embroiled in the christological debate.

Even though he did most of his work after the Council of Nicea, which convened in 325, Athanasius remains the most familiar defender of orthodoxy associated with that gathering. At Nicea, the church officially recognized that the Father and the Son arehomoousios , Greek for "of the same essence" (see John 1:1). Even though the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father, both persons are fully God, having the same essence or being. The Father and the Son, along with the Holy Spirit, each perform different tasks in redemption, though there was never a time when any of the three did not exist. Anyone who says otherwise does not hold the faith once delivered to the saints.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

The deity of Christ is very important. As God He is able to bring us face to face with the Father and restore to us that which has been marred in the fall. Moreover, because Christ is God, there is no idolatry going on when we worship Him. Those who view Him as an exalted created being actually deny monotheism, for they are positing the existence of more than one god. Let us with full confidence confess and proclaim the full deity of our Savior.

For further study:

Micah 5:2

The Bible in a year:

Daniel 7-8

For the weekend:

Daniel 9-Hosea 2

INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

Subscribe to Tabletalk magazine and receive daily Bible studies & in depth articles from world class scholars for only $23 per per year! That's only $1.92 per month. And you can try it out for three months absolutely free! Bringing the best in biblical scholarship together with down-to-earth writing, Tabletalk helps you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living.

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The Council of Nicea

The deity of Christ is very important. As God He is able to bring us face to face with the Father and restore to us that which has been marred in the fall. Moreover, because Christ is God, there is no idolatry going on when we worship Him. Those who view Him as an exalted created being actually deny monotheism, for they are positing the existence of more than one god. Let us with full confidence confess and proclaim the full deity of our Savior.

For further study:

Micah 5:2

The Bible in a year:

Daniel 7-8

For the weekend:

Daniel 9-Hosea 2

Coram Deo from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

Subscribe to Tabletalk magazine and receive daily Bible studies & in depth articles from world class scholars for only $23 per per year! That's only $1.92 per month. And you can try it out for three months absolutely free! Bringing the best in biblical scholarship together with down-to-earth writing, Tabletalk helps you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living.

ADVERTISEMENT

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December 2, 2011

"Don't Miss the Beautiful"

Gwen Smith

Today's Truth

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2a, NIV).

Friend to Friend

I recently went on a trip to minister in Tennessee at a women's event and, to my delight, my daughter Kennedy was able to join me. The two of us are all about "mommy-daughter time" so we were giddy with happy as we started off on the three and a half hour drive.

Prior to the trip, I had given Kennedy permission to use my iPad to watch a movie. So once we hit the highway, she got cozy with her pillow, her headphones went on, and her attention became fixed on the rectangular screen in front of her. Random giggles floated in the air from the movie-watcher as I drove and prayed through the talk that I was to give later that afternoon.

Just off the Northern parts of the Carolina highway - past the congestion of traffic and the hullaballoo of the suburbs - I was freshly smitten by the splendor of God through traces of red, yellow, orange, and brown leaves that were dancing in the breeze under brilliant blue skies. The trees continued to boast of more and more glory as I neared Virginia... and then they were joined by the mountains. Oh, the mountains! They puffed their chests with the majesty of color and power! My heart was captured by the glory of it all, so I tapped Kennedy and pointed out the window, encouraging her to look around... to lift her eyes and soak in the wonder.

"Don't miss the beautiful!" I urged.

"Don't miss the beautiful!"

She paused her movie and joined the beauty moment, agreeing that God was indeed showing off with His creation. Minutes later, she went back to watching her movie as I drove on undone. Wrung out by glory. Overwhelmed by the sacred sanctuary I'd stumbled upon. I stayed in the moment and celebrated the beautiful as the psalmist did in Psalm 96:

1 Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing to the LORD, all the earth.

2 Sing to the LORD, praise his name;

proclaim his salvation day after day.

3 Declare his glory among the nations,

his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

4 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;

he is to be feared above all gods.

5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,

but the LORD made the heavens.

6 Splendor and majesty are before him;

strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations,

ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;

bring an offering and come into his courts.

9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness;

tremble before him, all the earth.

10 Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns."

The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;

he will judge the peoples with equity.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;

let the sea resound, and all that is in it;

12 let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.

Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;

13 they will sing before the LORD, for he comes,

he comes to judge the earth.

He will judge the world in righteousness

and the peoples in his truth.

Worship poured from my heart. I thanked God for the beauty show. As praise and adoration continued to rise a God-thought settled on my heart. "Tell them, Gwen."

"Tell them what, Lord?" I wondered.

"Tell the women what you told Kennedy. Tell them not to miss the beautiful."

Ahhhh, yes! I would tell them, and I would chew on that challenge for days to come. Convicted by questions like: How often do I drive right through the busyness of my days and miss the beautiful? How many moments of glory do I not even see because my eyes are on the mundane? Do I even look for it?

As we head into this busy holiday season and dance between the days of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years - as we decorate the doors and the hearths of our homes and communities, let's be intentional to decorate the doors and the hearths of our hearts with ribbons of God's grace. Let's live with eyes lifted to the Gift of gifts, Jesus Christ.

When we face the stresses of our lists, and our tasks, and our activities, and our heart burdens, let's commit to remembering that the best present is His presence. He's our Hope, our Peace, our Joy... our Beautiful.

Don't miss the beautiful.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, You are glorious and worthy of all praise! Please help me to fix my eyes on You each day so I can walk in your hope, peace, joy and beauty.

In Jesus' Name I pray,
Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Additional Scripture reading: Colossians 3:1-17

Have you paused to spend time with God one-on-one yet today? This week? Prioritize prayer. Spend time in personal worship. Just you and Him. Then click to my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/GwenSmithMusic) and allow the songs that I've posted today lead you in further adoration and praise!

More from the Girlfriends

Friend, don't be discouraged if your calendar seems off-the-charts crazy. I know what that's like. Let's choose the best together and clear a space every day to sit and worship at the feet of Jesus. Uncluttered is a CD filled with songs that sweep you away from excess 'life-noise', this music focuses your heart and mind on the one thing that matters: your relationship with Jesus Christ. Order your copy today from iTunes or fromwww.GwenSmith.net.

Seeking God?

Click here to find out more about

how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Girlfriends in God

P.O. Box 725

Matthews, NC 28106

info@girlfriendsingod.com
www.girlfriendsingod.com

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Karen Ehman

December 2, 2011

While Shepherds Watched and Women Work
Karen Ehman

"So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." Luke 2:16-18 (NIV 1984)

"Tell me about the shepherds again Mommy. It is my favoritist part!" three-year-old Mitch pleaded. It was the week after Thanksgiving and we had started our nightly December ritual: reading the Christmas tale chosen from a basket perched beneath our twinkling tree.

We'd collected dozens of colorful storybooks that illustrated the account of the nativity story. Mitch's favorite part was always the shepherds. Ever since his chubby little fingers could grasp the pasteboard pages, he'd pause and stare at the portraits of rough and tumble men wandering in the wilderness, watching over their flocks by night.

My son's fascination prompted me to dig further into the lessons I could learn from the shepherds.

That first Christmas night these humble guys, often looked down on by society, were busy going about their daily tasks: feeding and watering; prodding and protecting; nursing the injured and encouraging the timid. They were also watching out for hungry predators that might harm their precious lambs.

When the shepherds heard the heavenly chorus, their lives changed forever. Yet the sudden interruption may have been a strange inconvenience at first. After all, sheep need constant supervision. Taking their eyes off them for even a moment might have been detrimental.

Little did these shepherds know they were about to encounter the Great Shepherd, secretly wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

I think women, especially those with children in our lives, can sometimes feel like modern-day shepherds. We certainly do our fair share of feeding, watering, prodding, protecting, nursing, encouraging and watching out for anything that might harm our lambs. At times our job is also dirty, and sometimes unpleasant, with very few "atta girls" or social recognition. Yet it is also significant.

Even moms raising kids who are almost ready to leave the fold still have important work to do.

Our children are never too old to be reminded of Christmas's core message: Christ came to earth to offer hope and new life for all who turn their hearts to Him. Perhaps we begin with storybook illustrations and later transition to opportunities to live the message.

As our own kids have grown, it's been a thrill to join them in reaching out at Christmas with the good news of Christ. Helping in soup kitchens or homeless shelters. Adopting a Christmastime family we serve with food or gifts. Shoveling driveways or assisting a widow with the tasks of the season.

What else could we do to live out the timeless message; the one my little lamb enjoyed hearing year after year?

In the midst of this busy month, let's stop. Put down the tinsel; discontinue the decorating. Turn down the Christmas carols and get alone to be silent.

Let's allow God to interrupt our daily routine to introduce us once again to our Good Shepherd. Let's pause, ponder, and like the shepherds, tell those in our family about this remarkable Christ-child. Then together we can help echo to others this enduring hope:

"I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10b-11, NIV 1984).

Dear Lord, help me pause amidst the busyness and ponder the wonder of You sending the Christ-child to earth. May I instill in my kids a love of pointing others to Your perfect, sacrificial Son. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Need help simplifying your Christmas tasks so you have more time to reach out to others during the holidays? Check out Karen and LeAnn Rice's new e-bookUntangling Christmas: Your Go-To Guide for a Hassle-Free Holiday.

Visit Karen's site where she's giving away a Christmas organizational gift basket and a copy of Untangling Christmas: Your Go-To Guide for a Hassle-Free Holiday!

Application Steps:
Choose three activities to do during this hectic time of year that will encourage you to pause and reflect on the real meaning of Christmas. Perhaps a ten-minute time out with a cup of cocoa or watching the snow fall with your kids. Or read the account of the first Christmas from Luke chapter two very slowly, letting the words and the wonder sink deep into your soul.

Reflections:
How can I creatively use this season as an opportunity for my children and me to tell others about the marvelous news of Jesus Christ?

Power Verses:
Acts 10:36, "You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all." (NIV 1984)

Romans 10:14-15, "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'" (ESV)

© 2011 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

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Augustine: Saint for All Seasons

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Verse: Romans 13:13 – 14

Quote: "Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in Thee." (Augustine, Confessions)

Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430) is one of the giants of church history. In the fifteen-hundred-year span between the apostle Paul and Martin Luther, no one looms larger in the minds of most Protestants. With the possible exception of Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin, his influence as a theologian is unparalleled. And his memoir,Confessions, is given a place in literature as the first recorded memoir. Augustine was an African, and it is fitting that this man of such great stature is still read and debated today, when the African church, having come full circle, is again a center of vibrancy and scholarship.

As a sexually charged youth, Augustine finds himself in "the thorny branches of sex and temptation." He also sows his wild oats for several years as an adherent of Manichaeism, a dualistic religion in which the spiritual realm is manifested in conflict between light and darkness, spirit and body. There is no good God who reigns supreme; individuals are essentially on their own, seeking knowledge to save themselves.

Manichaeism eventually proves to be intellectually unsatisfying for Augustine, who turns to skepticism and then to Neo-Platonism, a philosophy extolling truth, goodness, and beauty. This intellectual shift parallels a geographical move from Carthage to Rome. From Rome he moves to Milan, where his mother joins him and soon becomes enamored with Ambrose and influences her son to attend his sermons. All the while, Augustine is moving away from a philosophical worldview toward orthodox Christianity.

His "garden conversion" is the spiritual climax of his memoir. While weeping in a garden, Augustine overhears a child's voice calling, "Take up and read." Augustine takes this as a sign from God, and reaches for a manuscript of Paul. There his eyes fall on these words: "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh in concupiscence" ( Rom. 13:13 – 14).

"Instantly at the end of this sentence," he writes, "by a light of serenity infused into my heart, all darkness of doubt fled away." Biographers and historians have pointed out that this was a conversion to a celibate monastic life as much as a recommitment to the Christian faith of his heritage and that it had been some time in coming.

On Easter Sunday 387, Ambrose baptizes Augustine, who leaves behind his teaching position to immerse himself in Scripture. He then returns to Africa to live quietly in his hometown as a monk, but the locals recognize his capabilities and elect him to be their priest. Then, in 395, only eight years after his baptism, he is elected bishop of Hippo. Unlike many bishops of the era, he seeks to retain a monastic way of life while preaching several times a week and writing more than a thousand treatises in addition to extensive correspondence.

During the course of his bishopric, several controversies arise between Augustine and other sects. One of these is with the Donatists, a sect arising in the aftermath of the Great Persecution of Emperor Diocletian. When Imperial officials demand that Christians hand over the Scriptures under penalty of death, some Christians surrender their manuscripts and are considered traditors by the Donatists.

The Donatists regard denial of the faith to be the ultimate crime against the church and against God; traditors are no longer part of the church. If someone is baptized by a traditor bishop, that baptism is invalid. In defense of priests and bishops who had surrendered the Scriptures, Augustine argues that the sacrament is valid irrespective of the sinfulness of the priest who administers it. The grace of Christ is operative in the sacrament; thus the worthiness of the priest is irrelevant. Grace is conferred through the sacrament.

Augustine's most bitter theological controversies involve Pelagius, a devout and stout British monk, who teaches that individuals are responsible for their sins, even as they are for their good deeds. That humans inherit original sin from Adam he deems patently false; whether one sins or not is a matter of self-control and free will rather than determinism. Augustine, emphasizing God's sovereignty and election, counters that our sinful nature propels us to sin and that no one has the innate capability to do good.

Yet Augustine knows above all else that God is entangled with mystery. "Since it is God we are speaking of," he cautions, "you do not understand it. If you could understand it, it would not be God."


If you enjoyed the above article, please take a minute to read about the book that it was adapted from:

ParadeofFaith-Bookcover

Parade of Faith: A Biographical History of the Christian Church

by Ruth A. Tucker
Buy the book!
The story of Christianity centers on people whose lives have been transformed by the resurrected Lord. Tucker puts this front and center in a lively overview peppered with sidebars; historical "what if?" questions; sections on everyday life; drawings and illustrations; bibliographies for further reading.



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Angels We Have Heard on High

Hymn Story:

The French carol "Les anges dans nos campagnes," now known as "Angels We Have Heard on High," is completely anonymous. It has always been printed with no known lyricist or composer. The beautiful carol tells the story of Christ's birth, when the angel choir told the good news to nearby shepherds. The chorus, "Gloria in Excelsis Deo," reflects the chorus of the angel choir that long-ago Christmas night.

Many years ago shepherds in the hills of southern France had a Christmas Eve custom of calling to one another, singing "Gloria in Excelsis Deo," each from his own hillside. The traditional tune that the shepherds used may have been from a late Medieval Latin chorale. It became the magnificent chorus of "Angels We Have Heard on High."

The carol seems to be of eighteenth-century origin, since it was known in England by 1816. At that time James Montgomery wrote his carol "Angels From the Realms of Glory", originally basing it on the tune of "Les anges dans nos campagnes." "Angels From the Realms of Glory" was sung to the French tune until Henry Tomas Smart wrote a new tune for it in 1967.

"Angels We Have Heard on High" was first published in France in 1855. The English translation came seven years later, in Henri Frederick's Crown of Jesus Music. This 1862 translation differed from the form we use now. The version we use today was first printed in a 1916 American carol collection entitled Carols Old and Carols New.

Devotional:

Sheep scattered around, the shepherds settled in for another quiet night, probably swapping stories as they watched the flocks. Then, in a divine moment, God burst into the night. Angels appeared, singing songs and speaking of the Savior's birth. And suddenly, the shepherds' ordinary lives were transformed-becoming part of a story that's lived for thousands of years.

Angels We Have Heard on High" reminds us of this amazing night. In the beautiful strains of its chorus, this carol helps us experience a taste of what that angel chorus might have sounded like as it proclaimed the "good news."

Christ's birth certainly was good news to those simple shepherds. The Savior changed their lives forever. And God still loves to speak to ordinary people and transform their lives into something extraordinary through his grace.

As we sing of the angels' great announcement, let's remember that God still wants to announce the "good news" today, using people like you and me. Helping a family in need, sharing the gospel story with a prisoner, encouraging a friend who's going through tough times-in these and countless other ways we can announce Jesus' birth to the "shepherds" of our day.

Through our words and actions, we can show that Jesus still lives in the hearts of man. So in this Christmas season, and all through the coming year, let's continue the angel song. Let's tell the world all about Jesus, and how he's changed our lives forever.

Facts:

Lyrics: Traditional French Carol
Lyrics Date: 18th Century
Translator: James Chadwick, Crown of Jesus Music
Translation Date: 1862
Theme: Christmas Music: Traditional French Melody
Music Date: 18th Century
Tune Name: GLORIA
Arranger: Edward S. Barnes
Arranged Date: 1937
Key: F
Meter: 7.7.7.7.REF.
Scripture: Luke 2:14

Copyright © 2011 Center for Church Music


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A Different Kind of Christmas
by Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

"Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measure to you." --Luke 6:38

Friend to Friend

Of all the Christmases that Mike Wekall remembers, his seventh stands out from all the rest. Mike was the fifth of six Wekall children. Like every child, Mike met December with the anticipation of new toys, freshly baked goodies, glittering decorations, and school vacation. But one week before Christmas, Mike’s parents called the children into the den.

"Kids, I’ve have some bad news for you," Mr. Wekall said, barely able to look his children in the eye. "As you know, things have been pretty tight at work this year. In fact, we are going to have to file bankruptcy, so we won’t have Christmas this year. I’m sorry. Maybe we can make it up to you next year." Then he quietly walked out of the room.

The children just sat there for a while in silence. Mike thought to himself, "What does he mean 'we won’t have Christmas'? Does that mean I’ve been bad and Santa isn’t going to come? And what is bankruptcy?"

It was a confusing time for little Mike, but one thing became perfectly clear on Christmas morning--Christmas had not come to the Wekall house. No presents were under a tree, and the aroma of a roasting turkey did not come from the kitchen. The family did, however, go off to church that crisp, cold morning. When they arrived at church, all the other children were sporting new clothes and chattering about what they had found under their trees.

"Hey, Mike, what’d you get?" one asked.

“Nothin'. We didn’t have Christmas at our house. We’re having a bankruptcy."

"What's wrong? Have you been too bad to get anything? Didn’t you even get a few switches?"

Feeling rather blue, the family of eight went home for a lunch of lima beans and hamhocs. About an hour later, the door bell rang. "Maybe it is Santa after all," Mike thought as he ran to the door.

Standing in the doorway wasn’t Santa, but it was the Bosky family, all ten of them. Each of the eight children had smiles on their faces and two gifts in their hands. Mr. and Mrs. Bosky held a turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

As it turned out, the eight Bosky children went home from church and told their parents about how the Wekalls weren’t having Christmas this year. Seeing how they had been so richly blessed, the children decided to pick two of their toys and wrap them up for the Wekalls. Mom and Dad joined in and brought gifts for the parents. Even though Mrs. Bosky had Christmas dinner all choreographed for her own dining room, she gathered up the food in boxes and baskets to share with a family who needed it more.

That was over forty years ago, but Mike still gets tears in his eyes when he shares this story. "It was the best Christmas I have ever had," he told me. "The Spirit of God showed me that Christmas wasn’t about getting presents but about giving and caring for others. It is about showing goodness toward other people. Every year, I tell this story to someone, because it exemplifies how Christ gave so freely of Himself for us."

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, I have so much and I am surrounded by people who have so little. Show me someone I can help this Christmas. Open the eyes of my heart to see the needs of others. Make me an extension of Your lavish love. In Jesus' Name, amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Consider some ways you can help others less fortunate this Christmas. Here are some ideas from my book, Celebrating a Christ Centered Christmas.
  • Help an elderly person decorate his or her home and take the decorations down at the end of the season.
  • Give an anonymous gift of money to someone who lost their job or someone who you know struggles financially.
  • Offer to do Christmas shopping for a disabled person.
  • Purchase and deliver a gift for a child whose parent is in prison
  • Pack a shoebox for a needy child overseas through Operation Christmas Child.
  • Process toys for the Salvation Army.
  • Volunteer to ring the bell for the Salvation Army.
  • Work in a Soup Kitchen
  • Visit someone in a nursing home who has few relatives.
Today's Advent reading is from the Girlfriends in Goddevotional ministry. There is no Advent devotional email tomorrow (Saturday); the next email will be on Sunday, when we'll introduce a new set of Scripture passages to reflect on throughout the week.

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Today's Advent reading is taken from Girlfriends in God, a non-denominational devotion and conference ministry that crosses generational and racial boundaries to bring the Body of Christ together as believers.

Through daily on-line devotions, conferences, published books, CDs and music videos, God is using this incredible team of women to bring the hope and healing of Jesus Christ to a hurting world.
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He Is - Holy

Today's reading: Leviticus 19:2

God describes himself as holy. Holy means perfect, set apart, free from evil. And God wants us to follow his example. The only way to holiness is through spiritual transformation, becoming like the only perfect human—Jesus Christ.

Because God is holy, we should be and can be holy. We could never do this on our own—only through Christ’s work in us. If holiness seems too lofty a goal, think of it as a process. You became holy when you accepted Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. You are becoming more holy as you follow him. And you will become completely holy when you reach heaven.

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True Identity: The Bible for Women
by Zondervan


The Bible that helps you see yourself as God sees you! Find your true identity in Christ through your relationship with him.
trueidentitysmall

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A Christmas Devotional

PEACE

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." - Luke 2:13-14

Peace is a noble aspiration at any time. In times of war or in times of harmony. When you find yourself at odds with someone, or when you are feeling pretty good about your relationships. When you feel in harmony with God, or when you feel a discord. It is always important to pursue peace.

Peace is so much more than the absence of conflict. Maybe you can lay your head on your pillow tonight and thank God that you experienced no conflict, but that is not the same thing as experiencing peace. If a husband and wife get tired of shouting at each other and both slip into an icy indifference, that is not peace.

In Hebrew, the word for "peace" is shalom, a well wishing that says it all: may you be healthy, whole and complete. May you know where you fit in the universe, and may you find tranquility there. Augustine said that peace is "the tranquility of order." When you know where you fit into God's world-that you are higher than the animals, but less than God-that is the sense of order that brings tranquility.

Therefore, we pray for peace at Christmas. We pray that both others and we discover the Christmas shalom-the confidence that when God's favor, his undeserved grace, rests on us, we will know a peace that goes beyond understanding. The peace gifted to us because Christ came into the world and put things in order, beginning with his birth, and completed in his sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection.

Prayer for today: Dear God, let your favor rest on me, and let me stand in the peace that Christ has made possible.

Acquire the complete "Christmas Joy" devotional as a Kindle eBook (readable on your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, or Kindle).



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Resources

About The Author - Mel Lawrenz serves as minister at large for Elmbrook Church and leads The Brook Network. Having been in pastoral ministry for thirty years, the last decade as senior pastor of Elmbrook, Mel seeks to help Christian leaders engage with each other. Mel is the author of eleven books, the most recent for church leaders, Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement.
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top20visitors-700

Welcome to week 1 of our Top 20 Countdown of Christmas Music!

We asked our visitors what their favorite Christmas songs were and complied the results. This week we're looking at numbers 20-16:

20. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

ItCameUponaMidnightClear

Read the history

Read the lyrics

19. Handel's Messiah, Hallelujah Chorus

HandelsMessiah

Read the history

Read the Lyrics

18. Carol of the Bells

CaroloftheBells

Read the history

17. We Three Kings

WeThreeKings

Read the history

Read the Lyrics

16. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

IheardTheBellsonChristmasDay

Read the history

Read the Lyrics


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