Why we Worship

PSALM 47

Clap your hands, all peoples!
  Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared,
  a great king over all the earth.
He subdued peoples under us,
  and nations under our feet.
He chose our heritage for us,
  the pride of Jacob whom he loves.

God has gone up with a shout,
  the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises!
  Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
  sing praises with a psalm!

Why Sing?

God reigns over the nations;
  God sits on his holy throne.
The princes of the peoples gather
  as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
  he is highly exalted!


Why Scripture?



 
Birth of Jesus
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke  2:10-11)


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God Is Not Dead

December 19, 2008

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote to a friend, "I do not believe anyone can be perfectly well, who has a brain and a heart." Where did he turn to find hope in his time of despair?


The Civil War was a difficult period for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. His wife, Francis Appleton, died in 1861 after sustaining burns from her dress catching fire. Longfellow was devastated, and records in his journal the deep despair into which he fell.

Then, in 1864, he was reeling from the news that his son Charles Appleton Longfellow had been wounded in battle.

We hear and sometimes sing his carol I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY, and are reminded of the promise the angels gave the shepherds, that the coming of Jesus would mean peace on earth. In the middle of the Civil War, with the news of a wounded son, Longfellow fought for his faith in the midst of rising doubt that God was not in control of events.

Two key verses in this poem have fallen from use, and the poem does not carry the same power without them.

He starts off with faith and hope, that the message of "peace on earth" was vibrantly pealed out each Christmas....

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 the 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


But now in verse four, the reality of the Civil War and his wounded son hits home, and he reflects powerfully...

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 hearthstones of a continent
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men.


Now is where we begin singing in our carol again, but without the previous two verses, the despair he is feeling makes no sense...

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.”


Has Longfellow lost hope? Where will his strength come from?

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.”


His faith and hope have revived. GOD IS NOT DEAD. He is on his throne, he reigns, he is in control, he has a plan, he is working his purposes, nothing is surprising him, he still has all power to control all events. Eventully, the wrong will lost, and the right will win, and the lion will lie down with the lamb, swords will be used for plowing, for they will have no other use. And that is the hope we have this Cristmas.





O Christmas Tree

December 8, 2008

They're beautiful, they bring back lots of memories, and gifts look wonderful at the base of their branches, but in a Christian context, do Christmas trees "belong?" Do they have any theological significance? Perhaps.....


I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me. Hosea 14:8

In some  Christian homes, the Christmas tree is seen as a nod to pagan interests, and indeed, since ancient times the holiday tree tradition has played an important part in winter celebrations.

It seems that many pagan festivals used trees to honor their gods and spirits. For instance, in Northern Europe the Vikings considered the evergreen a symbol and reminder that the darkness and cold of winter would end and the green of spring would return.

The Druids of ancient England and France decorated oak trees with fruit and candles to honor their gods of harvests. At the festival Saturnalia the Romans decorated trees with trinkets and candles.

And understandingly, Christians want to avoid all appearance of evil. But the verse above seems to take the evergreen and show it as a perfect metaphor for the role God plays in our life. He is always green, no matter what the season. And furthermore, our fruitfulness comes from him. We can be fruitful in winter, spring, summer or fall - it doesn't matter to God, since he is he source of our greenness.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
Your leaves are green forever.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
Your beauty leaves you never.
In summer's heat, or winter's cold,
In spring or fall, your foilage holds.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy leaves are green forever.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
Thou has a wondrous message:
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
Thou has a wondrous message:
Thou dost proclaim the Savior's birth
Good will to men and peace on earth.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
Thou has a wondrous message:

So go ahead, put up a tree, guilt free! And as you look at it, thank our heavenly Father for his love that endures forever.





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