Submit to the Lord

“Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Grieve, mourn, and wail.  Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:7-10)

“But Lord,” we cry out, “I resisted the devil and I still fell to his temptation.  I came near to you in prayer and reading your word and it was to no avail.  When you were in the wilderness being tempted, you quoted the word and Satan was vanquished.  Why am I unable to stand against the enemy?” We can resist the devil from dawn to dusk and still fail every time.  We can spend copious amounts of time in prayer and Bible reading and still fail in the face of the enemy.  Why is that?  It is because of that little six letter word that we despise so much. SUBMIT!  We must first submit our will to God’s.  This, after all, is the root of all sin.  We want God’s freedom, but we want it on our terms.  We want his kingdom, but we want to be king.  We must first submit to God.  Then run like the wind from the devil towards our Lord.  Now for the divine irony, as we humble ourselves before the Lord, he will lift us up.  He will exult us and give us the dignity due our position as his children.  The victory we sought on our own terms is now given to us because we have submitted to the Lord.  Submit to God and be victorious over the enemy!

Day 27: He Rules the World with Truth and Grace

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:6)

It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, this has been a year like none.  Covid is the first thing that comes to minds when I make this statement, but life has continued on with its plethora of other struggles.  I am writing this in the waning hours of Christmas day as many of you are waking to Christmas morning.  Without sharing all of the details here, it suffices to say this has been a Christmas like none I have experienced in my 52 years of life.  My blood has been at the point of boiling for much of the day as I have continued to look into the face of the unjust judicial system of the country I am residing in. And yet I have this song to share, “Joy to the World.”  How can I possibly sing a song about joy when injustice seems to be winning the day?  It is because today we celebrate the birth of a ruler.  Not a politician but a ruler.  He is the “King of kings and Lord of lords.”  I do not whitewash over the injustice around me, but I face it with this sure knowledge. This is not the way it is supposed to be.  This is not the way that it will always be.  I have read to the end of the book.  I know how the story ends.  One day injustice will be destroyed forever.  The King who was born will “rule the world with truth and grace” and he will make “the nations prove” that he is the ruler of all.  But here I wait in this fallen world and I sing “Joy to the World! The Lord has come” and he is coming again.  In that day, all wrongs will be made right and all injustices will cease.  Again and again I say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

JOY TO THE WORLD

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders and wonders of His love

Day 26: The Dawn of Redeeming Grace

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”  (Luke 2:29-32).

Our God is a God of promises.  He makes promises and keeps them.  One of his greatest promises was that he would send his Messiah into the world to redeem his people.  His birth is “the dawn of [that] redeeming grace.”  Simeon is speaking in the verses above.  In the context of these verse, he is described as a righteous and devout man.  He was waiting for the Messiah to come.  In fact, he had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he saw the coming of the Messiah.  The Spirit led him into the temple on that and he was able to hold in his arms the Messiah of God.  For Simeon, it was enough just to see the “dawn of [God’s] redeeming grace.”  Now he was able to “depart in peace, according to [God’s] word.”  Now we Gentiles do not walk in the dawn’s light, but we remember the dawn at Christmas time.  Now we walk in the Messiah’s “light for the revelation to the Gentiles.  Let us remember the dawn as we now walk in the noonday’s light of the redeeming grace of our Lord.

SILENT NIGHT

Silent night, Holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant, tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, Holy night
Shepherds quake, at the sight
Glories stream from heaven above
Heavenly, hosts sing Hallelujah.
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born.

Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

Day 25: The Prince of Peace

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”  (Isaiah 9:6-7)

I have written about peace this Advent season already, but the immensity of unrest in our world justifies speaking of it again.  The world looks for the solution to unrest in many places.  If we just had the right politicians, we would obtain peace.  If we had an equitable redistribution of wealth, we would obtain peace.  If we, by our human will power, atoned for the sins of our fathers, we would obtain peace.  If we just had a little more money to throw at the problem, we would obtain peace.  But all of these are like throwing water on an oil fire.  They only make the situation worse and cause the fire to spread.  The trouble is that we are trying to fix the problem with the source of the problem.  We live in a fallen, broken, and wicked world and we are fallen, broken, and wicked people.  The solution has to come from outside of this imperfect world and indeed it arrived over 2,000 years ago.  Isaiah’s prophecy calls the Messiah, the “Prince of Peace.”  He not only brought peace to the world, but he is himself peace.  Why is this?  It is because he is the sinless Son of God.  The song I have included here is new to me.  It is a more contemporary Christmas song.  Well, contemporary to the years that the Lord has given me.  Come with me and meditate on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.  So “with pounding heart I stare, a child, a Son, the Prince of Peace for me.”

WHERE SHEPHERDS LATELY KNELT

Where shepherds lately knelt
and kept the angel’s word,
I come in half belief,
a pilgrim strangely stirred,
but there is room and welcome there for me,
but there is room and welcome there for me.

In that unlikely place
I find him as they said:
sweet newborn babe, how frail!
and in a manger bed,
a still, small voice to cry one day for me,
a still, small voice to cry one day for me.

How should I not have known
Isaiah would be there,
his prophecies fulfilled
With pounding heart I stare:
a child, a Son, the Prince of Peace for me,
a child, a Son, the Prince of Peace for me.

Can I, will I forget
how love was born, and burned
its way into my heart
unasked, unforced, unearned,
to die, to live, and not alone for me,
to die, to live, and not alone for me?

Day 24: He Smiled at Me

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”  (Matthew 25:21)

Of course the song and story, “Little Drummer Boy,” is only a fictional tale, but unlike Rudolph, Frosty, and Santa it does lead us to the manger where our Savior was born.  In the last phrase of the song it says, “Then he smiled at me.”  Indeed, it would have been amazing to look into the face of the infant Jesus and have had him smile at you.  What a great and glorious, yet terrifying, day it will be when we stand before our Lord and look full in his face.  My heart bursts with joy as I consider what it will be like.  I yearn to see a broad smile across his radiant face and hear those incredible words cross his lips, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” 

LITTLE DRUMMER BOY

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A newborn King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.

Bonus:

Listen to this lovely rendition of “Little Drummer Boy” on the hammer dulcimer.  You might say but that is a stringed instrument and not a drum, but it belongs to the family of percussion instruments because it is struck to produce the musical sound. Enjoy!

Day 23: Glory to God in the Highest!

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

(Luke 2:14)

“…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
(Philippians 2:11)

Jesus, throughout his life and ministry, continually pointed the praise he received back to the Father.  The beautiful Christ hymn found in Philippians 2:5-11 ends with the phrase, “to the glory of God the Father.”  Everything about his life, his ministry, his miracles, his teaching, his suffering, his death, and his resurrection were done to bring glory to the Father.  We learn from the doxology of the angels sung to the shepherds in Luke 2:14 that the Father is to receive glory for the events of Christ’s birth also, “Glory to God in the highest.”  Join your praises with heaven and earth this Christmas and sing, “Gloria, in excelsis Deo,” “Glory to God in the highest,” for the Father has sent his Son into the world. Amen!

ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echoing back their joyous strains.

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

See Him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Bonus Instrumental:

Day 22: King, High Priest, Savior

“And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”  (Matthew 2:11)

There are many things that have crept into our Christmas traditions that are not actually in the biblical account of our Lord’s birth.  Two of them are present in the title of this carol.  Firstly, we do not know how many Magi there were.  We assume because there were three gifts that there must have been three gift givers but that is not in the Bible.  Secondly, we have no indication from scripture that they were kings.  They were definitely from the upper class of the country they were from, but we have no indication that they were royalty.  This being said, what I like about this carol is that it pulls out what I think is indicated by the three gifts that the Magi give.  Gold is a gift given to kings and points to Jesus as the King of kings.  Frankincense is to be put into the hands of a priest and offered to God.  This indicates to us that Jesus will be our High Priest before the Father.  Myrrh is not really a gift anyone would want to receive because it speaks of bitterness and death for it is bitter to the taste and was used for the preparing of the dead for burial.  This gift indicates the bitter suffering and death that Jesus will endure in order to pay the price for our sin.  Therefore we learn from the gifts of the Magi that Jesus is King, High Priest, and Savior. 

WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE

We three kings of Orient are,                                                                    
bearing gifts we traverse afar, 
field and fountain, moor, and mountain, 
following yonder star. 

Refrain: 
O star of wonder, star of light, 
star with royal beauty bright, 
westward leading, still proceeding, 
guide us to thy perfect light. 

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain, 
gold I bring to crown him again, 
King forever, ceasing never, 
over us all to reign.

[Refrain]

Frankincense to offer have I; 
incense owns a Deity nigh; 
prayer and praising, voices raising, 
worshiping God on high.

[Refrain]

Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume 
breathes a life of gathering gloom; 
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, 
sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

[Refrain]

Glorious now behold him arise; 
King and God and sacrifice: 
Alleluia, Alleluia, 
sounds through the earth and skies.

[Refrain]

Day 21: Worship Christ, the Newborn King

“And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”  (Matthew 2:11)

This carol calls four groups of people to “come and worship Christ, the newborn king.”  The angels, the shepherds, and the Magi were all present to worship Christ as a child.  They worshiped as those who had received what was long expected yet not having fully received its fulfilment.  We, the saints, do not simply worship a child in a manger.  We know the rest of the story.  This infant who was heralded by angels, proclaimed by shepherds, and worshiped by Magi grew to manhood and became the Savior of all who call on his name. Now we, the “saints before the altar bending, watching long in hope and fear,” wait for our long expect Savior’s return.  We worship him not as “the newborn king” only but as our risen King.

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:

Refrain:
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:

[Refrain]

Magi, leave your contemplations,
brighter visions beam afar,
seek the great Desire of nations,
you have seen his Savior star:

[Refrain]

Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord descending,
In his temple shall appear:

[Refrain]

Day 20: Like a Child

“Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’” (Luke 18;15-17)

“Away in the Manger is the simple prayer of a child to his Lord Jesus.  The child declares his love for Jesus.  He asks for his protection through the night. He bids Jesus to come be near him forever.  The child even intercedes for all other children.  He ends his prayer with the expectation that Jesus will return one day to take him to his heavenly home.  I like this carol not only because it reminds me of the beauty of children but because it also reminds me of the beauty of my Savior.  Jesus has time to hear the simple prayer of a child.  Indeed, he has time for anyone who humbly accepts the gospel like a child.

AWAY IN THE MANGER

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And take us to heaven, to live with Thee there.

Day 19: The Morning Star

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.”  (Numbers 24:17)

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”  (Revelation 22:16)

Light has become an integral part of our Christmas traditions because of the start that guided the magi to Bethlehem and to the one born King.  I think it is no accident that the star played an import part in the narrative of our Savior’s birth.  It was prophesized that, “a star shall come out of Jacob.”  Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of that prophecy.  Jesus, toward the end of Revelation, refers to himself as “the bright morning star.”  The morning star is actually not a star but rather the planet Venus which appears as the last brightest object in the sky before dawn.  I believe Jesus takes this as a title for himself as a symbol that with his coming a new day of light had arrived.  Indeed now we walk in the light of Jesus amid the darkness of the world around us.  As you see the lights of Christmas this year, celebrate the star that came out of Jacob, Jesus Christ, the Morning Star.

STAR IN THE EAST

Hail the blest morn, see the great mediator
Down from the regions of glory descend.
Shepherds, go worship the babe in the manger,
Lo! for his guard the bright angels attend.

Chorus:
Brightest and best of the stars of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness and lend us thy aid.
Star in the east, our horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant redeemer was laid.

Cold on his cradle the dew drops are shining,
Low lies his bed, with the beasts of the stall.
Angels adore him, in slumber reclining,
Maker, and Monarch, and Sovereign of all.

Chorus

Say, shall we yield him, in costly devotion,
Odors of Eden and offerings divine,
Gems from the mountain and pearls from the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest and gold from the mine?

Chorus

Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gold we his favor secure,
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.