Day 18: Citizens of Heaven Above

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21).

It is not fashionable in some circles today to be proud of your national heritage.  Well, I am not fashionable.  I am proud of where I am from. I know that I would not have had many of the opportunities afforded me had I been born in another place.  But the pride I have for the country of my birth pales in comparison to the boasts I will make concerning the country of my rebirth.  When I gave my life to Christ, he made me a citizen of his kingdom which is above all others.  Kingdoms rise and fall but his kingdom is eternal.   I walk as a sojourner in this world.  Here I wait for my Savior and King to return for me.  “Come, all ye faithful” with me.  Raise your voices and “sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!”  For as sure as our Savior was born into the world 2,000 years ago in fulfillment of the promises of the Father, so he will return to take us to our homeland. 

O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL

O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of angels.

Refrain
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God,
Glory in the highest.

Refrain

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
Jesus, to Thee be glory given,
Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing.

Refrain

Day 17: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is in my top five favorite Christmas songs.  The haunting melody captures the longing that Israel must have felt as they waited for their long expected Messiah.  Many misunderstood what the Messiah would accomplish when he came.  They wanted him to be a political leader that would free them from Roman tyranny and reestablish the glory of David’s earthly kingdom.  But God sent the “Rod of Jesse” into the world to “free his own from Satan’s tyranny.”  It seems that Satan’s tyranny still reigns large in many places in our world.  His tyranny only reigns in places where Emmanuel’s reign has not been welcome and established.  Emmanuel does not reign in king’s palaces or in presidential mansions.  His reign is established in the hearts of you and me.  As Israel longed for their Messiah to arrive, we wait and long for his return.  We join our voices with the apostle John and say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”  The video I have included here is an instrumental.  Listen to the music and ready through the lyrics. 

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, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice!  Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
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 Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Adonai, 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.

Day 16: The Heavenly Host

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying…” (Luke 2:13)

“Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).

“A multitude of the heavenly host” appeared “praising God.”  From the beginning, we find that the host of heaven are at the beckon call of our Savior.  In the scripture from Matthew I shared here, Jesus is speaking as the mob comes to arrest him.  Jesus reminds his disciples that he does not lack the resources to free himself if he so choses.  Jesus’ life is one of my contrasts.  One of the greatest is between his unlimited power and the restraint of that power.  He could have come into the world in all his glory, but instead he was born as a child in a manger.  He could have called down the host of heaven to rescue him from the cross, but he chose to suffer and die that we might have life.  Praise be to our Almighty Lord who came in humility that our lowly lives might be exalted to where he is.

WHILE SHEPHERDS WATCHED THEIR FLOCKS BY NIGHT

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around

“Fear not,” said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled minds;
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind

“To you, in David’s town, this day,
Is born of David’s line
A Savior, who is Christ the Lord;
And this shall be the sign

The heavenly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in swaddling-clothes
And in a manger laid

Thus spake the seraph and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels, praising God, and thus
Addressed their joyful song:

“All glory be to God on high,
And to the earth be peace;
Good will henceforth from Heaven to men
Begin and never cease

Day 15: God and Sinners Reconciled

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”  (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

Jesus Christ was the perfect sacrifice required to make atonement for our sin. Through his body and his blood he has reconciled us to our Father in heaven.  You might say, “Why do you talk about such things at Christmas.”  Is not Christmas about the birth of Jesus?  Indeed it is but his birth is like none other.  He is the “offspring of the virgin’s womb.”  He is “veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity.”  If Jesus was not born of a virgin, he is only an ordinary man and unable to reconcile us to the Father.  But Jesus is the “offspring of the virgin’s womb.”  So join with me and the angelic host of heaven and sing “Glory to the newborn King.” 

HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING

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 the angelic hosts proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Refrain:
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King”

Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,
offspring of the virgin’s womb:
veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
hail the incarnate Deity,
pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel.

[Refrain]

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth.

[Refrain]

Day 14: Remember Christ Our Savior

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

“For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:24)

In our humanness, we are prone to forget.  This is one of the fundamental reasons why we have holidays.  They remind us of something important that has happened in the past.  Many Christians are dismayed at how Christmas has become so materialistic.  It is because we have forgotten why we celebrate Christmas.  Christmas is not about what we get under the tree.  It is not even about giving.  It is about what has already been given and if we have received that gift, the new life that we have.  You and I “were straying like sheep,” but now our Savior has been born.  Do not be dismayed this Christmas rather be filled with comfort and joy.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Savior
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

And when they came to Bethlehem
Where our dear Savior lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Day 13: Sing Praise to Our Heavenly Lord

“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)

“The First Noel” is one of the quintessential carols of Christ.  Like many of the carols, it rehearses for us some aspect of the birth narrative of Jesus.  In the example of “The First Noel,” it is the star, the shepherds, and the visit of the wisemen.  The retelling of the events of the Christ’s birth in these carols is not just simply to remember what has happened in the past, but they are meant to lead us to some point.  Sometimes the events are retold to lead us to a place of decision about who this Jesus is that was born.  Sometimes, as in the present case, it is to lead us to join our voices with the multitude and sing praises to our Lord for what he has done.  So I say to you, “Let us with one accord, sing praise to our heavenly Lord.”  For He “hath made heaven and earth with nought and with his blood mankind he has bought.”

The First Noel

The First Noel, the Angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

They looked up and saw a star
Shining in the East beyond them far
And to the earth it gave great light
And so it continued both day and night.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

And by the light of that same star
Three Wise men came from country far
To seek for a King was their intent
And to follow the star wherever it went.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

This star drew nigh to the northwest
O’er Bethlehem it took its rest
And there it did both pause and stay
Right o’er the place where Jesus lay.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

Then entered in those Wise men three
Fall reverently upon their knee
And offered there in His presence
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made Heaven and earth of nought
And with his blood mankind has bought.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

Day 12: For On’ry People

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:9-11)

I love this epic version of the old Appalachian Christmas carol “I Wonder as I Wander.”  It captures for me the breathtaking nature of the Lord’s love for us.  We have not earned the Lord’s love.  He does not owe it to us.  We did not make overtures of love toward him.  He was the initiator from first to last.  “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us…”  I will never completely understand that kind of love.  I do not have to understand it though to accept it.  I accept it and my breath is taken away by the wonder of it all.  For a poor on’ry person like me, my Savior Jesus came and died.   

I WONDER AS I WANDER

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus my Savior did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

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 heaven to sing
He surely could have it, ’cause he was the King

Oh, yes! He was the king! Hallelujah!

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus my Savior did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

Day 11: Lord of All, Born for You.

“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)

I live in Cambodia where Christianity makes up a very small fraction of the population.  Many refuse to accept or even listen to the gospel message because they say it is a foreign religion.  Yet this truth remains, Christ is not for one nation or ethnic group.  The good new of his birth and its accompanying joy are “for all the people.”  He is born “Christ the Lord.”  Again, if the message is for all people, he is also Lord of all people.  Whoever you are.  Wherever you are from.  Christ is for you.  “Christ the child is Lord of all! Christ the child was born for you!”

INFANT HOLY, INFANT LOWLY

Infant holy, infant lowly, For His bed a cattle stall;
Oxen lowing, little knowing Christ the child is Lord of all.
Swiftly winging, angels singing, Bells are ringing, tidings bringing:
Christ the child is Lord of all! Christ the child is Lord of all!

Flocks were sleeping, shepherds keeping Vigil till the morning new
Saw the glory, heard the story, Tidings of a Gospel true.
Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow, Praises voicing, greet the morrow:
Christ the child was born for you! Christ the child was born for you!

Day 10: Go Tell It!

“And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.”
(Luke 2:18-19)

In the infinite wisdom of God, he chose the least of these, a band of shepherds, to be the recipients of the most important birth announcement ever. When they had received word of Christ’s birth, they went with haste to see the reality of the message that was given to them. It did not end there though. They did not keep the message to themselves. “They made know the saying that had been told them concerning this child.” Likewise, you and I have received word of the most important birth in human history. We should not stay silent. “Go tell it on the mountain, our Jesus Christ is born!”

GO, TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN

While shepherds kept their watchin’
Over silent flocks by night
Behold throughout the heavens
There shone a holy light, yeah

Oh I said
Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain
Our Jesus Christ is born

The shepherds feared and trembled
When lo! Above the Earth
Rang out the angel chorus
That hailed our Savior’s birth

Down in a lowly manger
Our humble Christ was born
God sent us salvation
On that blessed Christmas morn’

Oh I said
Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain
Our Jesus Christ is born

When I was a lowly seeker
I sought both night and day
I asked the Lord to help me
And he showed me the way

He made me a watchman
Upon a city wall
And if I am a Christian
I am the least of all

So I said
Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain
Our Jesus Christ is born

Go tell them
Go tell them
Go tell them
Go tell them
Go tell them
Go tell them
Go tell them
Go tell them

Day 9: In His Name All Oppression Shall Cease

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
(Luke 4:18-19, quoted from Isaiah 61:1-2)

Our Lord taught that we are to love God first followed by loving one another. Neither have we learned to do very well. There remains in the world both physical and mental oppression. I have a friend who remains caught in an unjust judicial system. He has been held in prison for almost 19 months now without trial or conviction. All of the evidence points to his innocence yet there he remains. I am praying for a miracle for him this Christmas season that he will know the reality of the promise of this scripture and the words of this song. I chose the video that is attached to this blog because it is sung by a Filipino group. My friend is Filipino. Join your prayers with me that our Lord will set at liberty him who is oppressed. For we know that “in his name all oppression shall cease.”

O HOLY NIGHT!

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! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born.
O night, O Holy Night, O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night, O night divine!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise his name forever
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!