Sunday, December 21, 2014

Day 22: "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night"

   I have fond memories of this song. I don't have the most pleasant of voices, it isn't like nails on a chalkboard or anything, but I can count on one hand the number of times I have sung in front of an audience that I wasn't hiding out in a choir. One of those was the illustrious performance of "Silent Night", and another was this song, which I performed with several of my sisters and my mother. That is the single time that I have done that as an adult. I had never heard this song before my mom suggested we sing it at a Christmas Eve service, and I immediately liked it. We did *not* sing all six verses, nor did we sing it perfectly. However, we did sing it joyously, as a humble homage to the King. I'm guessing that the shepherds paid their respects in much the same way-knowing they had little to offer, but giving all they had, confident He would make up the difference.

Lyrics: "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night"
(This one isn't in the Baptist Hymnal, either.)

Questions for thought and discussion;
1. It's pretty obvious throughout Scripture that God is pretty fond of shepherds. (Read about David if you need reminding!) However, He didn't elevate their status-sheep herding wasn't a plush job, they didn't make six figures, or have any status of which to speak. You would think if He liked them so much, He would have changed all that, right? Why do you think God chose to allow shepherds to maintain such a lowly position? What part did that play in the Christmas story?

2.  Our pastor spoke of the shepherds this morning and he pointed out something I had never noticed before: the shepherds were not commanded to find Jesus, they chose to go. That is such a great example of our own freedom to choose Jesus. How else do their actions concerning seeking Jesus, finding Him and sharing Him are a reflection of the experience of a believer?

Looking for the printable? Find it here.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Day 21: "Carol of the Bells"

Note: The tune for this song actually has several sets of lyrics. The version that I associated with this title is often called "Ring Christmas Bells", although it is also simply called "Christmas Bells". The version that is actually used with this name is here.  Either will work for the calendar, but I am specifically referencing the first one.

     This is one that isn't even in the good ol' SBC hymnal. However, when you are the author, you get to be "in charge", whatever that means! So, I decided to use my official power and put this one in, because it is one of my favorites. The repetition of the notes in the tune make it almost unforgettable, and then couple it with the simple, yet powerful, lyrics and it is perfection in my mind. The song is based on an old Ukrainian folk chant, and it pre-dated widespread Christianity there. It was a secular song with lyrics that spoke of the New Year. After the Gospel was shared there, it was "converted", and the lyrics were eventually re-written, well, because Jesus changes everything, right? That's the story of Christmas!

Lyrics: "Carol of the Bells" or "Ring Christmas Bells"

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. The bells are tolling the good news that Jesus is here! How does that reflect what we do when we sing? Do you really think that our music makes a difference?

2. "Every knee will bow and every tongue confess"...we think of this as a beautiful gesture of reverence on the part of the believer, but what will this look like for those that never acknowledged Christ? For a Christian, this is something we *want* to do, but we know that isn't true for everyone. Do you ever think about the time that Jesus will return as the conquering Hero and demand the place that has always been rightfully His?

Looking for the printable? Find it here.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Day 20: "Tell Me the Story of Jesus"

   You may think that I am fudging on this one, since you may not think of it as a true "carol". However, it is definitely a song about the birth of Christ, so I am taking the liberty! Don't skip over this one because it isn't "traditional"! Also, I didn't realize, but it is by Fanny Crosby. If you don't know her life story, look her up. She wrote over 8,000 hymns in her lifetime.  That alone is astounding, but she was found to be completely blind when she was very young. Instead of allowing her that to make her bitter and angry, she instead believed that it helped her to focus and rely on God. I was fascinated by her story as a child, and read multiple biographies. I loved playing her songs on the piano. I think we are all drawn to tragedy that turns into triumph and a humility that plays out in working earnestly for the Kingdom of God.  Hmmm, seems to me you can also find those themes in the life of Jesus...

Lyrics: "Tell Me the Story of Jesus" (Read the accompanying blog post if you have time!)

The Baptist Hymnal (1991): #122

Questions for thought and discussion;
1. The Bible has been called the "greatest story every told". Do you really believe that? What is so fascinating about Jesus? Do you think that planning a completely engrossing story was intentional on God's part?

2. We love a happy ending-truly, everyone does. The Bible gives us the opportunity to guarantee our own picture perfect conclusion: salvation through Christ means eternal life in heaven. Doesn't that make all this worthwhile? Why are we hesitant to proclaim that definite truth?

3. Stories of Jesus were told in Christ's own day! I love, love, love to think about that. What do you think they said? Was He a "celebrity"? Which story would you have liked to have witnessed?

Looking for the entire printable? Find it here.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Day 19: "Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne"

          Wow, less than a week until Christmas. It's crunch time for real if you are a procrastinator (I am over-loader, not quite the same, but I still have plenty to do!) and this is the time when Jesus really gets pushed to the back burner in the hustle and bustle. This carol is the perfect remedy if you are wont to overlook the "Reason for the season" right now. This song is one of the few (perhaps the only, I haven't looked at every single one yet) that is by a woman. I couldn't find any information about it, but the lyrics really have a sensitive, feminine touch in the best of ways. The third verse is just stunning. Stop and take a few minutes to sing (or just read) this beautiful song. It will put your focus back where it belongs. Because if He could leave His throne for us, I think we can leave behind our busyness, stress and worry for Him. Sounds like a delightfully un-fair trade, right?

Lyrics: "Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne"

The Baptist Hymnal (1991): #121

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. Christ gave up His rights so that we might have mercy that we in no way deserved. Why then do you think we are so loathe to give mercy to others? He hears the afflicted, the fatherless and the oppressed. How have you done that recently? If you haven't done that, how can you?

2. Christ became poor for us, physically, so that we might be rich spiritually. Yet, we often demand earthly abundance as our due. Is that Biblical? Why not? If we truly seek to emulate Christ, can we have wealth? (Please don't see read a "right" or "wrong" answer from my perspective. I am just hoping to ignite a spirit of searching for God's answers, not man's)

3. If you were Jesus, what would be the most difficult part of leaving your throne? Christ was 100% human, so I am sure there were moments when He remembered, and perhaps even missed or longed for, His heavenly home. Have you ever thought about that?

Looking for the printable? It's here. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Day 18: "What Child Is This"

    This is my husband's favorite carol, I think in a large part because he likes the tune. I however, like it because it falls into that melancholy, low, slow category. I'm not really sure why I lean towards those, but clearly they are my favorite. Also, I love the words. It seems that this carol would be one of those written in the 13th-14th centuries, but in actuality, it is much more recent. It is from 1865, and the author was suffering from a near fatal illness that resulted in a renewed interest in Christ. A spiritual awakening that came during a really dark time? Sounds a lot like Christmas to me!

Lyrics: "What Child Is This"

The Baptist Hymnal (1991): #118

Questions for thought and discussion:
1. We really tend to take for granted that we know who Christ is, and surely that was easily recognized by His contemporaries. However, that was probably not the case-most did not likely realize who He was. Which leads me to think if we are mistaken about that assumption, do *we* really know who He is? Who do you say He is? Why?

2. The verse from Luke is short but poignant. Mary was pondering all these things...she was probably trying to figure out exactly "what Child is this" herself! What do you think she thought in those first few hours? Days? Do you think she had the same thoughts most mothers do?

3. Why do you think "Jerusalem was [disturbed]" with Herod? Was it unnatural for them to side with their known, earthly leader? Do you think we ever do that type of thing today?

Looking for the printable? Find it here.


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