Thinking Out Loud

December 3, 2016

The Season of Anticipation

nativity-calendar-enhanced-2

 

I’ll swear I never heard the word Advent until I was in my 40s. Growing up Evangelical, that just wasn’t our thing.

Let me qualify that slightly. I visited a wide variety of churches. I’m sure the word was used, but I had selective hearing.

That same hearing challenge would come into play when I worked in a Christian supply store. It took the first dozen occurrences to differentiate between whether the customer wanted an Advent calendar or Advent candles. In the first few years, either way, the answer was no. We didn’t have them.

I learned later the nuances of this particular season. Some would argue the season is best expressed in the carol/hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel…

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny…

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here…

I think you could make an equal case the ideology of this season is expressed by the old Heinz Ketchup commercial that was based on Carly Simon’s song Anticipation.  Or better yet, this later one from 1973.

The context (of Advent, not the commercials) is Israel awaiting for a coming Messiah. Perhaps for those with young children, it’s more of a Will Christmas ever get here? vibe.

advent-candlesA few years in we did Advent calendars with our own children. Not the ones where you open a window and there’s a chocolate inside. Give me a break! There was a verse for each day and a definite focus on the true Christmas story. The story of Simeon (Luke 2) also works well with children, as his life was only made complete by seeing the child, the Salvation of the Lord.

A few years after that I started noticing Advent candles in churches that were Christian & Missionary Alliance, Pentecostal and event Baptist. The word had spread, literally.

…Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Another “anticipation” hymn always comes to mind here. I prefer it to the Welsh tune “Hyfrydol” which is also used for other lyrics, and one I consider among the finest musical settings Christianity has produced.

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

And that’s where we leave it today. If you’re Evangelical like me, and Advent is a foreign word that “those Anglicans and Catholics use,” I hope you’ll pursue a discovery this season of something that can only enrich your understanding of what you currently call Christmas.


Related Resources:

November 24, 2014

The Original Nativity Scene Probably Looked More Like This

Filed under: Christmas, music — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:14 am

This was composed and recorded by a very good friend of mine. Kick back for five minutes and consider what the scene at the back of the Bethlehem Inn really looked like those first few nights.

I have a little manger scene I unpack every year,
I put it on the mantle way up high
Safe from puppy dogs, little hands and wrestling adolescents,
Who might break a piece and make me want to cry.

I’ve had that little manger scene of china and of glaze,
Since I was just a kid of 4 or 5
For years and years I looked at it believing every line,
Cause it made the ancient story come alive

It makes me sentimental, Though I know it didn’t happen quite that way
A bit of poetic license is OK.

In my little manger scene Mary’s got blue eyes,
she’s dressed in silk and satin like a queen
Joseph’s beard is neat and trim, just like his fingernails,
And everybody’s handsome and serene

The swaddled baby’s smiling up at three wise men standing guard,
So noble, not a sunburn, wart, or frown
They’re hanging with the shepherds who are kneeling squeaky clean
on golden straw carpeting the ground

It’s all sleek and smooth and shining,
Tho’ I know it wasn’t quite like that, don’t you?
The truth is not quite so pretty, but it’s true

I bet Mary, she was saddle sore and Joseph couldn’t sleep
The wise men smelled like camels and the shepherds smelled like sheep
And the stable smelled like cattle and the things that cattle do
The baby woke up hungry every morning, half past two.

But our Mary, she’s no china doll, she’s a fighter through and through,
Joseph knows he has a job to do
There isn’t any stopping them, there isn’t any doubt,
Together they will see this journey through.

‘Cause she, she was a warrior, he was her strong right arm,
In a battle that they couldn’t comprehend
That baby was a treasure who would ransom all the world,
They’d carry him until he took his stand.

Even though Mary, she was saddle sore and Joseph couldn’t sleep
The wise men smelled like camels and the shepherds smelled like sheep
And the stable smelled like cattle and the things that cattle do
The baby woke up hungry every morning, half past two
And the straw got into everything, your shoes and in your hair
In the food and in the beds and on your nerves and everywhere

So if in my little manger scene, they look a little glazed
A bit of poetic license is OK.
Though I know it didn’t happen quite that way.

©2011 Ruth Wilkinson

 

November 21, 2014

The Hardest Days

Filed under: Christmas, Church, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:59 am

Doug and Gary were always the last to leave the office.  Doug always turned off the lights as Gary set the alarm, and on Fridays, Gary always asked Doug if he wanted to join him for church that weekend.

“Actually, I’m going to church with my wife on Sunday,” Doug replied.

“Oh right. I forgot you’re a CEO,” Gary said smiling.

“A CEO?”

“Christmas and Easter only.” They both laughed, and Gary continued, “You know it’s good that you’re going, but you always pick the two hardest days.”

image 211114“I know,” returned Doug, “The parking at that church is miserable at Christmas.”

“No, that’s not what I mean; you always choose incarnation and atonement. They’re the toughest ones to grasp.”

“Wait a minute, I thought you wanted me to attend church.”

“I do, but think about it; if you show up for The Good Samaritan, the message is ‘love your neighbor,’ that’s easy!  And if you show up for ‘husbands love your wives,’ well two minutes in and you’ve got that one. But incarnation –“

“Do you mean the flower or the canned milk?”

“No it’s the idea of God becoming man, God becoming one of us. See, God is like those triplicate materials requisition forms we send to head office. The kind where what you write on the top part goes through to all three. But then God Himself rips out one of the pages — let’s call it the middle one — and then the letter to the Philippians tells us that that part of God took on the role of a servant and entered into the human condition even to the point of experiencing human death, and a rather excruciating one at that.”

“So you’re talking about Jesus. You’re saying he was 50 percent man and 50 percent God. Like a centaur?”

“No it’s not 50/50, more like 100/100.”

“So that’s gotta hurt. Why would he do that?”

“Well that’s the Easter part, the atonement part. In another letter, to a young disciple named Timothy, the same writer wrote that ‘Christ came into the world to save sinners, of which I’m the worst.'”

“The guy who wrote part of the Bible said he was the worst?”

“Jesus himself said he ‘came into the world to look for and save people who were lost.’ In another part he said that he came into the world to give his life as a ransom payment for many; and in yet another written account of his life we read that he didn’t come to condemn — which is what a lot of people think church is all about lately — but that through him everybody could have eternal life.”

“So you’re talking about going to heaven when you die?”

“Well, actually, eternal life starts now.”

“How come I never heard that at a Christmas service before?”

“You did, but you probably weren’t tuned in to it. You heard the carols, but missed the connection between incarnation and atonement, and you can’t have the one without the other. Ultimately, Jesus — the baby in the manger — came to die for the world, for me, for you.”

“Wow;” Doug said, “I never heard it like that.”

 

 

 

Phil 2, I Tim 1:15, Luke 19:10, Matthew 20:28, John 3:17

November 21, 2011

When The Manger Scene is Too Neat and Tidy

This was composed and recorded by a very good friend of mine.  Kick back for five minutes and consider what the scene at the back of the Bethlehem Inn really looked like those first few nights.

I have a little manger scene I unpack every year,
I put it on the mantle way up high
Safe from puppy dogs, little hands and wrestling adolescents,
Who might break a piece and make me want to cry.

I’ve had that little manger scene of china and of glaze,
Since I was just a kid of 4 or 5
For years and years I looked at it believing every line,
Cause it made the ancient story come alive

It makes me sentimental,  Though I know it didn’t happen quite that way
A little poetic license is OK.

In my little manger scene Mary’s got blue eyes,
she’s dressed in silk and satin like a queen
Joseph’s beard is neat and trim, just like his fingernails,
And everybody’s handsome and serene

The swaddled baby’s smiling up at three wise men standing guard,
So noble, not a sunburn neath their crowns
They’re hanging with the shepherds who are kneeling squeaky clean
on golden straw carpeting the ground

It’s all sleek and smooth and shining,
Tho’ I know it wasn’t quite like that, don’t you?
The truth is not quite so pretty, but it’s true

I bet Mary, she was saddle sore and Joseph couldn’t sleep
The wise men smelled like camels and the shepherds smelled like sheep
And the stable smelled like cattle and the things that cattle do
The baby woke up hungry every morning, half past two
And the straw got into everything, your shoes and in your hair
In the food and in the beds and on your nerves and everywhere

But our Mary, she’s no china doll, she’s a fighter through and through,
Joseph knows he has a job to do
There isn’t any stopping them, there isn’t any doubt,
Together they will see this journey through.

‘Cause she, she was a warrior, he was her strong right arm,
In a battle that they couldn’t comprehend
That baby was a treasure who would ransom all the world,
They’d carry him until he took his stand.

Even though Mary, she was saddle sore and Joseph couldn’t sleep
The wise men smelled like camels and the shepherds smelled like sheep
And the stable smelled like cattle and the things that cattle do
The baby woke up hungry every morning, half past two
And the straw got into everything, your shoes and in your hair
In the food and in the beds and on your nerves and everywhere

So if in my little manger scene, they look a little glazed
A little poetic license is OK.
Though I know it didn’t happen quite that way.

©2011 Ruth Wilkinson

December 24, 2009

May God Bless You As We Consider How He Already Has

Filed under: Christmas — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:12 pm

Christmas play for the thousandth time
A store bought doll lying in the straw
Bed-sheeted shepherds walk down the main aisle
Following a cardboard star

But just when we think we’ve seen it all
Our callous hearts are caught be surprised
We look all around for people have found
The expectation in the children’s eyes…

Another family get-together
Shortbread, pudding, Christmas cake
Sleigh rides, parties, singing carols
Shopping done before it’s too late

The fireplace glow, the people we know
And those who just each year are seen
The babies, the old, the stories are told
While snow reflects the lights of red and green…

The stockings are hung, the “Twelve Days” are sung
The Christmas cards were mailed last week
The presents are wrapped, our energy’s sapped
The turkey’s served, we’ll pray and then we’ll eat…

The preacher reads the words from the gospel
Then Isaiah, chapter nine
The baby will become a King
And reign until the end of time

The manger, the desert, the temple, the cross
Five thousand fed, calmed angry seas
Wonderful counselor, mighty God
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace!

~Paul Wilkinson

December 22, 2009

Creativity and Christmas Worship

I think it was last year, or maybe the year before, there was a lot of debate among worship leaders online concerning “the carols.”  (Quotation marks intentional.)   Some worship leaders were caught up in doing the “latest hot worship song” and didn’t want to interrupt that just because December 25th was looming large on the calendar.

But this year, the church Mrs. W. and I attended for Christmas Sunday did nothing but the classics.   A rhythmic change here.   An extra bridge there.   But there was something missing.   It just didn’t show any imagination when it came to selecting the actual worship material.  It left my heart longing for more.

So at 11:30 that night, I found myself heading over to Fred McKinnon’s blog and clicking whatever it is you click on there to actually open the Sunday Setlist link options and see what others had experienced that day.  (Since that page has the links, you can catch them all there, or this will take me forever to post.)

Turned out a lot of worship leaders were fairly worn out after a long and busy day, and at first not many had posted their weekly list.  But a few had posted some things worthy of mention:

  • First, one I expected to see much more was “Offering” by Paul Baloche; in particular the verse that isn’t normally sung:  Over the town of Bethlehem appeared a star, while angels came to lowly shepherds… (Sometimes called “Christmas Offering”)
  • Mike Ymo suggests that “O Praise Him” by David Crowder has always reminded him of the angels visiting the shepherds
  • Kim Bontrager used “Hallelujah (Light Has Come)” by Barlow Girl
  • Harold Forbis used “Born That We Might Have Life” one of many songs from the number one Christmas album of 2009 by Chris Tomlin
  • David Goodwin, from down under, had access to “His Glory Appears,” from Hillsongs, which as far as I can tell, hasn’t been released here yet
  • Ronnie Burgess (Mando Ron) listed “God With Us” by MercyMe (good choice) but was also in the middle of a U2-theme where they used “Pride (In the Name of Love)” which, when you think about it…
  • Doug Thorsvik listed “Celtic Christmas Blessing” by Keith and Krystin Getty, writers of “In Christ Alone;” though I couldn’t find an audio sample for this one when I wanted to check it out
  • Dennis Arriaga listed some other songs I’d like to try to track down, but also included the ever-popular “How Great Is Our God;” which again, when you think about it…
  • Jim Drake listed “Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground)” by Chris Tomlin
  • Bobby Giles lists a Sojourn Music composition, “Glory Be” with a lyric sample that makes me really want to hear the whole song: 
  • Hallelujah! The Lord of life has come
    to reconcile the nations to our God
    Hallelujah! He’s coming back again
    to finish what began in Bethlehem …

  • Gary Durbin lists a couple of songs from Third Day’s Christmas album
  • Barry Westman lists “Glory to God Forever” by Steve Fee Band
  • H. L. McConnel mentions “Joy Has Dawned Across The Earth” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend.  Is this the same one Margaret Becker recorded on New Irish Hymns? Or is it the one Bethany Dillon recorded on In Christ Alone?
  • No one listed this, but Brits and Canadians are very prone to use “Meekness and Majesty” by Graham Kendrick at Christmas

I didn’t list everything posted on Sunday Setlists, and there were probably some great songs done the week before (December 13) as there will be the week after Christmas (December 27); but I hope you can see that there’s a lot of creativity out there, and there are many songs to choose from which will cause people to lift up their hearts in an attitude of worship.

The classic carols are great, but sometimes are heart longs to sing a new song.  (Isaiah 42:10)

Check out the Sunday setlists weekly at Fred McKinnon.com and this week in particular at this link.

BONUS ITEM:

Every once in awhile you run across a blog whose title makes a statement. This is Doug Thorsvik's. Click on the image to link.

PHOTO
The image at the top of the page is from the East Wall of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in West Bend, Wisconsin, USA

December 13, 2009

The Gospel of Environmentalism

“Earth is a primary, man is a derivative.”

It was one of the great lines we remembered from our visit to a local United (as in United Church of Canada) church many, many years ago; a moment somewhat overshadowed minutes later however when the children’s church worker not only “misplaced” our then two-year-old son, but claimed he had never been in the room to begin with.   After a few very panicked minutes we found him wandering around another part of the building.

Today we decided to visit to see if we would leave with a better impression all these years later.

Instead, nothing has changed.

The message of environmentalism somehow got intertwined with the advent of Christ’s coming;  it was more Unitarian than United;  our response to the Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change dominated what our response should be to Jesus.

But the one that really got me was that former Vice President Al Gore and Canadian environmental activist David Suzuki were proclaimed as prophets and placed on an equal footing with Zephaniah, whose text formed the basis of the morning’s homily.     (“I will assemble the nations” in verse 8 of chapter 3 was paralleled to the event in Copenhagen.)

Reading Heaven by Randy Alcorn has given me an enhanced perspective on how we need to care for the environment.   Evangelicals dropped that agenda years ago and are realizing that sometimes the so-called “social gospel” actually is the gospel.   We’re emphasizing texts wherein caring for the earth and its people is honoring to God; texts that had been set aside for those which favored acts of proclamation.

But the main message at Christmas — the one no church can afford to miss — is found in Paul’s words in I Tim 1:15

15-16Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy.  [The Message]

For the people who are faithful to this particular congregation, what they experienced this morning is church.   And there was one reference to the concept of incarnation.   But the major takeaway was the environment.     Earth is a primary.   Man is a derivative.

Imagine going to church at Christmas and Jesus isn’t there.

December 9, 2009

Links Links Links

Once again, we bring you the finest in links that you won’t see on any other blogs, except for the ones we got from other blogs.

  • To begin with, a five-minute advent meditation at YouTube with music by Jeff Johnson, titled The Coming of the Lord.
  • David Fitch at the blog, Reclaiming the Mission suggests that a staple of evangelism, getting people to admit that they are sinners, doesn’t work with postmoderns.
  • Speaking of evangelism, this is my favorite of the links this week:  Kevin Rogers at the blog, The Orphan Age, introduces his son Levi (15) who shares a dialog that took place in a Grade Nine class discussion.   Ever get asked why God would make us imperfect and given to doing evil things?   Check out his response.
  • With nine locations, The Meeting House is Canada’s largest multi-site church.   Pastor Bruxy Cavey, author of The End of Religion is currently doing a series about Facebook culture where he suggests to his parishioners: “Get over yourselves.”  Read about the church in this December 8th article at Christian Week.   [Two hours later: Having already heard the first message in this series, I just listened to the second — The Culture of “i” — and totally enjoyed the blend of technological and Biblical insights.  To listen, click here.]
  • Andrew Faris at the blog, Christians in Context, rethinks the Christmas song, “Mary Did You Know,” and suggests some additional verses.
  • Speaking of Christmas, for you ‘crafty’ people out there, Ann Welch at the blog, Resolved to Worship suggests some Christmas tree ornaments you can make with no budget on a rainy day.
  • Kathy aka Kaybee at the blog, The Well, suggests that when it comes to our intimacy with God,  “We can’t dash into His presence and choke down spiritual inwardness before we hurry to our one o’clock appointment.”Read the post, No Hurry here.
  • When the minister says, “I now pronounce you husband and wife;” the couples kiss next, right?   Not necessarily.  Check out this short YouTube, At My Wedding.
  • At the blog, The Online Discernmentalist Mafia, a new gadget offers protection from Liberal, Emergent, Catholic-related, Shack-inspired influences that might creep into your mind undetected.
  • Last, an internal link.  I’d really like to have gotten more discussion going on so called “contemporary” churches whose basic order of worship is part of the church bylaws and constitution.   How “fresh” and “alive” is the worship sequence where you worship on Sunday mornings?
Got Prayer Requests?

Use the Comments Section in this post

As a family, we get together at 9:00 PM EST and often include items gathered throughout the day from my work (confidentiality permitting.) Today, I thought, “Why not open this up to our blog community as well?” Feel free to list anything on your heart, but if it’s not for yourself, don’t use names.  … I think it’s good for us to pray for things outside our family circle. Sometimes our prayer life can be very insular, which isn’t good in a world of global need. If you miss today’s connection time-wise, there’s always tomorrow.

December 20, 2008

Putting More God In Your Calendar

Filed under: Christianity, Christmas, Faith, Religion, theology — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:26 pm

being-christian“Want more God in your calendar than you get with only the individual days of Christmas and Easter?  Then awaken yourself to the Christian calendar, when virtually every day of the year has a vital and traditionally sacred place relative to the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Christ.”

So begins an article by author John Shore* at his blog, Suddenly Christian.   Growing up Evangelical, I had no concept of what some call ‘the Church calendar.’

Then I visited a Roman Catholic church one summer and discovered it was “the tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time.”   Huh?   It would be ten more years before I learned what ‘Advent’ met, yet alone experienced an ‘Advent calendar.’   (And another five years before I would see Advent candles used.)  Catch the whole story by linking here and find out why “Ordinary Time” isn’t boring!

*from the book, Being Christian.  John describes the book as “just out,” while his publisher’s website says May, 2009.   We checked.  The book is available now.  Turns out the May date refers to a paperback edition.   His publisher seems oblivious to the hardcover already out.   You just can’t trust anything you read on the internet.

November 27, 2008

Five Reasons To Celebrate Advent

Filed under: Christianity, Church, music — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:53 am

Sojourn Music has posted a brief outline of different aspects of the full observance of the Advent season, which in turn contains links to other articles on that blog on the same subject.  If you’re ever involved in the planning of a worship service, or simply participating, there are some good thoughts in the linked articles.  Your sojourn begins here.

And while we’re on the subject of special times and seasons, Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends in the U.S.

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