HEAVENLY PEACE

“Silent night, holy night

All is calm, all is bright

Round yon Virgin Mother and Child

Holy Infant so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace

Sleep in heavenly peace”

  • Silent Night

“You will keep in perfect peace, those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”  Isaiah 26:3

The Oxford English Dictionary defines peace as “freedom from disturbance, anxiety or stress; emotional calm.”  When I think about peace during this season, I can’t help but think of the song “Silent Night”. I imagine there being a peace over Bethlehem through the night which was unexplainable in human terms – a stillness and tranquility which could only be provided by God.  The stress and anxiousness of waiting for the Messiah was removed and the peace that surpasses all understanding was given unto the people.  

Now, we wait for Him in our lives. Among the busyness of the season and the pace and chaos  found in this world, we can’t help but search for this same peace. We know this peace can only be found in Christ. We wait to hear His voice, to have our prayers answered. We wait for Him to return.  We don’t have to be anxious or fearful while we wait.  We can wait with the assurance that His peace will sustain us. We can rest our heads at night and sleep in the “heavenly peace” which comes from trusting and remaining steadfast in Him. 

“Cast your cares on the Lord   and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22

PRAYER

Lord, thank You for the peace You have blessed us with. When I am anxious or fearful, please help me receive the peace only You can offer and to have the assurance that it will sustain me. Amen.

EVERLASTING LIGHT

“O little town of Bethlehem

How still we see thee lie

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting Light

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight”

  • O Little Town of Bethlehem

 “At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” 1 John 2:8

The words of this song practically represent an image of a beautiful winter landscape on a Christmas card, perhaps designed by Thomas Kinkaid. It’s a peaceful scene of Christmas night in a small, sleeping village filled with dark, quiet streets.  The only thing lighting the landscape would be those silent stars going by. It’s a painting of serenity.

Is that really how it was, though? Did the people of Bethlehem lay their head downs and sleep in heavenly peace that night?  Up until then, Bethlehem was a violent place ruled by Davidic kings.  There was hope, though, given to the people by the prophet, Micah. Micah prophesied that God was going to raise up a new Davidic king from the city of Bethlehem (Mic 5:2). Thus, Bethlehem was the place where David’s reign began and from which a new Davidic king would again come. 

When they laid their heads down they had fear. They also had hope. They knew a King was coming who would save them. They didn’t know when. Can you imagine what it would be like to lay your head down at night with fear and to wake up knowing that your hope has come? That night they went to bed, not only in the darkness of the landscape, but also in their personal darkness. In the morning, they awoke to a new light…an Everlasting Light. This Light would shine on them calling to them to bring their hopes and fears to meet it. 

The Everlasting Light…bringing its shine to all the world over 2000 years ago and will continue to shine its light one each and everyone of us today. 

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” Isaiah 60:1

PRAYER

Lord, thank You for the Light…the Everlasting Light that we can bring our hopes and fears to. Help me share and shine my light for others to see. Amen.

THE WAY

“Away in a manger

No crib for His bed

The little Lord Jesus

Laid down His sweet head”

  • Away in a Manger 

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Allow me to play on words here – to separate “away” into “a way.”   It’s important to remember the great significance of the birth of Jesus. The baby who lay humbly in the manger. The baby who would lead and be the way to the Father and to eternal life.  

Jesus is the greatest gift we could ever receive  – a true, tangible representation of God’s love.  His birth represents an invitation to all of us to become children of God and heirs to the kingdom.  It is one of the many promises of God to us.  We are His children. The kingdom belongs to us through Him.  We are invited to be part of it in every way. We can share in the joy of His birth and share in His glory. Jesus Christ, our brother, was given to us as a gift for our salvation.  He is a sign of God’s perfect love for us-His children.  As Josh Gilligan says in his version of this song, “the hope of man is born today.”  He is our hope. He is the way, the truth, and the life.

Just as Jesus extends the invitation to us, we extend an invitation to Him.  We invite Him into our hearts. We ask Him to lead our way through this world. In John 14:2,  He tells us that His “Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”  We are invited to live with Him there. The invitation was manifested that night in the manger. Extend the invitation to those around you. It is the greatest and most important invitation you and I will ever receive and the most important one we can give.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

PRAYER

Lord, thank You for sending the way, the truth and the life. Thank You for the gift of Your son. May He continue to lead us down a path of righteousness. Amen. 

THIS IS CHRIST THE KING

“This, this is Christ the King,

Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing

Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.”

  • What Child Is This

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

Although the birth of Jesus was foretold by Isaiah, many people did not picture their King, their Savior, their Leader, to come in the form of a baby. They wanted someone who would rule for them. They expected someone of strength and power. Their visual expectations did not match who they received. However, they received exactly who they wanted – someone of strength and power. He just didn’t come in the form they expected.

Expectations. As humans, we are full of expectations. We expect people to do things a certain way. We expect specific things to happen at times we have appointed. It’s no wonder the people expected their Savior and Messiah to come in the form of a strong King. I doubt any one of them pictured a baby, yet the promise of God was fulfilled . . . just in an unexpected way,

We, on the other side of His birth, have a better understanding of why He did have to come this way. It was the only way. Afterall, He was fully God and fully man. He came into the world humbly, lowly and in the weakest form possible.

God sent His only son to save us. God saw His suffering, sinful people and sent us His perfect love and mercy. He sent His son to share in our joyous moments and our suffering. He sent Him in fully human form so we could identify with Him, but also know Him as fully divine.

And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

PRAYER

Lord, thank You for sending this fully human, fully divine baby to us.  Thank You for sending this lowly, and weak baby into our world of darkness, so He could fully walk with us in the light. Amen.

REST BESIDE THE WEARY ROAD

“O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.” 

  • It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I have listened to many versions of “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” and I have only found one that included the third stanza above.  I find this stanza to be more meaningful than the others. It recognizes how we live in a world which makes us weary – in lives that can weigh us down with crushing loads. These loads are heavy on our shoulders, bending us over.  The longer we carry them, the harder it becomes to keep going. Each step becomes more painful and we become slower under the weight.

Yet, we can rejoice because help comes swiftly if we ask. We can be overwhelmed with the burdens we carry and feel too weary to even look and listen for God. In the last two lines of the stanza above we are reminded to “rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.”  Notice that Edmund Sears, the lyricist, doesn’t say “rest on the weary road”; no, he wants you to remember that you don’t have to be on the road.  You can rest beside it, Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 to come to Him when we are weary and burdened.  Come to Him before we get on the weary road and He will give us rest.

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary,  and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord  will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;  they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:29-31

PRAYER

Lord, when I am weak and weary, help me turn to You. When I am overwhelmed with the loads I carry, help me turn to You. Help me to look and listen for You, God and rest beside those weary roads I walk upon. Amen.

DO YOU KNOW WHAT I KNOW?

Do you know what I know

In your palace wall mighty king

Do you know what I know

A child, a child

Shivers in the cold

Let us bring him silver and gold”

  • Do You Hear What I Hear

 “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15

This song is a beautiful example of what sharing the hope and love of Jesus with gentleness and respect looks like. The song builds with the smallest and weakest, a little lamb, being told of the Good News. The message continues to be told throughout the song where a mighty king is being told, not by another person of royalty, but instead by a shepherd boy. Not only does the shepherd boy actually get away with speaking to the king, but the king listens!  Then the king shares the message with the people everywhere and asks them to pray for peace.

There are so many beautiful things you can take away from this song especially from the history of it. It is not a very old song. It was written in October 1962 during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis to be exact. People were living in fear and dread. I can only imagine the lack of hope they had. The writers of this hymn were not only sharing the hope of Jesus, but also a prayer for peace.  

In times of darkness and turmoil in this world, or when we feel hopeless in our own circumstances, we can feel like we are the “smallest and weakest.”  That is when we need to stay in the Word, stay in prayer and focus on the hope that has been shared with us. In turn, we must also be the “night wind,” “the little lamb, “the shepherd boy,” or the “mighty king” and share the message of hope and pray for peace for others and the world.

“And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Mark 16:15

PRAYER

Lord, give me a spirit of evangelism;  a willingness and comfort to share the gospel and the hope that can only be found in You. Amen.

RESPONDING WITH FAITH

“Angels we have heard on high

Sweetly singing o’er the plains

And the mountains in reply

Echoing their joyous strains”

  • Angels We Have Heard On High

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.” Luke 2:1

It was the ultimate birth announcement. Christ was born!  It was the greatest news these messengers could ever share. It was so powerful that it forced a response. the mountains replied and echoed the angels’ delight. The shepherds responded differently, though. In the song they respond with fear, confusion and a question of why? “Why are we singing, praising, celebrating?”  The angels then told them about Christ being born.

The shepherds left for Bethlehem to see what the angels were talking about. Even with a hosts of angels delivering this message they still had to see for themselves. We can be just like those shepherds – having to see to believe. Faith is believing even though we cannot see. Faith is our response to the angels’ message. Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 

Just like the intensity of the message of Christ’s birth, faith demands a response.

How are we responding today?

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” 1 John 5:4

PRAYER
Lord, help my response to Your wonderful gift be my faith. Help my faith grow stronger in You everyday. Help me trust and place my hope in You and Your plan for my life. Even when I can’t see the steps ahead. Amen.

JOYFUL ADORATION

“All Thy works with joy surround Thee

Earth and heav’n reflect Thy rays

Stars and angels sing around Thee

center of unbroken praise”

  • Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:13-14

Every time I read the Christmas Story I cannot help but think of the joy surrounding the birth of Christ. The joy that surrounded Jesus surpassed humans. It extended to all of His creation.  I love the visualization of the lyrics: “Stars and angels sing around Thee”.  I was thinking about these lyrics as I looked up at the night sky. The sky filled with stars, which I look at today, is the same sky which sang out joyful praises on that glorious night.

Jesus was and is the center of unbroken praise in a broken world. No matter our circumstances or even the world, all His work surrounds Him with joy. We are His creation, We are called to praise and adore Him JOYFULLY. 

Even in the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, we are reminded of this joyful adoration:

  “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev. 13)

The joy we have surpasses all of our circumstances. Our praises and adoration for Him must continue unbroken. We can join in with all of creation who has sang His praise, echoing from His birth to today and forevermore. May we be lifted up to the joy divine.

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!”  Psalm 100:1-2

PRAYER

Lord, I praise You. I adore You. I will joyfully come to You daily and entrust my life to Your plan. To You be the blessing and honor forevermore!

CALLED TO SERVE

“In his master’s step he trod,

where the snow lay dented.

Heat was in the very sod

which the saint had printed.

Therefore, Christian men, be sure,

wealth or rank possessing,

ye who now will bless the poor

shall yourselves find blessing”

  • Good King Wenceslas

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.” Proverbs 19:17

“Good King Wenceslas” is an interesting Christmas carol because it doesn’t mention the birth of Christ or the Nativity. In fact, the song is actually about a Duke from Bohemia. History tells us that this man was known for his kindness. The song shows an example of this.  

Here the king is watching a man gathering wood, an obvious poor man. Instead of just looking and making a note of it, he engages in conversation. The king asks where he lives and then sets out to help this man by providing him flesh, wine, and logs. The weather is harsh and his paige grows tired. The king tells him to step inside of the footprints he has made and that will make it easier. His master’s steps will help guide him. So, “in his master’s step he trod.”

Our King, our Master, has walked before us. His footsteps have set the path to the places and the people we should serve.  During this time of year, giving and serving seem to be easier and expected. As followers of Christ, these two important acts should always be on our hearts.  Afterall, Jesus tells us that He came to serve, not to be served.  This was how He lived. This is how we are to live. Let us put our feet inside His footprints and follow His lead.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13

PRAYER

Lord, help me to serve humbly and to serve in love, not just during this Christmas season, but daily. Amen.

GO & TELL

“Down in a lowly manger

Our humble Christ was born

And God sent us salvation,

That blessed Christmas morn:

Go Tell It On The Mountain,

Over the hills and everywhere;

Go Tell It On The Mountain

That Jesus Christ is born.”

  • Go Tell It On The Mountain

“You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah,  “Here is your God!” “ Isaiah 40:9

Go and tell. This was told to the shepherds on that glorious night. It was told by Jesus later to His disciples in what is called “The Great Commission.”

Go and tell. It’s not a suggestion. It’s a command, an action we are called to take. More importantly, though, it is one we should be excited about taking. Our savior is born!  Jesus, born on Christmas morning, to save us from our sins through the love of the Father who sent Him. This isn’t news we should only share during the Christmas season. This is news we should be excited about shouting from the mountaintops every day of our lives!

We were given a great gift, a miraculous gift over 2000 years ago on that blessed Christmas morn. Why wouldn’t we want to share it?  Jesus came to save us and  dwell among us until it was time for Him to go be with the Father. We need to celebrate Jesus not just for a season, but for the rest of the time we are here in this world. 

The world needed Him. It still needs him. We need Him. So “Lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid!”

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.” Matthew 28:16

PRAYER

Lord, help me to share the good news of You, the beautiful Savior, not just during the Christmas season, but all throughout my life.  When I can’t share it with my words, help me to share it by my actions. Amen.

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