The Angels’ Song for 2020

 

Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

Before we put away the decorations and “de-ornament” the tree, let’s take a last look at a carol that we don’t sing as often—”It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”. 

My first thought was, What came at midnight? I discovered that it was the song. What song? The angel’s song, of course. Now we don’t know that Jesus’ birth was at midnight, but it was at night.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks at night. Luke 2:8

The carol pictures these angels coming close to the earth from their heavenly reign to sing this song, accompanied by their harps. Small harps were quite common for accompanying the psalms. Remember, David was a harp player!

We read in Revelation about John’s vision of the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders falling down before the Lamb (Jesus).

Each one had a harp…. Revelation 5:8

             

It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old, from angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold.

“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men from heavens all gracious King!” The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing.

Of all the music in the world, I can’t imagine that any other would be more glorious than this very one with all the heavenly host of angels joining in. Their exact text was….

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14

          

The song is two-fold—our praise to God and His peace to us. What a song to carry with us!

In another verse, the author, Edmund H. Sears, wrote of the crushing loads, toil, and pain we bear in this life. Each of us have experienced our unique share of loads this year, but the carol compels us to look for the the ways the Lord has lifted us and carried us during the hard times and to remember the peace, the rest that He brought us in spite of those difficult times.

Look at your year. Think of the angels’ song.

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.  

As we look toward a new year, let us carry the two-fold angels’ song with us—our praise to God, His peace to us; to us on whom His favor rests. Not to everyone, only those who call upon Him and believe in Him.

Inhale His peace, exhale anxiety. Inhale His peace, exhale worry. Inhale His peace, exhale confusion. Inhale His peace, exhale ______ . You fill in the blank. Stopping to literally do this exercise about four times brings amazing calm and causes our focus to be on Him, not self.

Carry the angels’ song with you all year. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’

Blessings to you as you move into 2020.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

 

 

Prince of Peace

          

     Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

We found last week that Matthew gives the lineage of Jesus from Abraham to the father of Joseph, “the husband of Mary.” (See Son of David

This week, we look at the lineage by Luke, given in reverse order, and all the way back to Adam. Likely Luke, a Gentile, would find identity in that Adam is the father of us all. But there is a discrepancy in this list. David back to Abraham, is the same in both accounts, but from Jesus to David, nothing is the same.

So what do we do with that? Luke states that Jesus was…

…the son, so it was thought, of Joseph. Luke 3:23

Many scholars believe that Luke gave the lineage from Mary’s side. It still goes back to David but through David’s son, Nathan, rather than Solomon. Either way, Jesus was the Son of David as was prophesied in the Old Testament.

In addition, he was born in the town of David—Bethlehem. It is interesting to think that those hills around Bethlehem, where David watched his sheep and spent time praying, were the very same hills where future shepherds would see an angel with the brilliant glory of the Lord shining around them. Remember, the angel said,

“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths [swaddled up tight] and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12

Could it be any more thrilling to these lowly shepherds?

Oh, but there’s more! Suddenly the angel is joined by a whole host of heavenly angels. Imagine a sky full. That, my friends, is the great welcoming of the Savior. How glorious! They joyfully sing their text together.

“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14

Two ideas—praise to God and peace for people, people who have found their way to God.

Fast forward to 2019. We’re still reading these glorious words. We’re still celebrating and rejoicing over His blessed coming. The world jumps on the band wagon with us but tries to dilute its impact with frivolous, mushy, secular influences, yet we cling to the heart of these powerful words.

We must praise God our Father and God His Son with all our hearts for therein we find our peace.

Peace, even with the extras at Christmas. For me personally, that means finding peace in the midst of selling a house, packing up, and moving to our new house. Yes, in the middle of December! With seven grandchildren and their parents coming. You have your set of distractions as well, but may we intentionally make time to be still, hear the angel voices, and give praise for the God-man’s birth.

… he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

~ Joyce ~

Candy Cane Reminders

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

As you read this, my grandchildren will be gone, the sheets and towels in the washer, and decorations packed away along with the memories of Christmas 2018. 

When I put the last candy canes in the box, I couldn’t help thinking about the legend of the candy cane. You haven’t heard it? Or maybe you’ve heard only parts of it? Perhaps you would enjoy this one last reminder of “the reason for the season.”

THE LEGEND OF THE CANDY CANE

A humble candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be a special gift for the King of Kings, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane.

He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ.

He began with a stick of pure hard candy to symbolize the virgin birth and sinless nature of Christ,

hard, because the church is built on solid rock,

firm, because God’s promises are a firm foundation.

He formed it in the shape the the letter-J

to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior.

When turned upside down, the “J” could also represent the staff of the Good Shepherd with which He reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray.

Then, He added three small stripes to represent the scourging Jesus suffered before He went to the cross.

One large red stripe would remind those with eyes to see and ears to hear of the blood He shed that we might have the promise of eternal life.

It would be a gift of love that would tell His story—

the greatest story ever told!

As we look toward the new year, the old story is never outdated. We must tell it again and again through candy canes, visuals, stories, or whatever creative means we can find.

For the wages of sin is death [spiritual death], but the gift of God is eternal life [spiritual life.] Romans 6:23

Blessings on your New Year!

~ Joyce ~

 

Frazzled in the Season

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

I found this very apropos writing in a little book of Christmas collections called “Christmas Joy.” It is an adaptation from I Corinthians 13 by Sharon Jaynes. I thought you would enjoy and appreciate it as the clock ticks down to Christmas.

LOVE, FIRST CORINTHIANS 13-STYLE

If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family—I’m just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozen of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my familyI’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family—it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ,  I have missed the point.

 

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love  is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of your way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never fails. Video games will break; necklaces will be lost; golf clubs will rust; but giving the gift of love will endure.

by Sharon Jaynes (www.sharonjaynes.com)

May you move into these final days with love, joy, anticipation, and be completely un-frazzled.

I look forward to my son and his family coming in from South Carolina and joining us along with my daughter and her family from here in Louisville. Seven delightful grandchildren and I’m not one bit prejudiced!

Merry Christmas to all.

~ Joyce ~

Wonderful Counselor

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We think of a counselor as a good thing. Indeed, a competent counselor, especially one with a Christ-filled heart, is a transforming helper.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light… a light has dawned. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:2, 6 

But anything of value is often copied by Satan who puts his mark on it. 

I was reminded of this when I looked up “counselor” in Strong’s concordance. It predictably means “to give advice, to council, to purpose, plan, plot, conspire against.” What? Plot? Conspire against? That’s when I realized how Satan can take a good thing and twist it. Counsel positively, counsel negatively.

I have shared with you in recent months the trials I’ve had with my mother’s health and the grueling long days going to the hospital then rehab. My energy was zapped; my emotions on edge, my mind amuck. Then the mild stroke hit.

Since then, I have made medication changes and included a few rest times in my day. But frustrations with mother’s discontent at her new place has continued to plague me. 

I worried, held on to anxiety, woke in the night unable to get back to sleep, still trying to figure how to take control of things. The Lord revealed over and over, “Trust me.” We all know how hard it is to let go of things. Little by little, I have tried to release my clutched hands and take His hand.

“For I, the Lord, your God, will hold your right hand, saying unto you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.'” Isaiah 41:13

He holds our hand, but we must first place our hand in his outstretched hand. 

Then He is able to be our counselor, revealing things we either didn’t know or have let slip by us. Unlike the deceiver, the plotter, the one who conspires against us, Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. He also brings a sense of peace into our lives as he holds our hand.

After all, He’s also the Prince of Peace!

May it be so for you in this celebration season.

~ Joyce ~

A Shepherd’s Story 4 – Great Joy!

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Amos had just finished the last phrase on his flute. While the sheep rested quietly, Papa Ariah and brother Ezra settled down as well. The heavens boasted an array of glistening stars over this still, silent night.

But before Amos could sling the flute cord around his neck an incredibly bright light burst forth out of nowhere. He bent his head, covering his eyes. Ariah and Ezra both jumped up, shielding their eyes as well.

Someone stood in the midst of the light, a light that seemed to radiate from this being. They were terrified and fell to the ground.

The being spoke.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

The Christ? The Messiah? Can it be that he has finally come? Amos wondered. The angelic being continued.

“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

A manger? A baby in a manger? No mother would put her baby in an animal trough. But before that thought could settle—

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:13-14

When the angels were gone, the night was once again dark and still. For a moment, the three shepherds could not see each other as their eyes readjusted from the brilliance of the light. Ezra was the first to speak. “Did we really see what we thought we saw?”

Ariah sighed.”I can hardly believe what we have just been told. The promised one, the Messiah has come, born as a baby.” 

“A baby… in a manger!” Amos added. “That’s the sign for us to know this is all true—born in Bethlehem and wrapped up in a manger. Let’s go see about this thing we’ve been told!”

Somehow with all this light and sound, the sheep slept quietly. God’s provision. So with only one thing on their minds, the three shepherds set off down the hills and into the valley of Bethlehem. They ran from stable to stable as they had been told, but they only saw sleeping animals.

Finally, not far from one of the inns, a single lantern glowed in one stable. Inside sat a young mother and father and yes, a baby swaddled up tight, lying in the dry straw of a manger.

The shepherds were well out of breath at this point and dared not approach the manger until they could catch their breath. They didn’t want  to wake the baby.

The mother’s eyes moistened as she listened to Ariah recount the scene on the hillside. “Come,” she said, “come in.” They cautiously came a few steps closer. All three spontaneously paused and knelt.

Ariah clutched his chest. “Behold, the Savior, the promised one who brings us great joy.”

A blessed Christmas to you all!

           ~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

 

Three Smart men and a Star

Last night, we put away our last Christmas decoration. You may or may not have done the same. But before we leave Christmas as a 2014 memory, I’d like to explore the passage about the “wise men.” Their story is in Matthew 2.

 

1 After Jesus was born… Magi from the east came to Jerusalem

2 and asked, Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” Matt. 2:1-2

 

Many believe these astrologers were from Persia and that they studied the stars with great wisdom. Somehow they had knowledge of Jewish names for celestial stars and clusters. Only in this way would they be able to identify them with a Jewish king. Where did they learn this? Could it be that Jews, taken into captivity in Esther’s day, had lingering influence on these Magi?

Some researchers believe the astrologers saw a particular set of stars that aligned themselves there in the eastern sky. They interpreted this to mean a special “king of the Jews” had been born (we have seen His star), and they were thus persuaded to make the long journey to worship him. This had to be more than just curious star-gazers.

They traveled to Jerusalem for, after all, that’s where the Jewish Temple was located. They posed their question to King Herod, who was not actually a Jew himself. He had to call in the religious leaders to find out where the Christ (Greek for Messiah) was to be born. “Bethlehem,” they told Herod.

So the Magi mounted their camels once again and set off for Bethlehem, another five miles away.

 

9 …they went their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child  was.

10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. Matt. 2:9-10

 

What a thrill for them to see the star once again. What a confirmation that God was directing them in this last trek of their journey. Note that Jesus is no longer a baby, but a child.

 

11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Matt. 2:11

 

Jesus is no longer a baby in a manger, he is a child in a house. Well, that messes up our nativity scene and dramatic music programs, doesn’t it? Maybe we need a “some-time-later” sign.

Unlike the religious leaders, these strange men from a pagan country have discovered the leadership of the “One God.” Their immediate response? They bow down and worship him. They offer three gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh – leading us to assume there were three men. Maybe or maybe not.

The question I ask is, “Why did others not see this star in the east?” My conclusion is that these wise men were the only ones looking for it. Likely they had been following patterns in the sky for months, noticing the alignment beginning to take shape.

When the star appeared again outside of Jerusalem, it confirmed their faithfulness in making the long journey.

As we begin the New Year, let us intentionally look for God’s direction in our lives. What star does he have for you  in this new year? A ministry opportunity? A relationship to mend? The determination to spend regular quality time in prayer and Bible study? What star does he want to shine into your life?

As you faithfully launch out, no doubt he will shine that light upon you again as a confirmation. May it be so for you. I’d love to hear about it.

Happy fulfilling New Year to you all.

~ Joyce ~

 

Testimony of a Bethlehem Shepherd

One night I was out in the field near Bethlehem helping my nephew and uncle with their flock. We had settled the sheep down for the night in the pen. I walked up the hill playing my flute over this peaceful scene, when out of no where a bright light appeared and a man startled us. The light glowed all around him. We could see each other plain as day. My flute went dangling at my side and I fell to the ground, covering my face. We were scared half out of our wits.

The strange man said, “Do not be afraid, because I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” I looked out carefully from behind my hands and thought I must be dreaming or something. I blinked my eyes, trying to get use to that light.

The man in the light was excited, so I tried to listen real careful knowing this must be something very important. The man said, “Today in the town of Bethlehem, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Then I knew it was important! By this time I figured he was an angel of the Lord. Who else could he be?

The angel said, “This will be a sign to you. You will find the baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger.”

Before we could take all that in, suddenly there was a great company of the heavenly host appearing with the angel. It nearly took my breath away. The whole sky was lit up with all of them singing and praising. They said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. Glory to God. Glory to God!” We were absolutely awestruck.

When the angels went back into heaven, we stood there in amazement. We couldn’t speak. We couldn’t move. Finally, my nephew said, “Let’s go Bethlehem to see this thing that has happened that the angel told us about.” We didn’t stop to think about the sheep. Guess we thought the Lord would take care of them since he gave us such important business.

Well, we hurried off down the hill and around the bend. We couldn’t believe any mother would have her baby in a stable, but we looked in every stable in town. They were all full because of the census, you know. When we ran to the last stable, we saw a lantern light. Sure enough, there was the baby all swaddled up tight in strips of cloths lying in a manger of straw. His mother and father were sitting beside him.

In the quiet, we realized how loud our panting sounded. We finally caught our breath and whispered, “Shalom.” The baby’s mother invited us to come closer. Can you believe a nice lady like that would let us dirty old shepherds get close to her new baby?

Her husband welcomed us, too. We spoke real soft to them because we didn’t want to wake the baby. We just looked at the baby a long time. Kind of like looking at a newborn lamb – all full of life. We knew deep in our hearts that this was a special baby. After all, the angel said “He is Christ the Lord.” You don’t get any more speacial than that.

We told the mother and father about the angel and what he said and the host of angels and their song and the light and everything.

But, you know, the parents didn’t seem the least bit surprised. I guess it was because somehow they knew it was all true.

~Merry Christmas from Joyce~