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 ~

How Majestic Is Your Name

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

During our Sunday morning service, we had three separate prayer thought reminders on the screen followed by a quiet times of prayer. One thought was something like, “While you pray, praise God for who He is, not just for what he has done.”

Hmm, that takes extra thought. It is so easy to fall into thanking Him for a number of things He has done, both in our personal lives and in the world, but just praising Him for who He is requires more. Adoration, we call it. It might start like this—”I love you Lord. I praise you for being…”

I couldn’t help but think once again about David, the shepherd boy of the 23rd Psalm. I imagined him sitting on the  hillside in the evening, the sheep in the fold, the night sky beckoning him to think about the creator of the starry array. He likely said,

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Psalm 8:1 

Majestic. That was the word that came to my mind during our worship service as I began my prayer of adoration.

David goes on to consider how small he is compared to the heavens above him.

When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him. Psalm 8:3-4

 

How insignificant we can feel when we take in a starry night in a wide open location. Or a great wild field. 

My mind goes back to vacation trips as a child when we went to visit Grandpa and Grandma on the farm in Missouri each summer. I realize it wasn’t Disneyland, but I loved those trips—shucking the dried corn to feed the chickens, playing with the kittens when they they came out from under the porch, and taking rides on Grandpa’s tractor. Those were real treats for this city girl.

One day, I would go over to the fence and sing to the cows. They stopped and looked at me. I had an audience! So I sang and sang to them and they stared right back. I smiled with delight.

Sometime during the stay I would walk out to the field and just stand and look at the wheat as it blew in the wind like golden waves. Everything felt spacious and earthy. I could sense God’s presence. It was one a few times in my life when I snapped an imaginary camera in my mind to capture and hold on to a particular moment.

Well, look at me. I didn’t even get to verse 4 and I’ve used up all my self-appointed word count. We’ll get back to David’s hillside wondering next week. Just know that he begins and ends this lovely Psalm with…

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8:9   

~ Joyce ~

 

David, the Shepherd

   Searching His Word

     Seeking His Heart

As promised, we will explore the 23rd Psalm. It need not be read strictly at funerals, though that is appropriate, it can be a wonderful encouragement at any time. 

Looking back at many of the early psalms, they read like prayers from David to his heavenly Father, prayers of praise.

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. Psalm 9:1

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8:1

I love you, O Lord. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. Psalm 18:1-2

Prayers of petition.

Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea: listen to my cry. Psalm 17:1

Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. Psalm 16:1

Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Psalm 5:1

Do you hear the intimacy, the pathos, the relationship in just these few words? Where did he learn that? I believe it was in those quiet, alone times on the hillside.

Remember, before David slew Goliath, before David was a mighty warrior, before he ran for months in hiding from crazy Saul, and before he came King of Israel, David was a shepherd boy.

He learned the skill of a sharp shooter with his sling; he learned the bravery of facing off with a lion, he learned the wisdom of protecting his flock in the grazing areas. He worked hard caring for his sheep. He knew how totally dependent they were on his leadership and care.

In the afternoon as the sheep rested and at night once he had cared for and secured them in the sheep pen, David could relax in solitude. I believe it was in these precious moments that his mind turned to the Lord. Perhaps he played tunes on his shepherd harp and made up words to sing with the tunes. I believe he talked out loud to the Lord, words that came from the heart.

At some point it hit him, the Lord is my shepherd. He cares for me like I care for my flock.

So, this time, the song wasn’t a prayer to God, it was song about God.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want [or in need.] He makes me lie down in green pastures. Psalm 23:1-2

I think that’s why the Lord carried me away to those ancient green pastures last week. (Strength from the Pasture) He wanted me to have a quiet time in the pasture to remember that He is perfectly capable of taking care of all my needs. “Rest in me,” He says. “You don’t have to do it alone.”

Or as David learned to pray, “You are my refuge and strength, O Lord.”

I hope you will have some “pasture time” this week so that He might restore your soul.

~ Joyce ~

Praising God for Sound

It always amazes me when I think about the fact that we all have two eyes, two ears, one nose and mouth, cheeks and eyebrows, yet each of us has a distinctive look—even twins. Another distinctive is our voices. 

If someone calls from the other room, you know which sister you hear. If a friend calls you on the phone, you know which friend by the voice.

We can tell much by the tone of the voice. He comes in from work and slams his things on the counter. The story of his tough day is biting, sharp, angry, fraught with frustration. We hear it in his tone.

She has pleasant conversation with her friend. The tone is light, warm, giggly.  Daughter comes in from school, animated, a pitch higher; she can’t get the words in quick enough. She aced her test, met the new boy, and got the lead role in the school play!

Whether we’re bitter, sad, questioning, or excited, one can hear it in our tone. It starts from the time we are born. The sounds from baby tell us if he’s hungry, afraid, happy, or mad.

 

And then there is the sound of music. We all have our tastes from country to classical. Sometimes music calms us with gentle serenity. Other times we delight in something bold, loud, triumphant, and exciting.

As I have enjoyed watching the Olympic ice skaters this week, I have been aware of how much the music enhances their programs. The triple-this and quad-that would not be nearly as exciting without the crescendos of the music.

The graceful, artistic  flow over the ice would not have nearly the same depth without the music that matches it. Likewise, rich, energetic music brings us right along with the skater into their final grandiose climaxes.

Do you remember when Joshua and the troops were ready to go into Jericho? Each day they were to march around the city. Imagine how intimidated the people in Jericho must have felt as they heard the pounding of marching feet around their city walls.

On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times… On the seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!” Joshua 6:15-16

Marching, trumpets, and shouts. Then the walls came tumbling down. What a climax!

They often used trumpets in battle and in victory, shofars to call to attention or call to prayer, stringed instruments, tambourines, and voices in worship. Though our instruments and songs are different, we too, use these to lift up our praise to God.

I think about how far we have come from the Gregorian chants of old to the beautiful and powerful texts and tunes of today. It makes me wonder what the music of heaven will be like. Beyond our imagining. No doubt, glorious!

Listen this week for the myriad of sounds around you. Praise Him for sound—even for the sound of quiet.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

Praising God for Color

Every now and then, I thank God for color.  Have you thought what our world would look like without it?

When our son was six years old, he asked if our activity was something they did in the gray days. I tried to think what he meant by the “gray days.”

Finally, it dawned on me that he had seen older TV shows produced before we had color TV. I realized that he thought everything was shades of gray back then.

I suppose if we never had color, we wouldn’t know to miss it. God didn’t have to create color, but aren’t you glad He did? Color is pleasing to the eye. It enriches our lives. 

Color helps us distinguish one thing from another: “Put the red wire in the red plug, blue wire in blue,” “Take this receipt to the lady over there in the yellow dress,” “Paint white letters on a red sign. It will make your message stand out.”

I imagine the garden of Eden with its shades of green leaves against dark brown trunks and flowers of all shapes and colors.

In biblical days, dyers learned to dip their tunics in vats of boiling water mixed with green grass. Result: light green tunics. They used onion skins for ecru and oil from a certain kind of snail around the Mediterranean Sea for purple. (Hard to come by. That’s why only the wealthy wore purple.)

When God gave instructions about the tabernacle, He called for specific designs and colors.

“Make a curtain of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim worked into it by a skilled craftsman. Exodus 26:31

He even told them to make fifty blue loops on the bottom of the curtains on either end. God loves artistic design. Perhaps that’s a part of how we are made in His image—appreciating design and color.

In our day, paint stores have discovered they can add one or two drops of another color and come up with two hundred shades from pastel lime to forest green.

When we are at the beach, I love those cloudless days when the sun shines and the sky radiates the most intense true blue. The sea below mirrors that deep blue. God’s palate at work!

Look for color today. Praise Him for this creative gift to us.

~ Joyce ~