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Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow storm 12/20/09
The view from our front door early yesterday morning
following the heavy snowstorm we had on Saturday!

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"The Original Christmas Song"

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14).

What is your very favorite Christmas hymn?  I would imagine that a variety of hymns would be nominated if such a poll were taken among Christians. In a sense your selection might depend on your age, geographic region or even denominational background.  But I am quite sure that any Top Ten Christmas Carols list would include songs such as "O come all ye faithful", "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World."  Each of these are older classic hymns written hundreds of years ago. They've been sung for centuries by multiple generations in various cultures and different languages, all expressing faith
in the Christ Child.

But what was the original Christmas song?  Actually there was an expression of praise by Mary while she carried Jesus in her womb (Luke 1:46-55).  Many have called this "Mary's song" or "The Magnificat". 

However the first song heralding Christ's birth is a brief snippet of angelic praise found in the daily text, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." This angelic host had specifically come down from heaven to offer this praise concert in the presence of the shepherds and immediately returned to heaven when it was completed.

I wonder how different heaven felt when they returned and the Son of God remained.  It was a unique historic moment for the angelic host who had only known Him in His rightful place in heaven.  He who was always present with God in the Highest had now descended with the lowly people.  A descriptive line from our Christmas musical expresses this so well, "The holy and lowly will finally embrace, for love has a heartbeat and grace has a face."  How grateful we are for the fully divine and fully human Person of Jesus who sacrificed His all for us.

This angelic praise indeed expresses the essence of the message of Christ's birth.  It was great cause for praise and rejoicing.  The angels knew it, but man did not grasp the full meaning of Christ's incarnation at the time.  Many still do not 2000 years later.  Further understanding  would come in time and be more fully realized at our Lord's resurrection!

Our Lord's coming surely brought glory to the Father and expressed God's good will toward men.  Peter expressed this good will when he wrote regarding the extent of God's salvation offer to all who repent and receive His free gift, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

Finally it's so obvious that this fallen and broken world needs peace! Wars and rumors of war abound. Conflict continues to rage in many places; from hearts to homes to communities and international relations. But the very heart of the Christmas message is one of God's reconciliation with the human race which provides peace; peace God brings to the hearts of men and women, boys and girls.

I believe fundamentally the peace the angels referred to is the same as the apostle Paul later wrote about in Romans 5:1, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."  Or as musically expressed by Charles Wesley, "God and sinners reconciled!"

As we sing our songs of praise and worship to God this Christmas season let us thoughtfully rejoice in the full meaning of Christmas.  It is easy to sing the Christmas carols without giving much thought to the words since we've sung them from memory for years.  Instead, let us carefully consider the message of each hymn text.  As we do so it will keep us mindful of God's peace and good will for our lives, not just at Christmas but during our entire brief pilgrimage here on earth.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Glory to God In the Highest!  The Latin expression the angels echoed from the heavens, "Gloria in excelsis deo" is also the refrain from our hearts this Christmas.  Although more than 2,000 years has passed since that glorious announcement was hailed to the shepherds in the fields, we continue to sing its refrain in our celebration of Your wondrous birth.  May we never cease to be in awe and wonder of Your coming to earth to become the Son of Man so that we could become sons of God!

Winter Snow Storm!

Snow storm at dusk 12/19/09
We had a very heavy snow storm this Saturday with over a foot of snow. We had to cancel our church service yesterday morning along with a planned Open House fellowship time in our home last night.  I took this photo during the storm Saturday afternoon at dusk when our driveway coach lights came on and before the snow plow came through.

Snow storm cardinal 12/19/09
The trees outside our home were beautifully covered with snow Saturday afternoon. Brooksyne and I were doubly blessed as we spotted the bright red Cardinal perching snugly on a snow covered lower branch as the heavy snow continued to descend upon us. 

Neighbor Leon Rutt and snow storm plowout 12/19/09
Although it was still snowing Saturday evening our neighbor Leon
drove over on his John Deere tractor to clear us out.
Ahhh, the blessing of neighborly kindness!

Evergreen tree covered with snow at night 12/19/09
I took this photo late Saturday night through a window from our dining room.
This is not the canned fake snow I recall spraying on Christmas trees when I was little!

Sunrise after snow storm 12/20/09
The storm finally passed and we saw a beautiful sunrise Sunday morning.
I stepped out into the cold to take this photo.

Rick & Rachel Caldwell 12/18/09
Friday evening we joined our friends Rick and Rachel Caldwell for a delicious lasagna dinner and a warm time of fellowhip at their home in York, Pennsylvania. They had a very interesting scavenger hunt for us. In nearly every room of their home they hid a tiny character from a Hallmark miniature Nativity set. The character or animal was visible but barely, since they were so small (Baby Jesus was less than an inch, I would guess). They challenged us to go though their home and locate each piece. We had quite a time and occasionally needed hints (in one room especially) but managed to find them all!   It was a great idea. Brooksyne commented that only good housekeepers could plan such a game and Rachel is definitely a good housekeeper. Not a scant of dust could be found where we located the wee nativity characters!

Personal note: Today I (Stephen) will be having surgery at Hershey Medical Center to repair an abdominal hernia. I have dealt with a problem in this location since
I had an accident playing in a little league baseball game.  A base runner collided with me when I was playing first base! My medical problem grew worse and a bit more complex due to the four abdominal surgeries I had beginning in 2002. Since my surgery is scheduled for this afternoon I may have to spend the night in the hospital but hope to be home by tomorrow afternoon. I will resume preparing the daily encouragement messages as I am able. However realistically we expect to be out of commission possibly for several days! Brooksyne and I share in this ministry together but I haven't been able to get her interested in the technical part necessary for distribution.

Brooksyne's Note:  It's not that I'm not interested.  It's just that I'm  not mentally wired to understand the technical process.  Also, I've learned over the years -  the more I know, the more responsibility I end up having.  So playing dumb isn't always such a bad idea if your plate is already full!

Waiting for bus 12/21/09
Ester, along with her furry pets, watching for the Transport Bus that takes her to work.
(Taken about 7 A.M. this morning.)

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

We have been sharing videos from our Christmas musical, "Hope Has Hands". Mike Martin, a friend in our church, spent a great deal of time getting these videos up on Youtube so we can share them with others.

Today we will share the remaining two songs.

New! "Come" is the song of invitation the choir sang just prior to a brief devotional and challenge to follow Christ.  It was at the end of this song we heard the loud knocking sound referred to in last Monday's message (turned out to be a child hitting the nursery window with a toy hammer). You can clearly hear the knock in the video! At times like this the preacher better think quick. Video  

New! "Go Tell The World" is the final song as the choir regrouped following the devotional and invitation.  Video

Resources for Christmas Celebrations

It is our desire to share online resources that may be a blessing to families and churches during this Christmas season. We will continue to post these resources through Christmas Day. As we find additional material that we believe will be a blessing we will add it to this list as well.

Christmas Memories  Here's a collection of Christmas memories sent in by daily encouragement readers several years ago, along with an opportunity to share your own story. 

"In Remembrance of Me" pdf  This is a passion-filled Scripture reading for two adults. Brooksyne and I have used this reading with great receptivity during Christmas Eve services many years.  We suggest, if possible, a musical background as the message is read. It is also a great lead-in to a Communion service. It should be thoroughly practiced and read with great feeling.

"When Christ Was Born" pdf This is an adaptation to the tune of "How Great Thou Art". It's a great song to sing as a congregation since most are familiar with the tune.

Responsive Christmas Scripture readings for church or family:
John 1:1-18  pdf
"O Come Let Us Adore Him"  

My First Christmas In Heaven  This is a blessed reminder for all who lost a loved one this year.  This is the poem that Brooksyne read and wrote about in this message.  

Christmas Knowledge Test

have also posted two Christmas carol quizzes here (scroll down).

re you Christmas shopping online?

Christianbook.comDaily Encouragement Net is an affiliate of Christianbook.com. Any orders placed to Christian Book Distributers using this link or any specific product link to a recommended resource in a daily encouragement message will help our Daily Encouragement ministry through a small commission on the sale. Thank you for considering using these links when purchasing online through CBD! Tip: If you are regular CBD customer consider bookmarking this link and using it whenever you shop.

Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your parents?  
"The Best Gift You Can Ever Give Your Parents"

Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your children?
"The Blessing"

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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