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Monday, December 13, 2010
Statue of Phillips Brooks in Boston, Massachusetts
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"The Everlasting Light"
"The Light shines in the darkness" (John 1:5).
This weekend our choir performed their musical "O Holy Night" in two different churches. It contained a selection of Christmas songs and narration that reminded us of the wonderful, incomparable gift we have in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus, fully divine and fully human, laid aside His glory and humbled Himself by coming to live among those whom He created. Sure, we've heard and read the story what may seem like a thousand times, but we should never cease to be amazed by it nor should we grow weary of hearing it over and over.
When we lived in New England in the nineties we would often go into Boston and just walk around the city. It is known as a very walkable city due to it being compact. One of our favorite places is Copley Square, a busy commercialized area near the Hynes Convention Center where we attended conferences. Phillips Brooks was the pastor of Trinity Church on Copley Square in Boston in the 1800's. This church is now under the shadow of the John Hancock Tower, the tallest building in New England.
There is a statue beside the church that shows Phillips Brooks preaching (photo above). A replica of the Lord is standing behind him with His hand on Brooks' shoulder. Now that's inspiring!
Phillips Brooks served the Lord Jesus Christ during his lifetime and the statement on the statue, "Preacher of The Word of God" is one of the highest commendations a minister can receive.
But today Phillips Brooks is best known as the author of a favorite Christmas carol many of us will sing during this season, "O Little Town Of Bethlehem." In fact we sang it last night.
In 1865 Phillips Brooks traveled to the Holy Land and celebrated Christmas in Bethlehem. He was inspired by the view of Bethlehem from the hills of Palestine especially at night hence the lyrics of "O Little Town of Bethlehem". In writing the song he considered the little town the very night Christ was born.
Let us consider just one line in the first verse: "Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light." Brooks used the contrast of the dark streets of Bethlehem to the spiritual light that would shine for all eternity when Christ was born in the manger.
The Apostle John finally sat down to write his gospel nearly 100 years after the birth of Christ and some 60 years after His death and resurrection. Speaking of the incarnate Word he wrote, "The Light shines in the darkness." The Light is clearly a reference to Jesus Christ. The previous verse states, "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men."
The verb "shines" is in the present tense and forever will be! Right now the Light is shining in the darkness. He is indeed the everlasting Light.
Let us be encouraged today that the "everlasting Light" continues to shine, not only in the heavenlies, but in the hearts of those who are redeemed from the dark curse of sin. During this busy holiday season keep this life-changing truth before you!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, we thank You for the incarnation of Jesus who saw our greatest need and gave fully of Himself to reconcile us to You. We are eternally grateful that our sin debt was paid by the sinless Lamb of God. We thank You for our Redeemer and friend, Jesus, the everlasting Light of Glory who chooses to be revealed in an imperfect people. What greater love could there be! We humbly thank You, Father, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Note: The statue seen above is in Boston since Brooks was born and died in Boston and served much of his ministry there. "Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem" was actually penned by Philips Brooks when he served a church in Philadelphia from 1862-1869. He was inspired and overwhelmed by his visit to the town of Bethlehem in 1865. He wrote the song three years later for his church. The organist of his church, known as Lewis Redner, composed its music. Also note that his first name was indeed Phillips (not Phillip).
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.
For Christ is born of Mary,
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth!
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to men on earth.
How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.
Where children pure and happy
Pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to thee,
Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching
And faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
And Christmas comes once more.
O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!
"Light" in Christmas carols
The theme of light is common in Christmas carols and we ask readers to see if they can identify the carol by the phrase.
1) Son of God, love's pure light
2) Yonder shines the infant light:
3) And to the earth it gave great light,
4) Light and life to all He brings,
5) But high from God's heaven a star's light did fall,
6) The everlasting Light;
7) Guide us to thy perfect light.
The answers will be posted tomorrow.
Here's a photo of our choir last night. They did a wonderful job!So often overlooked is the role of the sound tech in a musical presentation. Lee Kurtz attended the practices since October and each of the four presentations. His motto as a sound tech is that people not even know he's there. (Cause if they do, there's likely a problem.)
A Keen Observer: Friday I shared a photo taken at a local company of some historical artifacts displayed in their conference room. I sought to identify some of the items in the photo. An alert and remarkably observant reader made the following correction: "The center picture is not an adding machine but a check imprinting machine where the dollar and cents amount was imprinted on the check in colored ink." Wow, now that is a graphical Berean (see Acts 17:11). For those with a similar interest here's a photo of the artifacts on the other side of the display. I think this photo does have an adding machine! (But I may be mistaken.)
Letting their light shine in darkness: Saturday morning I was in Lancaster at the Central Market in the center of the city and was blessed by an evangelism outreach by a local church with a choir and street preacher. May the Lord bless this church (Westminster Presbyterian) for their bold outreach!
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.)
"O Little Town of Bethlehem" Video Evie Many of us recall Evie from the late seventies and early 80's.
"Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground)" Video Chris Tomlin This is one of the songs from our Christmas musical last night.
"Everlasting Light" Video From another Christmas musical with a great message related to today's topic.
"O Holy Night" Video Another song from our musical and another version by Evie!
Resources for Christmas Celebrations
(We will leave these resources posted below our daily messages through Christmas)
Each year we share several online resources that we have used over the years and that may be a blessing to families and churches during this Christmas season. As we find additional material that we believe will be a blessing we will add it to this list as well.
"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 and love the tune.
Responsive Christmas Scripture readings for church or family:
John 1:1-18 pdf
"O Come Let Us Adore Him" pdf
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
We have also posted two Christmas carol quizzes here (scroll down).
Are you Christmas shopping online?
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Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your parents?
Here's an idea! "The Best Gift You Can Ever Give Your Parents"
Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your children?
Here's an idea! "The Blessing"
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