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Friday, December 13, 2013
Yesterday morning we passed the Silverstone Inn on Bowman Road here in Lancaster County looking stately in the snow
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"The Everlasting Light"
"The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light" (Isaiah 60:19,20). "The Light shines in the darkness" (John 1:5).
When we lived in New England in the nineties we would often go into Boston at times on business such as making hospital calls in the course of our pastoral ministry. At other times we went in for a pleasure trip. Regardless of the reason for going there we often just walked around the city. Boston is a very walkable city due to its compact size and layout. The Freedom Trail is long walk that features many of the historic places during our nation's founding.
One of our favorite places, although not on the Freedom Trail, 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 from 1869 - 1891. This church is now under the shadow of the John Hancock Tower, the tallest building in New England. *
A statue beside the church shows Phillips Brooks preaching (photo to left). A replica of the Lord is standing behind him with His hand on Brooks' shoulder. It's truly an inspiring statue!
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. As a side note one of the most famous members of his church while he pastored was Helen Keller who attended Perkins Institute for the Blind in 1888 -1892.
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 1865 Phillips Brooks traveled to the Holy Land and celebrated Christmas in Bethlehem. He was inspired by the view of Bethlehem from the hills above it 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.
Seven hundred years before Christ's incarnation the prophet Isaiah wrote, "The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light" (Isaiah 60:19,20). This is the only occurrence of the phrase "everlasting light" in Scripture and perhaps Phillips Brooks had this verse in mind when he wrote the song. This is a prophetic passage in a section summarized with the phrase "The Future Glory of Israel".
The Apostle John finally sat down to write his gospel some 90 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. However "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).
Helen Keller, at eight years of age, moved to Boston to attend Perkins School for the Blind from 1888-1892. When she was a little girl she sat on Phillips Brooks' knee and learned that God is love. She came to know and respect Phillips Brooks as her spiritual leader. In fact she began to write letters to him and you can read one of the letters she wrote when she was 11 years old here.
Phillips Brooks was noted for his poise and quiet manner. At times, however, he suffered moments of frustration and irritability, as do we all. One day a friend saw him feverishly pacing the floor like a caged lion. “What’s the trouble, Mr. Brooks?” he asked. “The trouble is that I’m in a hurry, but God isn’t!” Haven’t we felt the same way many times? I sure have!
Yesterday we shared a message titled "Our Expiration Date": A reader responded. "Your message today reminded me of something humorous which happened to my daughter several years ago. She works at a local drug store and was very busy taking inventory when a customer needed some help. Janice hastily entered the lady's name into the computer and, with her mind still on inventory mode, asked, 'And your expiration date?' There was a pause before the sweet little Mennonite lady answered, 'Well, the Lord hasn't told me that yet.' They both had a good laugh before Janice explained that what she really needed was her birth date."
Yesterday we passed this Amish man driving his horse-drawn sleigh across a snowy field near New Holland, Pennsylvania.
We want to thank all who have financially supported our ministry this past year. We typically see a spike in giving at the end of the year for which we are most thankful. We realize there are many fine ministries and causes requesting support at this time but if the Lord would lead you we surely need and appreciate the financial support from our readers and listeners. Our ministry is comprised of half our time to Daily Encouragement and the other half to our chaplaincy ministry to companies (of course, this varies week by week). Each of these ministries essentially is the same as a part-time job (20+ hours weekly) for each of us. Our goal for many years is that each phase would provide half of our ministry expenses and income. If you would like to make a donation see here for more information or donate directly online here. Thank you!
"Light" in Christmas carols
Today's message reminds us that the theme of light is common in Christmas carols and we will share another message with this theme on Monday. We ask readers to see if they can identify the following carols by the specific phrases that refer to light.
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 on Monday along with a callout to the first reader who responds and identifies each of the songs correctly. (Email us with your answers here.)
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
In the next two weeks we will post new music related to our message up here but also leave up several that have special sentimental and personal value.
"O Little Town of Bethlehem" Video David Phelps and others. Outstanding Acapella harmony!
"O Little Town of Bethlehem" Video Kari Jobe
"Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground)" Video Chris Tomlin
"Everlasting Light" Video From another Christmas musical with a great message related to today's topic.
* On the online google map the Hancock Tower literally casts a shadow over the church.
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
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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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