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Friday, December 20, 2013

Longanecker Covered Bridge 12/15/13
Yesterday we shared a photo of the Red Covered Bridge in Berks County, the longest covered bridge in Pennsylvania. The photo above shows what may be the shortest covered bridge, built to an island on a farm pond by our friend Bill Longenecker. It's a replica of the old Risser Mill Covered Bridge that was near our rented farmhouse when we first moved to Lancaster County 13 years ago. Sadly, that bridge was destroyed by arsonists in the summer of 2002.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

"Joy To The World!"

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
    “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"
(Luke 2:10-14).

What is your very favorite Christmas hymn? We suppose a variety of hymns would be nominated if such a poll were taken among Christians. In a sense your selection might depend on such factors as your age, geographic region or even denominational background. But we are 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 traditional classic hymns written hundreds of years ago have been sung for centuries by multiple generations in various cultures and different languages, all expressing faith in the Christ Child.

Andy, a friend from New England, shared a short video titled "The Christmas Scale" which powerfully sums up the best news in the world in just 8 notes on the piano scale. It is worth watching and will touch your heart. (* Video link below, highly recommended)

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

Luke 2:14

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.

How different did heaven feel when this "multitude of the heavenly host" returned to heaven while the Son of God remained on earth. 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 "Hope Has Hands" 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.

Angelic praise
This angelic praise indeed expresses the essence of the message of Christ's birth. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." It was great cause for praise and rejoicing. The angels knew it, but mankind did not grasp the full meaning of Christ's incarnation at the time. Further understanding would come in time and be more fully realized at our Lord's resurrection! But so many still do understand 2000 years later. Our Lord's coming surely brought glory to the Father and expressed God's good will toward men.

It's so obvious that this fallen and broken world needs peace! Wars and rumors of war abound. It seems the earth is filled with violence. Daily news reports killings. Conflict continues to rage 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. Grasping this truth also greatly increases peace among men
and women, boys and girls.

Joy To The World
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 many of us have 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

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, 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 have 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!

DonateWe 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!

Bunny and Peg O'Hare 12/20/13
Bunny and Peg O'Hare (Transport for Christ chaplains) stopped by and dropped off a custom designed Christmas gift for Ester. They're mutual fans of the New England Red Sox since they're from the area and we became life long fans after our nearly eight years in New England. Notice the name "Ester" running alongside the upper sleeve. She was quite delighted!

Longwood Gardens Apple display (Photo by Ken Leaman)
This interesting design is made by apples floating in water at Longwood Gardens. The photo was taken by our friend, Ken Lehman. Click here to enlarge.

Amish snowman in Lancaster County, PA 12/13 (Photo by Lee Smucker)
We have rising temperatures here and the snow should melt by this weekend. Lee Smucker, a friend of ours, sent us this photo of an Amish snowman he took when he passed an Amish farm here in Lancaster County Pennsylvania.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

* "The Christmas Scale"  Video  This is the video referred to in the message.

"O Come All Ye Faithful" 
Video  Chris Tomlin

"Joy To The World"  Video   Vineyard Music (Christmas Eve service style)

"Joy To The World"
  Video   Casting Crowns

"Silent Night"  Video  Herb Basso  Herb was a very colorful Italian who attended our church in New England who passed away several years ago. He had a wonderful singing voice and had great skills on the harmonica. In this version hear Herbie's rich voice and harmonica along with violinist Laura Silvia, the daughter of a pastor friend who now lives in Wyoming.

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).

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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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