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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

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

"Let Earth Receive Her King"

to this message on your audio player.

"Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12).

Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her king;

At just seven years of age a thoughtful child wrote out an acrostic, spelling out the letters of his name and expressing his strong faith. I wonder how many of you have ever formulated such an acrostic for your name? I sure haven't!

I –  I am a vile polluted lump of earth
S – So I've continued ever since my birth
A – Although Jehovah, grace doth daily give me
A – As sure this monster, Satan, will deceive me
C – Come therefore, Lord, from Satan's claws relieve me

W – Wash me in Thy blood, O Christ
A – And grace divine impart
T – Then search and try the corners of my heart
T – That I in all things may be fit to do
S – Service to Thee, and Thy praise too.

Isaac Watts Isaac Watts lived out his faith which is expressed in the acrostic and is best known for writing enduring hymns for the church. He wrote some 750 and is commonly called "The Father of Hymns" due to his popularity as the first English hymn writer. But perhaps his best known hymn is "Joy To The World" which we associate with Christmas, though it was originally a song of rejoicing for God's protection of His chosen people and the anticipation of the time when He would be God of the whole earth.

"Joy To The World", written in 1719, is now sung all over the world including believers in the African country of Zimbabwe. Our Zimbawean neighbors came over yesterday afternoon to sing the hymn for us in IsiNdebele, their native language. We turned our living room into a studio and Notsen, Thobekile, Nathan, and Neville sang Mhlaba Thokoza in IsiNdebele. Listen for the distinctive click sound heard their language, which is related to Zulu. We post a link to the video below
(1:45 minutes).

This Christmas season many of us will sing "Joy To The World" and many other carols with words so familiar that we may pay little attention to their rich and deeper meaning.

Joy To The WorldToday let us consider just one line from this great Christmas carol that most of us know well and will sing during this holy season. It was written nearly 300 years ago by Isaac Watts who wrote a number of other great hymns that we sing to this day, but this is probably his hymn that is most universally sung.

The single line in the hymn we want to focus on today is "Let earth receive her King." Consider the conflict all over the world, particularly
Bethlehem, the town of Christ's birth. The place where the Prince of Peace was born as a Baby is now a place of so much unrest. And all around the world there are so many places of strife.

The prayerful imploring of Isaac Watts is just as appropriate today as it was when he wrote
"Let earth receive her King" and when John wrote the words of the daily text. "Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12).

The children of God are those of any generation, of any nation, of any skin color, of any economic level, powerful or powerless, who have received the King, who have believed in His Name. And all over the earth today many are receiving the King of kings. Brooksyne and I chose to receive Him in our teen years. Have you chosen to receive Him? If so, "Let all within us praise His holy name. Christ is the Lord! We will praise His name forever! His power and glory for-ev-er-more we will proclaim!" *

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer:  Father, there is nothing we can do in our own power or charm to receive Your favor, but we do receive Your forgiveness as we believe on Jesus and the wondrous work of His redemption through death on a cross. Because we choose to receive the King, we are no longer orphans or outcasts but are adopted into the royal lineage of Jesus, the eternal King of kings and Lord of lords. And because we are now Your sons and daughters; You sent the Spirit of Your Son into our hearts, who calls out, “Abba, Father” bringing us to the very heart of who You are, our loving, compassionate Father. We are eternally grateful. Amen.

*(O Holy Night, adapted)

Special Year-end appeal:

DonateWe want to thank all who have financially supported our ministry this past year. 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. We typically see a spike in giving at the end of the year for which we are most thankful. Our ministry labor is comprised of half our time to Daily Encouragement and the other half to our chaplaincy ministry to companies for which we receive a fee (of course this percentage of time 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 to our ministry see here for more information or donate directly online through my chaplain account here. Thank you!

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Sunset from Weber's porch 12/22/15
We are having some unseasonably warm weather with lots of fog. Last night at sunset we had this view from our front porch. This morning, apparently due to atmospheric conditions, we could clearly hear the announcements being made at a Christian school about a 1/2 mile up the road from us, as well as portions of the Christmas story!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Ncube family (Click to play "Joy To The World")
The Ncube family
They are in the states where Notsen is pursuing further studies.
 (Click here to enlarge photo)

"Mhlaba Thokoza" (Joy to the World in IsiNdebele)  Video  Ncube family

"Joy To The World/Shout For Joy"  Video   Paul Baloche

"Joy To The World"  Video 

The Christmas Scale
"The Christmas Scale"  Video  It's hard to believe that the greatest message the world will ever hear is contained in one simple musical scale. Do you know what it is? Watch this very creative video (2:45 minutes) to find out.

The story behind "Joy To The World"

"I Can See, Everything Is Turning Around"  Video  Mtshabezi High School in Zimbabwe This is the school Nathan attended in Zimbabwe and Nathan is in this video. My, do these kids have energy!  Listen through and you will hear some good preaching as well!!! Notice how well the children listen and remain attentive.

Our friend Mike Martin posted the entire musical "Breath Of Heaven" on YouTube  The choir ranged in age from 8 till 81 and you can clearly see and hear 8 year old Adoree' sing out.  Peter and Jen do a great job in narration as well.

Longwood Gardens where our lead photo was taken is about an hour from us. It's a beautiful place to visit.

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.

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"  Video  Outstanding presentation with background story and touching photos (Artist not identified), but appears to be produced by a local church. This would be a powerful video to use in a Christmas Eve service.

"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 over the 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.   This year we dedicate this to my Aunt Mary, who happens to me my last surviving aunt or Uncle on either side. Her husband, my Uncle Don, passed away early this year.

Christmas Knowledge Test

We have also posted two Christmas carol quizzes here (scroll down on this archived message)

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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 make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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