Are you filled with joyful expectation as we celebrate The Advent of our Lord and the season of Christmas? Sharing stories pleasing to God in this sacred season weighs heavily on my heart. Just as preachers are critiqued, so are writers. Sharing good news stories of His amazing grace and joy in all seasons – when Jesus is first and center in our lives filled with sweet fruit – draws criticism. Writing doom and gloom stories laced with law – and less emphasis of enjoying God’s grace and a personal relationship with Jesus – is unsettling for readers also. Hopefully, four December stories He stirs in my heart will help you embrace joyful expectation of every gigantic and itty, bitty blessing Christmas brings.
Do you ever grab a songbook and read lyrics? I love to read them as stories while seeking the scoop of why and who wrote them. Singing Christmas tunes the last Saturday of November, I sit on my daybed and soak up the wonder of God’s handiwork from my window at Topsail. The setting sun has shifted over the sound showing God is still in control of the seasons – and everything else! Resting and reading from an old hymnal from Emma Anderson Chapel, I am intrigued by songwriters’ stories. John Wesley used Isaiah 61:1 for his hymn, Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus. “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives.” His lyrics ring out an urgent message for our world today. “Come Thou long expected Jesus, Born to set Thy people free. From our fears and sins release us; Let us find our rest in Thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art; Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.”
Angels We Have Heard on High is a French carol using text from Luke 2:13 “The heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God.” This story/carol tells of angels rejoicing and nature chiming in sweetly singing the good news, too.
Charles Wesley also wrote Hark! The Herald Angels Sing with emphasis from Luke 2:14: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace.” The message in verse one seems perfectly scripted for 2017. “Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King. Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled, Joyful, all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies; with th’angelic host proclaim, ‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!’” Wesley’s use of exclamation marks and powerful wording encourage nations to rise and join the triumph of the skies as prophecy of God’s Word seems to be close at hand. Jesus is truly coming soon! God is watching and waiting to enter our hearts and see nations rise peaceably with mercy mild in honor of Jesus Christ. This could be the Christmas when peace on earth has deeper, more profound meaning for all God’s children. Where is peace? Peace lives in our hearts when we are closely connected to Christ.
Mark Lowry, the writer, blessed us with a song that makes Christmas come alive with passion and purpose for Mary, the young girl who dared to believe and obeyed God’s calling to be the mother of baby Jesus. Softly sing the lyrics of a song that will soften your heart in this sacred season.
“Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water and save our sons and daughters? Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you. Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man? Did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with His Hand and has walked where angels trod. And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.”
Some songs in the hymnal carried no tune in my heart; other songs whispered sweet melodies that took me to Christmas celebrations long ago. Singing O Come Emmanuel, O Holy Night, and Joy to the World ushered the spirit of the season into my home with only 30 days before Christmas is here.
With little time and much to do, what songs will you and I be singing as we prepare for Christmas? Let us ponder on things in our hearts as Mary did in a season when she did not know the outcome but trusted God to give her guidance – step by step! And He did. Mary stood strong without being swayed by naysayers. She heard His gentle voice whisper sweet melodies through difficult days when she could have been stoned, fled from her hometown, rode a donkey through tough terrain with child, and burrowed down in a smelly stable to give birth to baby Jesus…Lord of Lords and King of Kings! That’s the song the angels did sing in a season when God sent His Son into the world because oh, how He loves you and me.
So, as Christmas comes quickly…prune unnecessary things that steal your time, prepare with an attitude of gratitude, sing songs of joy wherever you go, and share the love of Jesus with people you know and do not know.
Becky Spell Vann is the owner and operator of Tim’s Gift and The Learning Station.