Thursday, December 28, 2017
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Frances Ridley Havergal was an English poet and hymn writer – her best known hymns from our hymn book are Take My Life and Let It Be and Lord, Speak to Me That I May Speak. She showed signs of being very intelligent very young, began writing verse at age seven, but was discouraged from rigorous study by delicate health. Yet she still took a year to study music in Germany, was able to speak several modern languages along with biblical Greek and Hebrew, and published many books of hymns. She died too young at 42. (Thanks to the wholesomewords.org for links to a number of biographies on her!)
In one of her letters to a friend she said this about writing hymns: 'Writing is praying with me, for I never seem to write even a verse by myself, and I feel like a little child writing. You know, a child would look up after every sentence and say, "What am I to say next?" That is just what I do. I ask that at every line He would give me not merely thought and power, but also every word even the very rhyme. Very often I have a most distinct and happy consciousness of direct answers.' (Popular Hymns and Their Writers by Normal Mable, 1951).
All of that is background for what follows – one of her verses written specifically for New Year’s.
ANOTHER YEAR IS DAWNING
Another year is dawning,
Dear Master, let it be,
In working, or in waiting,
Another year with Thee.
Another year of mercies,
Of faithfulness and grace;
Another year of gladness
In the shining of Thy face.
Another year of progress,
Another year of praise,
Another year of proving
Thy presence all the days.
Another year of service,
Of witness of Thy love,
Another year of training
For holier work above.
Another year is dawning,
Dear Master, let it be
On earth, or else in heaven
Another year for Thee.
--Frances Ridley Havergal (1874)
There is much that I like about that hymn, and I pray that you will reflect upon it, and use it in prayer and preparation at the beginning of this new year! By the way she also has a wonderful reflection called “Twelve reasons for attending church on a wet Sunday”, which is worth looking into and reading, but I will save that for next month!
When the Lord changed Zion’s circumstances for the better,
it was like we had been dreaming.
Our mouths were suddenly filled with laughter;
our tongues were filled with joyful shouts.
It was even said, at that time, among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them!”
Yes, the Lord has done great things for us,
and we are overjoyed.
Lord, change our circumstances for the better,
like dry streams in the desert waste!
Let those who plant with tears
reap the harvest with joyful shouts.
Let those who go out,
crying and carrying their seed,
come home with joyful shouts,
carrying bales of grain!
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Comfort, comfort my people! says your God.
Speak compassionately to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her that her compulsory service has ended,
that her penalty has been paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins!
A voice was saying: “Call out!”
And another said, “What should I call out?”
All flesh is grass; all its loyalty is like the flowers of the field.
The grass dries up and the flower withers
when the Lord’s breath blows on it.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass dries up; the flower withers,
but our God’s word will exist forever.
Go up on a high mountain, messenger Zion!
Raise your voice and shout, messenger Jerusalem!
Raise it; don’t be afraid; say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
Here is the Lord God, coming with strength,
with a triumphant arm, bringing his reward with him
and his payment before him.
Like a shepherd, God will tend the flock;
he will gather lambs in his arms and lift them onto his lap.
He will gently guide the nursing ewes.
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
This last month one of the scriptures for Sunday worship was the beatitudes – those teachings from Jesus that start out, “Blessed are . . . “ These teachings remind us that there are deeper joys and greater happiness in life that we dare not miss.
James Garrett in God’s Gifts shares a piece by an unknown author that does something interesting. It creates a set of beatitudes for Christmas. In other words, he points out the unfathomable blessings of the season that bring meaning and joy to us. Here it is:
“Blessed are they who find Christmas in the age-old story of a babe born in Bethlehem. To them a little child will always mean hope and promise to a troubled world.’
“Blessed are they who find Christmas in the Christmas star. Their lives may ever reflect its beauty and light.’
“Blessed are they who find Christmas in the joy of giving lovingly to others. They shall share the gladness and joy of the shepherds and wise men of old.’
“Blessed are they who find Christmas in the fragrant greens, the cheerful holly and soft flicker of candles. To them shall come bright memories of love and happiness.’
“Blessed are they who find Christmas in the happy music of Christmas time. They shall have a song of joy ever singing in their hearts.’
“Blessed are they who find Christmas in the message of the Prince of Peace. They will ever strive to help him bring peace on earth, good will to all.’ (Author unknown)
What a beautiful and wonderful reflection! Yet, as I read it, it lacks one of the things that Jesus’ original beatitudes convey – that even the overwhelming difficulties we face can bring us the deepest blessings of God. So I created a couple of seasonal beatitudes of my own for you to add to the above:
Blessed are those who are having a Blue Christmas without one they love, for they shall one day join them in the angel choir with songs of greatest joy.
Blessed are those who have no presents under the tree, for Christ himself is their gift and justice and mercy will be theirs.
Blessed are you when you are overwhelmed by the rush of the season and all about you seems chaotic, for the hush of a Silent Night and the light of a single candle is yours.
I humbly add those three blessings to the prior list as a way of reminding us, that in the good and bad of the season, God is at work bringing us deeper joys and greater happiness that we dare not miss!
Merry Christmas, my friends!