On The First Day

  Tonight and tomorrow are days for joy, and peace, I think. So instead of talking, I'm going to listen; instead of writing anything for you to think on, I think I'll just post a few lovely Christmas carols which I think any one of you, no matter your stance on Christmas will enjoy.

So, here goes....


                      


                      

         


                             

I wish you all, Friends, Enemies, Good and Bad alike, A very merry Christmas.

On the Second Day

    Bells give a sound that is very evocative. They are rung at both funerals and weddings. Bells can promote either sadness or joy. They either peel mournfully, or sound merrily.

   One of my favorite Christmas carols, "Ding Dong Merrily on High,"  speaks of the bells which are rung in honor Christ's birth on Christmas day. I don't know if there are anything like bells in heaven, but if there were, the song suggests that they would have rung on that most joyous day, as also the sky was riven with angels singing. The song goes on to say that even so here on earth let the bells be rung and the people sing.  Finally, the writer urges the ringer to ready his chime, and the singer to beautify his rhyme.

   If I am to be frank with you all I must admit I don't have anything else to say to you all today, but as you get ready for Christmas, do enjoy this joyful carol!


Enjoy Christmas eve eve!

On the Third Day

  What is the one thing that makes winter beautiful and fun, good people. The answer is contained in one word: Snow!
   I believe I've mentioned before that Christ was probably not born in the bleak midwinter as the songs tell us, however, I think Winter a fitting metaphor to blend with Christ's birth. The air is cold, the ground is hard; all the world is a slate gray and a drab green, until the snow falls. One, dazzling white flake at a time, the bleak grayness is frosted over. Each misshapen branch is clothed in raiment which makes it beautiful. So too when Christ, falls upon our hearts. All our ugly, bare, misshapen sin, is covered over with His dazzling beauty. So it was also on that normal night, winter or no, in far away Bethlehem. All the world was sighing over the bleakness in which sin held it in an ever downward spiraling orbit, but when the virgin gave birth to a child and laid Him in a feeding trough, it was then that all the bleakness vanished, in the dazzling brightness of the hope of the world. "The people that sat in darkness saw a great light, and the people that dwelt in the shadow of death, upon them a light shone."

  This season, as you are tempted to look out the window and sigh because of the gloominess of it all, remember that the snow has fallen in your heart and taken away the much more frigid bareness within you. Then go make yourself a cup of hot cocoa!

  For those of you who live in the upper united states and have snow, thank God for its beauty and for His even more beautiful gift to mankind as you tromp through the glorious powdery whiteness.

    Friends, all of us have hearts of bleak winter with no snow and no Christmas. Christ sends his righteousness which covers us like a comforting fleece blanket, and one day spring will come when He resurrects us to new life.

   Enjoy this lovely Christmas carol by Christina Rossetti.



                            

       Christmas is almost here. I'd love to hear your thoughts about what you look forward to most about this beautiful holiday.

On The Fourth Day

   To say that the shepherds were frightened at the appearance of the angel is an understatement; they were terrified. I've often wondered what it was like, on that night for the shepherds, but I can be sure of one thing. When that angel first appeared it was heart stopping moment for everyone present.

  It is interesting to note that in the scriptures, whenever angels spoke to men, they had the exact same greeting. "Do not be afraid." Angels are unworldly, fearsome creatures, unlike the "Raphaelite" image most of us have in our heads of beautfiul ladies smiling sweetly and playing softly on harps or lutes. Of course none of us can know for certain until we've seen one ourselves, but from all evidences, it seems that angels and fright go together.

  The word angel literally means, "Messenger." Angels are God's announcers, they carry His dispatches from heaven to earth, and, perhaps, other places. The only other job we see angels performing is that of guarding, such as in Genesis where and angel with a flaming sword came down to guard the way to the tree of life.

  This image of reality definitely clashes with the idea of hearing angels "sweetly singing o'er the plains." However, one thing that is momentous about one particular angel sighting, is that it was the one instance where it seems angels revealed a bit of emotion.

 Read this familiar passage, Luke 2: 8-14, with me.

 "In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;  for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”"

 Though it doesn't explicitly mention, it, the event seems to imply that even the angels were excited about God's redemptive plan coming to fruition. 

  We do know for certain that the Shepherds were pretty excited, they immediately got up, left their sheep, which is a big 'no, no' especially at night, and went out to seek the King of the Jews. 

   The bouncy old carol, "Angels we have heard on High," very well expresses what the Shepherds must have felt, after they had gotten over their fright and the angels had left. 

 In the first verse, the Shepherds express their excitement over hearing angels singing. In the second, a skeptic would like to know exactly what they're rejoicing over, and in the third verse, the Shepherds respond with an invitation to come and see the Christ, the wond'rous child of whom the angels sing.


                            

As we remember the Angel's legendary sally to "certain poor shepherds in fields where they lay," let us, like the shepherds immediately drop what we're doing and seek out our Savior who is Christ the Lord.

On The Fifth Day

    For centuries Holly has been considered the traditional foliage of Christmas along with ivy and mistletoe. I've always found the most fascinating thing about this plant being that it bears fruit in the winter. Bright Red berries, contrast with the green leaves and add a splash of color to the bare trees and gray, frozen ground.

   Jesus was probably not born in the winter, but I like to think of His birth as similar to the contrast of the bright berries against a very dreary world. There had been four hundred years of silence in Israel  preceding the incarnation. No prophets, no word from the Lord, no miracles. Plus, the Romans had taken over the land and, if anything, the Jewish people might have felt abandoned by God.

   But they weren't. It was at this bleak time in history, that God chose to send mankind the greatest gift He had ever bestowed; His only begotten son.

  This, good people, is indeed cause for rejoicing, this is the reason to be jolly on this season.

   May you be filled with His joy as you listen to the sprightly old Christmas tune, "Deck the Halls."



            

Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Don we now our gay apparel,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Troll the ancient Yule tide carol,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

See the blazing Yule before us,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Follow me in merry measure,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
While I tell of Yule tide treasure,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Fast away the old year passes,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.


Sing we joyous, all together,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Heedless of the wind and weather,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

      When we remember what Jesus Christ did for us at this time, we can truly be heedless of the wind and weather!

On the Sixth Day

       As a child, life is very black and white. High heels and earrings are sinful because your mother doesn't wear them, and all processed foods are disgusting because you don't eat them. When I was younger, I had a loudly proclaimed prejudice against any music that was written after the year 1850, and because of this, I wouldn't admit that any song written then was good. Why, because I didn't like rock 'n roll, blues, jazz, or country. Thus, I determined because these styles had gained popularity in recent years, I must not like any music written in recent years. Of course I  didn't realize that I was committing a serious, 'part to whole' fallacy, and would only listen to the old stuff. What I didn't realize, was that some of the songs I already liked, such as "How Great Thou Art," and "When Peace Like a River," were written in the modern era, plus I began to realize that I needed to broaden my horizons when I caught myself reading the date of a song in order to determine whether I liked it.

     Now that I am older, I am willing to admit that it's the style I have a problem with, not the date of publication. Beautiful sons such as, "Because He Lives,"  "The Blacksmith of Brandywine," "Time to Say Goodbye,"  "In Christ Alone," and "O Church Arise," are only a few of the modern songs I have come to love. It's funny how God is the one who actually defines who we are, and we, in an effort to be our own master, just box ourselves in. It's not bad to prefer one thing over another, but we need to be careful we don't let the baby pour down the drain with its bathwater. I missed out on a lot of beautiful songs, because my pride wouldn't let me "like" a modern song. We tend to make generalizations in life, and then to be refuse to budge even when we're spiting ourselves. We so hate to admit we're wrong about something, we'll stand sulking in a corner, rather than just accept that we're not perfect and join in the fun.

  A certain Christmas song written in recent times puts it very well, when it says, "Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'till He appeared and the soul felt His worth."
   Christ came to free us from the self inflicted curse under which we were pining. So this year, as Christmas fast approaches, and some of us have bad Christmas associations, let us resist the temptation to throw out Christmas because of that. During battle, armies will often set up diversions in order to distract the opposing side while the real attack can gain an advantage. In the same way, when we suffer from the consequences of sin, the Devil will be all too ready to send out a diversion. For me, it was modern music. For others it will be different; government health care, gun control laws, poor sanitary conditions, not enough money, too small of a house, the football stadium at the back of one's property, whatever it may be, to try to get us to quarrel over diversions while the real problem, the snaring of men's souls into eternal damnation, keeps right on going.

  Friends, maybe Christmas was originally set up as a Christian compromise of pagan Saturnalia; perhaps some people spend far more time shopping for gifts than loving their neighbor, but don't forget that there is nothing wrong with having a season where commemorate the birth of the One who came to release us from the cords of Satan, and set us free into the brilliance of His presence.

  What diversions are you fighting this season? Consider it perhaps, while listening to this majestic, modern Christmas song, "O Holy Night."


            

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

It was a Holy night, dear readers, don't ever let sin make you forget it.

On The Seventh Day

   When I was younger I really didn't understand some of the words  to the carols very well. For example, in "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," I thought that in the first verse, the angels were talking to the shepherds. "well," I consoled myself, "I can only hand it to the men of the middle ages to call shepherds merry gentlemen."
   Of course this is not actually the case. The first verse is understood as a greeting, a salutation on Christmas day. Traditionally the song is believed to have been sung to the Gentry by the town watchmen on Christmas day; probably the first verse was meant as an apology to the nerves of 'growly' gentry who hadn't been woken up properly. As for who penned this ingenious piece of poetry, being that the first records of it come around the fifteenth century, it is rather hard to trace its author. The lyrics are considered to be the oldest of all "Olde" English carols and I like to think it was written by a clever night guard who had too much time on his hands in the wee hours of yuletide.
   Song artfully tells the story of the angels announcing Jesus' birth to the shepherds, and of their subsequent haste into Bethlehem to find this wond'rous child. At the end is an exhortation to rejoice and worship the Christ childe whom "all others doth deface."

  Simple, but sound in its message. However, startled the Shepherds might have been, or, in later centuries, the sleepy town Gentry, the singers in both cases brought tidings of comfort and joy to all who heard. A babe has been born who will redeem mankind from his curse of sin and darkness.

  Take a moment to enjoy this sprightly olde carol.


                                

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

In Bethlehem, in Israel,
This blessed Babe was born
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn
The which His Mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

"Fear not then," said the Angel,
"Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan's power and might."
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind:
And went to Bethlehem straightway
The Son of God to find.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

And when they came to Bethlehem
Where our dear Saviour lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

         God rest ye merry Gentlemen, and Ladies, this joyful Christmas season, truly, may nothing you dismay.

On the Eighth Day

   I remember the time when Daddy introduced all of us to the English Christmas carol, "Once in Royal David's City."  He showed us a youtube video of the king's college choir singers at the start of the famous Christmas Eve, "Nine Lessons and Carols" which they have held each year since 1919. A lone boy chorister sings the first verse, then the rest of the choir joins on the second, the third verse is sung while the choir walks down the isle to their places, and the audience and organ come in on the fourth stanza. I remember getting lost in the beauty of the singing in that marvelous cathedral with all those majestic harmonies blending as one magnificent voice. It filled the whole place with grandeur; especially with the organ, so out of place in a modern building but seeming to be part of the cathedral studs. It raised my soul to the roof and for days I went around singing "Once in Royal David's City," not necessarily because I liked the song, but because I could still hear the beautiful sound of King's College Choir. That was my first real introduction to choir music, I hadn't heard anything like it before, and since that time, "King's" is still one of my favorite choirs.

     Once in Royal David's City, though a child's song and correspondingly simplistic, is not as theologically void as it may at first seem. To be sure, Cecil Francis Humphreys Alexander wrote the poem for her collection of "Hymns For Little Children," which she published in 1848, however, the hymn is like a musing about Jesus' birth and childhood, ending with the joyful thought that someday with his own eyes he will see Jesus, through His own redeeming blood.

    When you remember the Christmas story, how many of us eagerly look forward to when we will see that babe in the manger with our own eyes? No longer a babe, but truly revealed as Lord of heaven and earth? The irony is, that even as a baby, he was still God. The creator of heaven and earth came down as a helpless infant and lay in a feeding trough? After hearing it as many times as most of you probably has, the complete wonder of it all can grow dim, but contemplate it again with me as you listen to this beautiful hymn sung to the tune, "Irby" by Henry John Gauntlett.


             

Once in royal David's city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor and meek and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.

And through all
His wondrous childhood,
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly mother,
In whose gentle arms He lay.
Christian children all should be,
Mild, obedient, good as He.

For He is our child-hood's pattern,
Day by day like us He grew,
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew,
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above,
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him, but in heaven,
Set at God's right hand on high;
When like stars
His children crowned,
All in white shall be around.

 Someday we will see Him, friends. Someday we will behold, with our very eyes, the Word which became flesh and dwelt among us.

On the Ninth Day

     I don't know how many of you were as nit-picky as I was, but you may understand how, as a child, I was very concerned about the fact that everyone thought there were three wisemen when such a fact is not explicitly stated in Scripture. I even went to the extent of changing the words in the carols when I sang them. It was, "We many Kings," or, in The First Noel, "And by the light of that same star, many wisemen came from country far." You get the picture.
    I was also very particular about when the wisemen saw Jesus. It was not as a baby in a manger, but as a toddler in a house. When we used to set out nativity scenes, we wouldn't set out the wisemen, because they weren't supposed to be there yet.
 
      We all have our own pet views on things, especially in cases like this where all the facts are not given. We don't have any reason to believe that the men were kings, this deduction is made because they could afford rich gifts. There could have been as many as thirty or as few as two, but because there were three gifts, it has become tradition to think there were three magi. One thing we can all agree on, however, such an occurrence was an act of God, and foretelling of the importance of this child. Even king Herod feared this coming of wisemen, as a pointed threat to his kingship. There is no doubt that God proclaimed this child to be the Messiah, even as inconsequential as the circumstances of His birth appeared.

    There is a car repair shop which we often drive by which is quite obviously Christian. At Christmas they have a sign up which says, "Christ is Born, Wisemen still seek him."  Get it? I love such ecellent plays on words....but anyhow, it struck me recently how much of a true picture that actually was. Most people on the earth, completely missed the coming of Christ; the religious leaders who ought to have known, the kings, the rulers, the great men of that time. All of them didn't notice a thing, It was pagan, seers, who really shouldn't have been expected to know, who traveled for months to find the "king of the Jews."  But this showed them to be the real wisemen of the earth. They were the one's who actually understood God's message and welcomed it. They followed a star into unknown lands and gave their richest possessions to a carpenter's baby. They alone, saw with the eyes of faith rather than the blind man's eyes of human reason and worshiped the Son of God.

  Join with me now, good readers, and hear the beautiful "Golden Carol of The Wisemen."   It may be fictitious but it is applicable to each of us. When we see the light, let us not be like the fools who ignored it and lost their lives, but let us give up our comfort and luxury, and follow that star to the world's end if necessary, that we may gain immeasurable life.

   If so, we can joyfully say with the wisemen,

And we may die (when death shall come,)
    On Christmas in the morning;
And see in Heav'n, our glorious home,
    That Star of Christmas morning.

                              



 We saw a light shine out a-far,
    On Christmas in the morning;
And straight we knew it was Christ's star,
    Bright beaming in the morning.
Then did we fall on bended knee,
    On Christmas in the morning;
And prais'd the Lord, who let us see
    His glory at its dawning.

 Oh! Every thought be of His Name,
    On Christmas in the morning;
Who bore for us both grief and shame,
    Afflictions sharpest scorning.
And we may die (when death shall come,)
    On Christmas in the morning;
And see in Heav'n, our glorious home,
    That Star of Christmas morning.

Let us be the wisemen this Christmastide and seek He who was born King of the Jews.

On the Tenth Day...

  When Elijah fled from the wrath of Queen Jezebel and hid in a cave, the Spirit of God came down to him; not in the storm, or in the whirlwind, but in the gentle breeze which followed. I used to be skeptical about the legitimacy of my conversion, because It wasn't dramatic or causing any really different feeling inside of me. However, the truth is, that God is in the ordinary; He created it. It is only our craving flesh which, like the Athenians, constantly wants something new, something extraordinary, something stimulating.
  And yet, on that most glorious day, that day when all the angels watched in awe as the Creator came down and became a creation, it was really quite inconspicuous. On that day when, He made a greater sacrifice than any man could ever comprehend, hardly anybody noticed. In Egyptian myth, when Osiris the king and future savior of the world was born, all sorts of things happened and practically everyone knew about it, even a lowly woman fetching water from the well, suddenly cried aloud, "Osiris the king is born!"
   Was it so for our Lord? Not at all. In fact it may as well have been a normal night for most people. The only people who got alerted were a few shepherds, who probably wouldn't be believed if they proclaimed that they had seen the Messiah. However, not many people would be believed especially if they claimed that they had found this young king born to a carpenter, and lying in a feeding trough.
  It is true as William Cowper penned, "God moves in a Mysterious way, His wonders to perform;". 

  Philip Brooks also realized the anasuming nature of the incarnation when he wrote:

"How silently, how silently 
the wond'rous gift is giv'n,
So God imparts to human heats,
The blessings of His heav'n."
 
How many of you knew immediately which song that came from? 
  Believe it or not, this is the third verse of the sweet soft Christmas Carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem."  I never really thought of this hymn as very "doctrinally" rich. To me it was just some sentimental fluff about Bethlehem and when I was younger, I confess I scorned this lovely song. 
   I never realized how meaningful each line is, until I got a little older, and a little wiser. 

Do read the lyrics with me.

O Little Town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep,
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth,
The everlasting light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep,
Their watch of wond'ring love.
O morning stars together
proclaim the Savior's birth,
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to men on earth.

How silently, how silently
The wond'rous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heav'n.
 No ear may hear His comming,
But in this world of sin,
 Where dear souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O Holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us we pray.
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels,
The great glad tidings tell,
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emanuel.

 What beautiful words. Note the artful imagery in the first stanza. Brooks is noting how the stars are going by in the sky above Bethlehem, and yet in it's dark streets is shining the brightest light of all. In the second verse, he alludes to the angels keeping their watch of "wond'ring love," referring to the fact that angels wondered over the mystery that God would become flesh and dwell among us. In the third stanza, which I consider the climax of the carol, he correlates the quietness of Christ's birth with the quietness by which He often enters our hearts. Finally, stanza four is a prayer, asking the Christ to dwell in our hearts.

 Unfortunately I can't find a video version with all four versions, so this will have to do!
   Just for fun I'm adding in an alternate version sung by my own personal favorite singer, Julie Andrews.


Sometimes the good things come softly, sometimes extraordinary things happen normally, and sometimes God's gifts come to us silently.




  

On The Elventh Day...

I used to hate learning Latin as a grade-schooler. It ended up that we four older ones learned it in pairs; Gabrielle studied with Timothy, and Arianne learned the despised language with me. One of the
jobs of the partnership was to drill the vocabulary flashcards with each other. The stack of words got pretty big, really fast and Arianne and I both dreaded these sessions. It was probably our own lack of enthusiasm which made it such a dole-some task, but none the less, we despised it. We must have been about nine and eleven, respectively, when, one day, as we were getting towards the end - usually we would take turns, one would drill the other and then switch - and it was my turn to translate and I was cross with Arianne because she was hurrying me along and making it quite clear that drilling her little sister in a dead language  was not something she had slated out for her ideal day. We were drilling from English to Latin, which tends to be a little harder than from Latin to English, and I was getting sulkier by the minute. Then came the tempting little opportunity, and I took it. The English side said "Joy, Gladness."
 "Gaudium," I growled, which was correct, but I couldn't help muttering loud enough for the whole lower floor to hear, "I'm going to gouge out your eyes!"  This awful sentence was heard by Mommy in the next room, whose exclamation of surprised horror I can distinctly remember. Though I must warn you, she wasn't completely shocked; I was that kind of child.

   All I remember, from this occasion was that I got a scolding which I well deserved, and whenever Arianne and I reminisce about our Latin drilling days, Arianne will always bring up this instance; and we laugh.

  Gaudium - Joy or Gladness. I find it interesting that I tried to twist the word into something horrid and it swung around on me and ended up being a source of mirth between my sister and me in later years. As a wise woman as said multiple times, "God has an excellent sense of humor."

  Anyhow, my dear readers, now that I have come to love Latin, and learning languages in general, the word Gaudium recently came to haunt me in a completely different way. This time in it's imperative form, Gaudete, which literally means, Rejoice! 
  It was in the sixteenth century that this song, first appeared in the original copy of the "Piae Cantiones," a collection of Finnish/Swedish sacred songs which was published in 1582. The song was not published with a tune, but the melody it is traditionally sung to comes from liturgical texts which are far older than that.

 As I was listening to this lovely old Latin chant, I was realizing again the benefits of knowing Latin. Time and time again, my knowledge of the language has come to my aid, but today as I heard the song, I could translate the entire chourus right there in my head, and pick out a lot of familiar words from the verses.
  "Rejoice in the Lord!"  The text is taken straight from Philippians 4. "Rejoice in the Lord Always; again I will say, 'Rejoice!'"

  I really like this song, therefore I thought I'd post a couple different versions of it below. Let me know if you find it really catchy; I definitely did. The music certainly fits the words!
                  
                     
                                        

I really like the way this one was arranged, but the singers below have far better enunciation, and a crisper sound.

               

Below are the words and the translation for all non-Latin speakers. However, I would encourage you to pick it up, if you haven't yet. Just don't threaten to torture your sister!

Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!
Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born
(Out) Of the Virgin Mary – rejoice!

Tempus adest gratiæ
Hoc quod optabamus,
Carmina lætitiæ
Devote reddamus.
The time of grace has come—
what we have wished for,
songs of joy
Let us give back faithfully.
Deus homo factus est
Natura mirante,
Mundus renovatus est
A Christo regnante
.
God has become man,
(With) nature marvelling,
The world has been renewed
By Christ (who is) reigning.
Ezechielis porta
Clausa pertransitur,
Unde lux est orta
Salus invenitur.
The closed gate of Ezekiel
Is passed through,
Whence the light is raised,
Salvation is found.
Ergo nostra concio
Psallat iam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino:
Salus Regi nostro.
Therefore let our preaching
Now sing in brightness
Let it give praise to the Lord:
Greeting to our King.         
                       









                 

Rejoice! Christ is born! He is the perfect Lamb of God, sent to take away the sins of the world; and even now, He pleads for us before the throne of His Father. Is that not a thought worthy of rejoicing?

On the Twelfth day....

    Do you remember the days of your childhood? Do you remember when you looked forward to Christmas with unbounded eagerness? Your presents were made or bought with enthusiasm not to be outmatched and each one was lovingly swaddled in wrapping paper, done up in your own unique style half of it was paper, the other half was tape. Then came Christmas eve, the most wonderful day of the year, when, amidst the soft glow of many lights, you crept down right before bed, and lovingly arranged your little packages around the tree.
   
    Then there's that other facet of Christmas that comes to your mind as well. You remember all the beautifully illustrated picture books retelling the Christmas tree, and how fresh and wonderful the story was to you each Christmas. You eagerly await the time when your mother puts the special Christmas story books, the ones that only come out at Christmas, in a basket under the tree, and you spend hours poring over the exquisite oil paintings, and marveling afresh over the story you've heard a thousand times before.

    Yes, you and I remember all these beautiful memories, that is, when we have a moment between the hustle and bustle of today's affluent expectations. Sometimes, I think, we need to take a little more time, each year, to step back from life, and remember. Remember our past loves and passions. Remember how we viewed old things afresh. And, most importantly, we need to remember again what Christmas represents. Remember man's great sin and remember our Great Savior.

     Gifts are wonderful things. So is the tree and the decorations, but even more wonderful was God fashioning for Himself a flawed, limited robe of clay, and laying aside His infinity to become finite. Even more beautiful, was God, deigning to dwell in a humble babe whose first bed was a fodder bin. You've heard it all a thousand times, I know. But remember it again. What would it mean for you to agree to take on the body of an earthworm and squirm around in the dirt? Think on it, let the greatness of the sacrifice God made for you astound you afresh on this festive Christmastide.

    To further this end, allow me to present to you a lovely old Christmas song which I only learned about quite recently.

  "Remember O Thou Man"

This is the best version I could find, though the words are a little different from the original. Below are the original words: 




Original Text:
 Remember O thou man, O Thou man, O Thou man, 
Remember O thou man, thy time is spent,
Remember O thou man, when thou art dead and gone,
And I did what I could, therefore repent.

Remember God's goodness, O thou man, O thou man,
Remember God's goodness and promise made [to thee].
Remember God's goodness, he sent his son doubtless,
Our sins for to redress, be not afraid.

Similarly:
The angels all did sing on shepherds' hill.
The angels all did sing praise to our heav'nly king,
And peace to man living with a good will.

To Bethlem they did go, the shepherds three.
To Bethlem they did go to see if 'twere or no,
Wheth'r Christ were born or no to set men free.

In Bethlem he was born for mankind sake.
In Bethlem he was born for us that were forlorn
And therefore took no scorn Our flesh to take.

Give thanks to God alway, with heart most joyfully,
Give thanks to God alway on this our happy day,
Let all men sing and pray, Hallelujah.


  Remember, my friends, remember. Half of our trouble in fighting sin, is that we are such a forgetful people. Take the time this season, to sit back and remember.

CATalunia and Reader Feedback...

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are back. We hope you all had an excellent Thanksgiving and are looking forward to an equally merry Christmas.
And now, can you guess what our lucky winner, for this season's song is? 
  "CATalunia!" 
No, do not applaud. My dear audience, we are sorry to say that there was a sorry lack of interest in our poll, so much so that our music expert (switched now to 'music lover') is one tiny bit discouraged. However, we hope to see more activity in future. For now, we did get a winner and we shall philosophize on that.

  Unfortuantely, for all the digging our music lover did, she could only come up with a little bit about this piece. But that is simply because there isn't much to tell.
  CATalunia, a French peice by the name of "Duetto Buffo di Due Gatti" (Humorous Duet for Two Cats) is often attributed to French composer Gioachino Rossini. However, it was most likely written as a compilation in 1825 which draws principally off of Rossini's 1816 opera, "Otello".  The compiler is thought to be Robert Lucas de Pearsall, who in this case adopted the pseudonym, G. Berthold.
 The piece is generally sung as an encore by two sopranos, though it has been done by a Soprano with either a Tenor or  a Bass.

  So there you have it. For your laughing benefit, we will share the song one more time with you , just in case you didn't listen to it in the first post, (Though if you did, it doesn't hurt to hear it again!) and please, we welcome, no we beg for your feedback.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
And now, my dear readers, I really would like your feedback on this blog of mine, as this coming year, I would like to implement some changes, so please leave a comment about the following.
  What would you like to see more of on this blog?
  • Posts about my life
  • About composers
  • Popular music issures
  • Hymn Writers
  • Old hymns
  • Music Hystory 
  • Anything else I haven't thought of but you have!
I have also been contemplating doing giveaways; if I did, I'd be interested in knowing how many of you would participate!
  So the stage is yours, dear readers, what would you be interested in?

Christmas is Coming and the goose is getting fat...coming up next will be my annual twelve days of Christmas posts; stay tuned!

As You Like It

   Greetings Ladies and Gentlemen. Tonight I wish to present to you our annual song contest which began as of today. In this exciting competition, several pieces of music will vie for championship and you, my lovely readers, will be the judges. The music selected for tonight comes from various songs Miss Christianna E. Hellwig, our music expert (Right?), has heard, and enjoyed or been amused by over the course of this year. After having listened to each song at your leisure, you will comment and vote for the song you liked the best. The winning entry will be spliced and diced by our music expert in her next post; meaning you will learn everything you ever wanted to know, or didn't, about said piece of music. Does that sound fair?

    However, being that this is a musical event, before we announce our music finalists for this year's competition, you must allow yourself to be regaled by a musical interlude.
  It is Autumn, my fair audience, is it not? And therefore, allow me to present to you, "Autumn" from the four seasons written by the eminent baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi. An interesting fact to note about this piece is that our music expert, Miss Hellwig, played this piece for her last violin recital. Unfortunately, I am sorry to relate, it ended rather disastrously so we will not present her rendition here.
  Now of course, good people, I am trusting that being the case that you are all human beings living in the twenty-first century, you have all heard the four seasons at some point in your life. To have not heard them yet is a travesty not to be born by any civilized English speaking individual. Therefore if this is the case, though I dearly hope not, haste thee to the concert hall or, ahem, youtube, and look them up immediately, no questions asked. Of course, you may be partially redeemed by listening to the aformentioned season which I am sharing with you now.

Well, I hope you enjoyed that. If you're interested in such details, you might like to hear that the soloist was Julia Fischer, and she played with the "Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields."

  But, on to the contest; we have four songs for your consideration; are you ready? Please don't cheer too loudly, after all, you do want to hear each song's entrance, that is a very important part!

  Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome our finalists; in no particular order, we have:

   Finiculi, Finicula!
     A Napoleonic song written for a tenor. This version is by Mario Lanza whose rendition our music expert actually prefers to that by Luciano Pavarotti, which is quite unusual.

  Next, please welcome, Here is Love!

  A beautiful welsh hymn. Do beware of the images on this particular video, fair ladies!

   Thirdly, a song from a movie track which has become quite famous;
      The Theme from Schindler's List!

                                     
This particularly moving piece was written by John Williams and performed by Itzhak Perlman, Miss Hellwig's favorite violinist.


Finally, my friends, for something more upbeat, CATalunia!

 Though this song does not have an extensive vocabulary, it may make you double over for an extensive amount of time as it did our music expert.


 And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, the choice is yours. Please leave your votes in the comment box, and stand by until the results are announced.

  Until then, good people, we bid you a fond adieu. 

Verity in Retrospect

         It was three weeks, yet now it seems like a dream. Three weeks of exposure to a completely different and yet very similar environment. Similar in that they upheld God, His word and doctrine. Different in that I had never seen such a diverse group hold God so high. In fact, diverse or not, I have never been in a group which maintained so healthy a balance of grace and truth. To be among them was truly inspiring.

         I learned a lot there, and few things when I go home as a result of being there. One of the greatest lessons I learned, was that I will never know all there is to know with regards to Theology, and that the prouder I am about the knowledge I do have, the less I actually posses.
       Not only that, but also that I am not above making mistakes in public. Strange that I should imagine that, but it's quite true. I had rather gotten to the point where I thought that I could get along in a conversation, looking good and encouraging others. Well, there were several times I said things, and then grimaced because in that saying I had revealed some of the pride and selfishness inside of me which I didn't want anyone to know was there.
       Then again, I had to realize that change must come from the inside out. Otherwise, all I was doing was being a white-washed tomb; a hypocrite for whom Jesus, when he walked the earth, reserved his harshest rebukes.
  At Verity, we were all encouraged to take of the masks, but at the same time to consider others more highly than ourselves, and to look to God for strength in each task. Everyone was real, but godly. A rare combination and it was attractive as well as catching.

   I'll share several pictures which include myself, my classmates, the senior students, (Since Verity is a two year program, we new students are call juniors and the second year students are called seniors. It's really nice because now I can go around telling everyone that I'm a junior in college and only eighteen!) and some staff members.

     The experience was fun as well as educational, and we all did some crazy things, but what can you expect from young, foolish college students?

 
April
Noel


My two lovely roommates.
  A couple of the sweetest girls I know. We had lovely times together.








Some of my classmates...

Christiana (The name was so close to mine, it was often a bit confusing)
Annie, one of the seniors, with Christine, a staff member. Both wonderful young ladies.

Joey and Jonathan.

David

Esther

Johnny


Sarah







The  Twins, Amanda and Meleah. They were so much fun.


   This is one of the seniors, Lauren. I'm further back in the blue ruffled blouse, there weren't too many pictures taken of me, oddly enough. This was during the conference which they held at the end of the first week. Rather like a prepared seminar, they showed us several videos of talks and a few local pastors and even a missionary, came in to speak. There were several sessions of sharing, during which students would stand up and give comments about how certain speeches had impacted them.

The college Cafe, run by the current seniors.

It often turned into a game room.

The senior coffee makers!

Then there was Symposium an excruciatingly formal event.

I loved it. It was so much fun to see everyone dressed up, and hearing two impromptu speeches.

   Symposium met every Tuesday afternoon and was basically a chance practice one's public speaking skills. At the end of the session, they divided us into groups and had us discuss a topic, come up with a thesis and appoint a spokesperson to present it in proper speech format. In the picture above, there are a few of my classmates lining up to present their group's conclusions. Unfortunately I am not in the picture, but I was spokesperson for my group and and am standing right to the left of the leftmost young man.  Amanda is at the podium, presenting for group no. 1. I was group no. 2 and am so disappointed they didn't get a picture of me at it.
     However, I think it was partly my fault. I was a bit of a "photophobic" during the entire three weeks, and I do believe I said some very cutting things about cameras and photography. I have learned my lesson though, as coming back I have realized how badly I wanted pictures to show my family. I hated to have my picture taken, because, however I might dodge the issue, I hated the way I looked in pictures. I still don't appreciate my photo identity, however, I have learned that such a view is self centered; it's not all about me and if I hadn't been so self conscious, my family might have gotten to see more pictures of me in action.
     What's done is done, and I am thankful to have the pictures I'm showing you, but I am bound and determined to work very hard not to mind the camera anymore!

  But, on to merrier matters.

   
 There was lot's of hymn singing, which was so much fun.
 And a lot of wonderful music.
 And a lot of wonderful sessions of playing with other musicians...
....in the stairwell to make it sound better. I'm so thankful I brought my violin.

 Also lots of wonderful discussions...


 And classes...
        And more classes...
  
  They taught us things like how to write an essay, how to give a speech, how to read a book, and certain things like that. They also taught a class on each of the major modern worldviews, such as Marxist/Leninism, Cosmic Humanism, Postmodernism and Islam.

Ah yes, speaking of Islam, during that class, the senior students "played" a Verity tradition on us.
  We were sitting in the class, listening to Mr. Ingersoll speak on the different strange laws a Muslim was restricted to, such as "Gamblers and Drunkards are to be whipped," "A Muslim man can have up to four wives, and beat them occasionally," "A Thief will have his hands amputated," and such lovely precept like that, when an earsplitting shriek rent the peace of the classroom atmosphere and several Arab peoople, one young man wielding a long plastic scimitar, rushed down the isle and lined themselves up in front of the podium. After we recovered from the surprise, two more young men came striding down offering cookies as condolences for the fright they had given us. Their costumes were a little more eclectic, as you can see from the pictures but it served to give us a good laugh.
 They informed us that this was a tradition. Each senior class played it on the incoming juniors during the Islam worldview class.
It was such a success that several distance students from my class declared that they would return for next year's orientation just to participate in the Muslim class bombing. I sincerely wish I could do the same. It really was hilarious, and one of my fondest memories...class of 2018, beware!

   
   Of course it wasn't all study. We played volley ball almost every evening after dinner, and ultimate Frisbee as well. I wasn't a top player in either game, but everyone gave me a lot of encouragement and I really enjoyed it and got a little better too.

 Then there was this game. It was called 'ninja' don't ask me why, and it was a lot of fun from what I could tell. I was sorry those who knew about it didn't introduce us to it sooner. The rules of the game are a little complicated to explain on this document, however your goal was to hit other people's hands and not let them hit yours. In the picture above you can see how some of them looked when they started.
Towards the end, the game got a little more tricky, as Justin and Jonathan have just discovered.

 Then there were the random crazy things we did, such as making daisy chains and wearing them in our hair...
 Kidnapping a few girls for a surprise birthday party... (It happened that the birthdays of three girls fell on the same week!)
And the boys decided to hold 'Friday Flip' when they turned their shirts around and wore them backwards for the evening. It was quite a sight I can assure you; the picture doesn't do it justice!
   Of course we must not forget all the crazy rides we had in the back of someone's pickup truck,

   ....and a pile up the boys attempted one Friday evening. Unfortunately, as this picture shows, they only got up to three people before the tower met its demise.
       Dr. Mcray, the president of Verity, and his family often had the whole gang of us over to their beautiful place. They were so very kind and hospitable.

    Our time eventually came to an end, and we distance students flew home, but the friendships we made and the love and kindness which was impressed upon our hearts will never cease to be.

     To close, I want to mention how much I was impacted by the Love of God at Verity. If there was one thing thing they taught me there that I wish I could apply to my heart more deeply, it is that God's love is unconditional, and more vast than we can ever imagine. The people at Verity also modeled that for me in a large way. I said and did a lot of stupid and hurtful things, but they still loved me any how. No matter what I was, they were kind and gracious, and I can tell you it was catching. I found myself not just putting up with people I didn't care for, but going out of my way to do things for them. Kindness can be just as contagious as meanness.

     So for your musical enjoyment, allow me to present to you the hymn,
          "O Love That Will Not Let Me Go" by George Matheson.


                                                                            
    In closing, I want to thank a certain staff member for the pictures. Even though he'll probably never read this, I give my humble apologies for being a stick-in-the-mud about picture taking. Photography is a useful and necessary art, and I wish I could take back all those things I said about it during orientation...there, I have gotten that off my conscience!

   I hope you all enjoyed my trip synopsis. What about all of you? Have you ever struggled with the love of God? Have you ever felt that He didn't love you unless you did things for Him?

    May you be filled with the wonderment of God's love, my dear, faithful, long-suffering readers; and may you hide in the shadow of His wings.


   Until I Write Again,

      ~ Christianna