One Glorious Light

             One light. That's all it takes to disperse the darkness, and the greater the light, the more darkness it dispels. There are so many things in this world that claim to be lights and fall miserably short. So many things we think can cleanse our hearts of darkness, but in the end only add to the accumulation of darkness already there.

              I often imagine that every person is an unlit candle wandering to and fro seeking for a flame, the very purpose for which we were created, to carry a light. I imagine the world is completely black and then one lighted candle is placed down amongst the rest. Slowly but surely, this candle starts lighting the empty wicks of those around it, and before long, the world begins to become illuminated as light after light is ignited and set to burn.

            You and I are these Candles, lighted by the one and only light of the world. Jesus is our fire, and when we go about our lives if we are in obedience to Christ, it will be perfectly obvious to the world that we are different that we have a light, the only light that satisfies.

            There will always be quacks and crooks pedaling wares they claim will make our candles burn brightly, but they never do. Instead they prevent us from seeing the light and dim the lights of those who are influenced by us. Christ alone is the light all men seek! How grateful we ought to be this Christmas morning that God sent us this light and that He found us and lit our wicks.

As I leave you with this gorgeous song, thank God for His magnificent light whose birth we celebrate today.
"I saw that in its depths there are enclosed, 
Bound up with love in one eternal book,
The scattered leaves of all the universe-
Substance, and accidents, and their relations,
As though together fused in such a  way
That what I speak of is a single light."
~ Dante ~

     ~ Merry Christmas!

Tiny Two

              Have you ever held a stick of dynamite in your hand? I never have, but if I did, I know I would handle it with a great deal of care and respect. Have you ever been up in a bell chamber while eight full size bells were pealing? I hope not, because otherwise you might not be around to tell the story, at best hearing could be permanently damaged. Such small, seemingly harmless things; bells and dynamite, yet the intensity of a blast of dynamite could kill you, and the intensity of sound from eight bells pealing at full kilter up close could paralyze, incapacitate and, if given enough time, kill you. I know, by this time you're sighing and shaking your head at me,

"Christianna, are you comparing Jesus with bells and dynamite?"

   Why yes, what an astute mind you posses.

You roll your eyes, "alright, how is Jesus like a stick of dynamite, or a peal of eight bells?"

              Okay, alright, I know it's cheesy, but seriously, think about Mary. She carried God's son around inside of her for nine months? She carried one who was fully human AND fully God. I know that would scare me far more than holding a stick of dynamite. Of course we don't know whether Mary fully understood at the time who this unearthly baby would go on to become. All we know that she knew at the time was the she was to give birth to a baby placed in her not by a man but by the power of God and His Spirit. Did she know all that her tiny newborn son was going to do, when she wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger? Probably not.

               Think about it though, we know she was with him at the cross, one of the first to learn of his resurrection, and most likely present at the ascension. She is the only recorded person who was with Jesus from the moment He entered this world to the second He left it, what a grand privilege. I'm not sure I'd want it, the disgrace of having a child while unmarried. The shame would have been magnified in those days, that could frighten me more than standing in a bell chamber with a peal of eight bells. Jesus would have appeared to be an illegitimate child His whole life, she would be viewed as an adulteress, and yet, what was her response when the angel Gabriel explained what would happen?

         "Behold [I am] the bondservant of the Lord, let it be done to me according to His will."

             What a courageous response, what a trusting young woman. I figure she had no idea what a great gift she was going to bring into the world, or everything she was in for, bad and good, but I'm guessing she knew enough about the kind of dynamite involved to be scared.

           The song I'm going to share is a little different than what you all here are probably used to. However, I think Mary did You Know is not only God honoring, but appropriate for the season. Don't worry, nobody's worshiping Mary here, it's simply to draw us into the right perspective to gaze in awe at the wonderful God who came to earth for us. Nobody knew, least of all Mary, what Jesus actually was and what He would do, He shocked the entire kingdom of Israel and I think it's important that sometimes we stop and allow ourselves to be amazed again as well. 

            Centuries ago God asked Job "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding." (Job 38:4) We can never fully comprehend the ways of God, or do the things He does, we should indeed be grateful that He is in charge of the world and didn't leave us to run things. Meditate on that as you listen to this thought provoking song and be overwhelmed afresh by the power of God Most High.

                          Next time you find yourself around explosives, remember Mary and thank God for the best dynamite He ever sent mankind.
       ~ Christianna

Three to Tally

            I've always loved Thomas Kinkade's paintings. As you've probably noticed if you've been reading my blog posts or watching my own videos for any length of time, I try to slip in one of his pictures as often as I can get away with it. Friends of mine have pointed out that many of his pictures feel lonely and empty because they don't have people in them. While I can see their point, (though I do take pleasure in pointing out every time one of Kinkade's paintings does contain a visible human) I think his paintings always contain the presence of people even if they don't show them. The houses always have lights on in the windows, the paths are always well trodden, the gardens and villages are beautifully kept. I don't get the illusion of loneliness when I look at Kinkade's pictures, instead I feel silence; quiet. I think in not putting too many people in his idyllic scenes, Kinkade compels us to meditate in silence on God's glory. I don't know if that was his actual intent, but that's what I get out of his pictures.

           They all cause me to stop and be silent as I delight in the beauty of God's creation. I believe that if I could step into the picture, quietness would greet me there.

            To be quiet is exactly what today's song asks us to do. Yes, Christ's birth is a time for us to Shout for Joy, but I think it also calls from us like Kinkade's paintings a certain measure of silence as we realize the extent of what God has done for us.

     King of kings yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood.
Lord of lords in human vesture,
In the body and the blood.

            I don't think any of us could ever fully realize what it means to be an all-powerful, eternal God and take on human form. Perhaps we could experience a bit of the physical limitation if we were to suddenly take on the form of an earth worm, but the difference between a human and a worm is negligible to the difference between a human and God. 

        So as you listen to this hauntingly beautiful Christmas song take a few minutes of silence to thank God for His great gift to mankind.

                 ~ Christianna

A Few Four...'till Christmas

              Imagine for a moment that a bunch of powerful foreigners landed on our shores and just started taking us, or buying us from our governors. Imagine you and I were among those sold and stolen. We were packed into ships, dark, moldy, and bug infested, as tightly as we could fit and were sailed for weeks across a tumultuous ocean. During the journey, many people get terribly sick, you watch the young man packed in next to you slowly waste away and one morning you wake up and he's dead. The crew, your captors, toss him overboard as flippantly as if he were a bad fish. When you finally arrive at your destination, leagues upon leagues away from home, you are confronted by another sea, this of faces, all strange like those of your captor's and not a sympathetic countenance among them. You are pushed up on a block in front of simpering ladies who came to watch for amusement, and men with hard lines and cruel jaws come to purchase the labor of a stolen life.

              To top it all off, they goad you, push you to your farthest limits and reward you by telling you, and some even believing themselves, that you are less than human, worthy of no more respect and dignity than a cow.

              What would you do?

             What would you think of God for allowing this to happen to you?

            Over a hundred years ago it happened to one people, in one dark moment of history........... and they sang.

            For many African Americans had it not been for their music they might not have made it through the tortuous years of slavery and complete disrespect. Being a woman was the worst because you belonged to your master body and soul and no law protected you from his vilest desires.
........And yet, they sang.

            Today, negro spirituals are some of the most fun, uplifting songs I know. I often think on the well known Spiritual Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen, and marvel at the sheer faith of these individuals. They didn't let the worst possible circumstances, promoted by the worst possible men, steal their joy.

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen,
Nobody knows but Jesus,
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen,
Glory Hallelujah! 

Sometimes I'm up, sometimes I'm down,
O yes, Lord.
Sometimes I'm almos' to the groun'
O yes, Lord.

            Think about that. If you were in those circumstances could you end a refrain with "Glory Hallelujah?" I know I'd have trouble with that. Every time I sing this song it is with sheer admiration and respect for the nameless soul who wrote it somewhere, sometime in America amidst the worst kind of enslavement.

             So What does this have to do with Christmas? Glad you asked.

            The African American enslavement was another one of those apparent manifestations of why need a set us free. Yes, they were physically enslaved, but their captors were under an even worse kind of enslavement, a captivity to sin for which many were eternally damned.

            Think on this for a moment. The African Americans amidst their trouble understood something most of pampered humanity fails to grasp. That this life isn't all there is. There is more, so much more, beyond death, so much more real, tangible and important. Contrary to common misconception we will not be floating on clouds playing harps after we die. This world is only a crude copy of the perfect universe we will have to explore and cultivate, and these bodies only a corrupted model of the physical bodies we will have in glory.

           Think about this. God could have just said, "Alright, they don't want anything to do with me, fine, I'll send them all to hell, the one place from which I have withdrawn my goodness and grace completely." And yet, what did he do instead? He came Himself, born of a woman under the curse of the law, that He might redeem us from the yoke of slavery under which we toiled since the day we were born.

           This is why the slaves sang, one hundred and some odd years ago. They had a short hard life to be sure, but they understood how much worse it could be and trusted that this wasn't the end. In light of this, you can sing a lot under very hard circumstances, that is if you truly understand this, for which I admire the African Americans so much.

          Alright, the song I'm sharing with you today was written by an American in the style of the African Spirituals. The author, Andre J. Thomas, is quite a fascinating guy by the way, a man after my own heart I think.

           Think on God's beautiful redemption, as you listen to this driving song, it's enough to make anyone Shout for Joy.

        I don't think you need the lyrics for this one, just listen carefully. I like the way the African Americans knew how to do repetition right. We of European descent only sound lame when we try. ;)

            Today, no matter what tragedy takes place, whether you learn that a Christmas gift for a family member isn't going to arrive until the twenty-sixth or you're stuck in traffic with a bunch of coffee deprived individuals, remember Christ's gift and shout for joy!

    ~ Christianna

Five Golden Carols


            My favorite Disney princess movie has always been Sleeping Beauty, but among the ones which came out more recently in the 2000's I'd have to say my favorite is Tangled. The songs are the best, and well, the horse steals the show. However, my favorite scene in the movie is where Rapunzel and Flynn are out on the lake singing "At Last I See The Light" with the lanterns floating overhead. Not only is it so beautiful and for me the epitome of a romantic date, but I love the duet. What each one claims is that the other has made life meaningful to him at last; that, "At Last I see the light, now that I see you." Isn't that so sweet?

            Anyhow, my point is that just like out there on the lake with the sky ablaze with lanterns Flynn and Rapunzel realized that their lights were not actually floating up above them but sitting right across from them, so too, as the sky went ablaze with light and Angels burst upon the scene proclaiming good news, we realize that the light in the sky was pointing not vertically but horizontally to the true light come down to us.

          We only truly see the light when we gaze upon the face of God's glorious Son.

        So today as you listen to this stirring song, "The Birthday of A King," think on the true light, the light in us who shines beautifully in a dark world.

    This version mixes in O Holy Night as well, but i think it's fitting...Anyhow, I like it best when Steve Green sings it.

In the little village of Bethlehem,
There lay a Child one day,
And the sky was bright with a holy light
O'er the place where Jesus lay.

Alleluia! O how the angels sang.
Alleluia! How it rang!
And the sky was bright with a holy light,
'Twas the birthday of a King.

 'Twas a humble birth-place, but O how much
God gave to us that day,
From the manger bed what a path has led,
What a perfect, holy way. 

           Whatever burdens you this Christmas season, whatever makes you cry when you think about your live, whatever weighs heavy on your heart right now, take it to the light in whose presence the things of this earth are put in there proper perspectives.

               ~ Christianna

Sweet Six

          The Basque Region is a little part of France no bigger than New England which straddles the borders of France and Spain. Not many people are aware of this little province divided among the two greater countries, and few know the Basque language, which, though officially established as a language, is hardly spoken in an area where the two predominant languages are French and Spanish.

           I find it interesting how close the obscurity of of this region resembles the obscurity of Bethlehem, the little town in which David was born and raised, and in which, hundreds of years later, Jesus was also born. This in itself would not be of extreme note, were it not, for the fact that the carol I'm going to share with you today. The only one I know that was written in this region in the language, is, incidentally about Bethlehem.

          Isn't it fascinating, friends, that God chose one of the smallest, most insignificant towns for Jesus to be born in? If it had been me, I would have chosen Jerusalem, or Capernaum, one of the big, notable cities where more people could have taken not of the momentous occasion...after all, there would be more witnesses, right? But God, didn't need there to be preexisting witnesses. He called the witnesses in from the fields where they were watching their sheep, hardly aware that they were being called to witness the perfect lamb of God, the final sheep necessary to sacrifice.

           I like to think of this to remember that God can and will use someone as obscure as nondescript as myself to bring Him glory. He doesn't have to use the most talented, the most influential, the most wealthy. He is perfectly capable of turning the insignificant significant, just like He brought this beautiful carol out of the insignificant little Basque region.

    This version is sung in the original language, and as you listen, read the translation I dug up. Do read it because I couldn't find a complete, actual translation online. I had to type this all out from a thick book of old carols I found at the library so make my effort worthwhile. ;) In all seriousness, though, what a deep and poignant set of lyrics...written at a time when most carols completely missed the heart of Christmas with all their extemporaneous stories about pious Mary and undue heat on the poor innkeeper.

O Bethlehem! Ah! How your glory today shines out brightly!
The light that comes from you fills out every corner.

What Honour! For you are raised up on high.
What grace! What favour! 
You are chosen of God as the birthplace of the beloved child Jesus.

At last we see there the beloved Jesus.
Let us praise Him with all our heart;
He has closed up hell and has opened up heaven for us.

For us an all-powerful God comes down from the heights of heaven;
Yes, He is born the Son of God, the spotless victim.

In the manger is the richest of Children. 
Who would ever have predicted that the Lord of heaven and earth would be found lying in a manger?

With the Shepherds I am impelled to com to you,
Wishing to do as they do; I worship you, the Messiah,
Give you all my heart with the Shepherds.

I have nothing, O Jesus, to offer you but a guilty heart, 
To show you my gratitude for all my benefits.

      Indeed, what honour, favour and grace. God came down and deigned to dwell among us. We have nothing but a guilty heart to offer. Give thanks to Him that that is all He asks. What a gracious God we serve.

     ~ Christianna

A Song of Seven....

      Forgive the tardiness of this post, my friends, some very devout Jehovah's Witnesses stopped by and were so interested in convincing me that Jesus is not God that I just couldn't help spending nearly the whole morning debating with them. It was immeasurably fun, but consequently, I didn't get much time to write or think about what song I was going to feature in today's countdown.

        One thing that stood out to me during our debate was how certain assumptions had slipped into their theology which could not be found in Scripture, which upon questioning the poor men were forced to commit some serious logical felonies to account for. There's something to be said for presenting the plain, simple truth as it is with no extemporaneous details or flourishes, and I think we all need to go back to that on a regular basis to be assured that we don't fall into the same error. So, for today's song, I'd like to present one of the most enduring and widely accepted songs of Christmas. A song which so simply relates the Christmas story that it's nearly impossible to argue with it unless one argues with Scripture itself. A song written centuries ago which has survived the critics of time: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

         Well, except for the part about the shepherds leaving their sheep in tempest, storm and wind......but except for that, the verses follow pretty much exactly the account from the Christmas story in Luke.

          So today, as you listen to this simple but lovely old song which we all know, think on the simple truth of the Christmas story. There were probably more than three wisemen, the angels didn't sing to the shepherds, Jesus probably wasn't born amidst falling snow, and the inn-keeper wasn't a malicious old fellow who brazenly refused them a room, but Christ was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger, the wisemen did come and visit Him and the Shepherds were indeed visited by a multitude of angels.

         What a glorious truth in itself, my friends, no embellishments are needed to retain the wonder of Christ's incarnation.

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born upon this 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

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

        Don't ever let the truth of the gospel become obscured with things that are merely tradition or popular beliefs we've just accepted. God's story is complete in itself...there is no better way to present it than as it was presented.

                 ~ Christianna

The Eighteenth and Eight More Days

           Have you ever noticed that Christmas is always associated with light? That, in fact, all through the Scriptures, God is the God of light? One of my favorite Christmas carols has a verse which goes something like this:

 Rank on Rank the Host of Heaven,
Spreads its Vanguard on the the way,
As the Light of lights descendeth,
From the realms of endless day;
That the powers of hell may vanish,
As the darkness flees away.

   God is not only the Light of lights, but has come to chase away the darkness. I love the analogy of God to light, because it reminds me that God's power is infinite, and cannot be conquered. What I mean by this, is that when you open the door to a dark closest, the darkness does not come out and flood the light room, instead the light comes and floods the dark closet. Light is a fascinating, mysterious entity on earth, and darkness is not a thing it itself, merely the absence of a thing; light. This is to me an apt demonstration God and evil, God is not one force and the powers of evil another, waging war with each other, instead, it is God and the absence of God, an absence created by creatures who want nothing to do with God and allowed by God for the time being. 
       But now the light has come. And we are its lanterns. God's light dwells in us, and where ever we go we have the ability to dispel the darkness, not by efforts of our own, but simply by allowing Christ's light to shine through us. What a glorious privilege, my friends. 

   .....And it all started with one little light born in one little baby in one little town of Bethlehem....Sometimes when I think about it, God's methods confound me....I certainly wouldn't have chosen to do it that way, would you? 

       As we think on this wond'rous truth, as we reflect on God's light, let's pause and listen to this beautiful work by Kim Andre Arnesen, "His Light in Us."

God’s distant call
flares in the night,
so long expected, so longed for;
and all my life,
Christ called my name,
and now at last, I’ll answer Him.

Renewed, his hope,
his light in us,
incarnate, fragile,
our Lord appears,
Alleluia, alleluia!
so perfect,
His cry of changeless love.
Alive, awake,
His call is here:
it is the crying of the Child;
I know Christ’s call,
its hidden flame,
it makes my spirit flare with hope!
This root, this stem, this flowering Love,
this mustard seed, it grows to the greatest tree, the birds of souls have nested there.
The light of the night
Now blazes at dawn!
You’ve lead me here,
O little child,
your being singing with God’s life.
The kingdom sings,
it choirs with earth,
all creation lives Christ’s peace.
       Think about it. This is the kind of God who came down to dwell in us. I love the chorus best on this song, "Eternal, so perfect, His cry of Changeless love." Take this song into your hearts, today, and carry it with you. I guarantee whatever you're doing, dwelling on this chorus will make it all so much better, knowing that His light is in us.

      ~ Christianna

Narrowing to Nine

           We don't often think about this, but like every great story throughout history, every triumph has a tragedy mingled with it. Jesus' birth not only brought great joy, but it also brought great sorrow. It is slightly ironic that an event that was to lead to salvation, also indirectly brought about one of the most horrific massacres in history.

            As one of our elders pointed out, Herod the great may not be commonly listed among the most evil men in history, but he certainly deserves a spot right alongside the likes of Hitler and Stalin whose common trait was that they had no problem murdering children if it seemed to serve their ends. Interesting fact about Herod, he murdered his mother-in-law, second wife, and three of his sons out of fear that they were plotting against his throne, so it's almost no shock that he murdered a whole town of baby boys when he heard rumors of One born king of the Jews. We all know Herod's bloody attempt didn't succeed. God warned Joseph in a dream after the Wisemen left, and he got up by night and fled with the family to Egypt, but a score, at least, of young boys were still slaughtered.

            Mixed in with the beautiful story of Christ's birth, joined in conjunction with all the hopeful prophecies was a bitter one.

          "A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children. And she refuses to be comforted for her children because they are no more."  ~ Jeremiah 31:15

           But, you may be asking, "Christianna why are you talking about this during advent when the event occurred approximately two years after Christ's birth?" A very valid question; the event may have occurred later but in the Scriptures we read of it almost directly after the birth account, and it goes hand in hand with the events surrounding Christ's birth. Finally, it is impossible to fully appreciate a Saviour without fully understanding what we've been saved from.

          I want us to remember this and think about it, because whatever other extrapolation we can pull out of this story, one thing is clear, a story like this which displays the utter wickedness of one man, demonstrates poignantly our need for a Saviour. Herod is there to remind us all of the evil we ourselves could sink to were it not for the grace of God. I for one know, based on my naturally detached, coldly calculating personality, could be quite capable of slaughtering hundreds of people if I thought it furthered my goals or protected my interests. How grateful I am that God reached out and rescued me from myself.

          So today, this third Sunday of advent as we meditate on this solemn event, let us thank God that He cared enough for such vile people as ourselves to save us from it all, to make us actually desire to do good from pure motives, without Him there would be no such thing. My friends, while you thank God for this, listen to this solemn carol commemorating the event.

Lully, lullay
Thou little tiny child
By-by, lullay, lullay
Lully, lullay
Thou little tiny child
By-by, lully, lullay

Oh, sisters two
How may we do
For to preserve this day?
This poor youngling
Of whom we do sing
By-by, lully, lullay

Herod the King
In his raging
Charged he hath this day
His men of might
In his own sight
All children young to slay

Then woe is me
Poor child for thee
And ever mourn and say
For thy parting
Nor say nor sing
By-by, lully, lullay.

         ~ Christianna

'Tis the Tenth to Christmas

           It was only a year and a half or so ago, when I and several friends climbed to the top of a mountain plateau and belted out songs from The Sound of Music at the top of our lungs. It was a beautiful sight looking down on a beautiful tree-filled valley which sprawled out beneath us. There was another plateau across from us a little higher, from which people who were standing there at the time of our singing could reportedly hear us. It was quite a revelation for my friends and I, as we realized that we were standing in God's theater, a place designed with better acoustics than some concert halls.

          Looking back I wish it had occurred to us to sing another song. It would have been the perfect setting for us to sing "O Thou that Tellest Good Tidings to Zion," from Handel's Messiah.

   "Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, Lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; Lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, "Here is your God."" ~ Isaiah 40:9

        Because what better place to proclaim God's presence, power, and love then from the top of a mountain?

        And what better time than Christmas to proclaim the good news of God coming to us, to proclaim that God is with us?

        There was another song which I didn't know at the time. A song which I'm so thankful has made it's way into the Christmas Repertoire because it's so easy to get caught up with the little baby in the manger that we forget all that He is and all He came to do.

    This song, Climb to The Top of The Highest Mountain written by Carolyn Jennings is, like Handel's aforementioned aria, a direct adaption from verses in Isaiah 40. I love this work because it so beautifully encapsulates and expresses the awe we should feel in the presence of God's power. And I'm going to leave it there. As you listen to this beautiful choral work, think about God's power. Wonder for a few minutes on the magnitude of a love which would compel such a magnificent God to come down to save such insignificant creatures as we are.

   I'm including the lyrics below the video, make sure that you read them while the song is playing. It's important to know what they're singing, and it's hard to catch all the words if you don't know them already. ;)

Climb to the top of the highest mountain, joyous tidings proclaim to the world,
Lift up your voice, shout the good news: behold, your Lord comes to you.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will carry the lambs in his arms,
He will ever keep them safe from harm. Behold, your Lord comes to you.
He who made the stars in the heaven, He who fashioned the earth and the sea,
From time eternal He was God, the Alpha and Omega, He. Behold, your Lord!
He will come in power and glory, He will rule with mercy and truth,
Hope of the nations, light of all the world.
He will love the little children, He will hold them in his arms.
Love Him and trust Him as a little child. Behold, your Lord comes to you.

     What a great God we serve, friends, don't ever forget that. Don't ever forget that someday we will reign with Him as He rules the world. Today, let your joy and confidence in a God who made the stars in the heavens and fashioned the earth and sea, shine out and capture the hearts of those who have no such assurance. And through your life, don't ever let anyone make you ashamed of One who will come in power and glory and rule with mercy and truth!

     ~ Christianna


Eleven Days Remaining

          When my siblings and I were younger we didn't grow up with all the usual Christmas pop tunes which were popular among children at the time, instead of, frosty the snowman we had "In The Bleak Midwinter," and "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" instead of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." I think it worked out for the better, anyhow, because the more pop Christmas songs I've been learning, the more I've realized how cynical I could become about Christmas if it were only about Santa Claus, Christmas trees, Snowmen, and Reindeer.

          My brothers and sisters and I were always the more logical, down-to-earth type of people. We were flabbergasted that any child could honestly believe Santa Claus was real. When I was really young I couldn't imagine that any child actually really believed that Santa Claus was real, I thought they just played along for fun. After all there was no way one man in a flying sleigh could visit everybody in one night, nor could he fit down the chimney as fat as he was...and then of course, now-a-days most people don't have chimneys and those that do have chimney caps.

          If Santa Claus didn't escape our brutal examination neither did the Pop Christmas songs. My older brother Timothy once remarked that Santa Claus is Coming to Town has got to be one of the creepiest songs out there for children... "he sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake...etc."   You get the picture. Yes, maybe we were odd little people, but looking back I'm glad my parents never tried to feed us a rather absurd falsehood, when the truth is inestimably better.

         Our mother taught us a lot of the older Christmas carols, all of them far more Christ centered. One of my favorites as a seven year-old was It Came Upon The Midnight Clear. I've always loved to sing and this song provided a challenge for me because of the octave leap down in the middle of the song, I practiced it over and over, until I got it perfect. Then I would sing the whole song; all four verses along with a few I'd made up just to get to that moment in each verse. It gave me chills. To this day it still strikes me as one of the most beautiful Christmas tunes I've ever learned, and while the octave jump doesn't challenge me like it did when I was seven, it's still the most thrilling moment in the song.

          Angels don't get much air time in the Scriptures, and they definitely aren't supposed to be the focal point, but I think I had much happier dreams as a child with winged angels over me rather than flying reindeer. At first glance the song doesn't seem to be very Christmasy, not mentioning Christ's birth directly even once. Think about it. Angels only appear on momentous occasions and usually only one at a time and then one little baby is born in one little town and a group of Shepherds is treated to a sky bedazzled with a multitude, that's thousands of angels, perhaps more than anyone in history had ever seen at one time, praising God. I don't know about you, but that in itself marks Christmas for me as one of the most beautiful events in history.

         It Came Upon The Midnight Clear is a quiet, reflective song which asks us to pause and think about what we're doing. To me, the third verse which never gets sung is the most poignant reminder of this, especially in our day and age where the world is very noisy in a way the author, who lived in the eighteen hundreds, could not begin to comprehend.

 Take a moment to read this missing verse and then listen to the rest of them on this lovely recording.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled,
Two-thousand years of wrong.
And man at war with man hears not
The love-song that they bring.
O hush your noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

         No wonder they don't include that in the set of verses sung today. Think about that for a moment, friends, this Christmas season, this profound truth is one we could all stand to keep in mind a little more. The very first song I sang in public happened to be this song, but if I ever do so again, I shall be sure I include this verse in my performance. ;)

    One final thing before you listen to the song. You'll notice I titled the song with The midnight clear instead of A midnight clear. This simple word included in the original verse makes it clear what night the author, Edmund Sears, was referring to. Though the final part of the first verse emphasizes that by including the the angels' song of praise as recorded in Scripture. 

    Alright, I had trouble finding a version which sang both the carol tune rather than Arthur Sullivan's tune "Noel" which is very popular in the UK, and the third/fourth verse, which they also like to skip. ;) This version is a little faster than I'm used to but it's enjoyable and I think you'll enjoy the Irish soloist on the third verse. :) I know I did.

It came upon the midnight clear, 
That glorious song of old, 
From angels bending near the earth, 
To touch their harps of gold: 
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men, 
From heaven's all-gracious King." 
The world in solemn stillness lay, 
To hear the angels sing. 

 Still through the cloven skies they come, 
With peaceful wings unfurled, 
And still their heavenly music floats 
O'er all the weary world; 
Above its sad and lowly plains, 
They bend on hovering wing, 
And ever o'er its Babel sounds 
The bless├Ęd angels sing. 

All ye, beneath life's crushing load, 
Whose forms are bending low, 
Who toil along the climbing way 
With painful steps and slow, 
Look now! for glad and golden hours 
come swiftly on the wing. 
O rest beside the weary road, 
And hear the angels sing! 

 For lo!, the days are hastening on, 
By prophet bards foretold, 
When with the ever-circling years 
Comes round the age of gold 
When peace shall over all the earth 
Its ancient splendors fling, 
And the whole world give back the song 
Which now the angels sing.

           John MacArthur once said that the angels sang once at creation and will not sing again until Christ returns, and technically he's right, the angels didn't actually sing at Christ's birth, however, when I sing this song, I like to think that the angel's singing can be heard in every good and beautiful occurrence on this earth. A little fluffy and sentimental, I know, but humor me. Stop today, and listen.  Can you hear the angels singing? Perhaps when that random checkout lady smiles and wishes you a Merry Christmas. Perhaps, when the highway's a mess at rush hour, and a driver slows down to allow you to merge in front of him. Perhaps when you spill you drink and a complete stranger gets down on hands and knees to help you mop it up. Perhaps, when you receive a  thoughtful note from a friend unexpectedly. Listen to the angels singing their song of love and peace and joy because Christ came down to relieve us of our toilsome loads, let their song wash over your weary heart today and bring you a message of hope.

T'was The Twelfth Before Christmas....

        Yes, it's that time of year friends. I've been looking forward to this annual tradition of mine for a few months now, planning and plotting and writing down Christmas Carol titles, yet when I woke up this morning I hadn't the faintest idea what Carol I was going to use to kick off the season with!

         Last night when I stayed up until 1:00 A.M. working on a Christmas project, I thought through a variety of Carols popular and obscure but dredged up nothing of enough consequence....yes, and now you're shaking your head reproachfully at me.

    "Christianna, what possessed you to stay up that late; or may I say, that early?"

     "Don't you know that it's not good for you?" 

     "And I thought you were a morning person!"

 Yes, you're right, all of you. Furthermore, I know I could have gotten just as much work on my project done had I gone to bed on time and gotten up early to spend some time on it, and I would have been happier for it because I know that the quality of sleep I get before midnight is far better than that after midnight. I know that if I go to bed late and get up late my energy will be zapped by mid-afternoon. I know that when I stay up consistently past midnight, my face starts breaking out enough to make me cry every time I look in the mirror. I know that when I go to bed on time and get up at five, I get so much more done and have so much more energy!

     So, why did I stay up late last night when I knew I'd be regretting it this morning? That was the question I asked myself this morning, and every morning I open my eyes to find that daylight has beaten me to the punch yet again, and three precious hours have been lost that I could have had if I had risen at my intended hour.

       It was as I scolded myself yet again this morning that I remembered that this scenario demonstrates exactly why Christ came down at Christmas. I know something is bad and that I'll regret it and yet I still do it. I make silly excuses to justify doing things I know I'm going to kick myself for later. I make choices based on superficiality because I feel like it, knowing full well, that I'm being stupid and it's going to haunt me later. Without Christ there would be no hope of ever disentangling myself from this destructive cycle, as it is, I battle it constantly. Some days I have to drive home alternately crying desperately to God to give me strength and commanding myself to go to bed at nine, to go directly to bed and not stop to watch a movie on the way.

      What is this power, this drive which compels, yes, even controls, and corrals us into doing irrational things which we know will destroy us?

       It's the power of sin which dwells in all of us, is a part of us from the moment we take our first breath to the second we take our last. A power whose only aim is to ruin us, to make us the most miserable of creatures, simply because God is the most happiest. A power which seeks to make us the most destructive because God is the most Creative. A power which opposes good because God is the essence of goodness. What a fearful state, my friends, what a catastrophic captivity.

        This is why Christmas should be such a joyful occasion for us. Our sinful hearts weren't the end of the story, God gave us a way out. It's as though we were locked in a dark prison cell, for life and suddenly someone walked up cracked open the door, allowing the light to dazzle us with it's welcoming warmth, and told us that not only were we free, but also, if we walked out that door, we would be the richest people on earth!

       And it was when I realized that happy truth, my friends, I knew what song I wanted to kick off my advent carols with;

       O Come, O Come Emmanuel

   Most of you know this carol, I think. So I shan't go into too much explanation, but as you listen to this lovely rendition, dwell on the lyrics I'll post below. What a thing to rejoice over, what a thing to Thank God for, He came to ransom us from our unwelcome captivity, that which ought to make us mourn.

     I am not going to pontificate on the origins of the hymn, if I remember correctly I did that last year, and anyway, if you really want to know you can google it. This year, I want to get to the heart of each carol I discuss, however, for those of you who like historical facts, the English verses most of us are familiar with are extremely loose translations from the original Latin stanzas, I chose this particular version sung by Clare College Choir of Cambridge,  because they sing a more literally translated set of verses, so if you hear and read verses that seem to be a little different from what you remember, that's why. I think, however, and let me know if you agree or disagree ;) , that these verses hold so much more meaning and depth than do those we usually sing!

    Yes, I'm aware I just asked you to leave a comment, no exceptions, but it's Christmas, the time of giving, what did you think I was going to ask for? :)

      And because it's Christmas, I'll ask another favor of you. If you know anyone who you think would enjoy or be encouraged by these posts, share this or all my posts with him! ;) Alright, I promise, no more campaigning for the rest of the year; here are the lyrics I'm sure you're champing at the bit to read.

O come, O come, Emmanuel! 
Redeem thy captive Israel 
That into exile drear is gone, 
Far from the face of God's dear Son. 

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 
Shall come to thee, O Israel. 

O come, thou Branch of Jesse! 
draw The quarry from the lion's claw; 
From the dread caverns of the grave, 
From nether hell, thy people save. 

O come, O come, thou Dayspring bright! 
Pour on our souls thy healing light; 
Dispel the long night's lingering gloom, 
And pierce the shadows of the tomb. 

O Come, thou Lord of David’s Key! 
The royal door fling wide and free; 
Safeguard for us the heavenward road, 
And bar the way to death's abode. 

O come, O come, Adonai, 
Who in thy glorious majesty 
From that high mountain clothed in awe, 
Gavest thy folk the elder Law. 

   Indeed, let us rejoice today, my friends. Emmanuel came that we need no longer live in captivity to a master whose only design is to destroy us preferably with our help.

     Today as you work, as you deal with that annoying individual who can't think of something nice to say, when you splatter salad dressing on your spotless white shirt, as you slam on the brakes for a driver who couldn't be bothered to think about someone besides himself....

       Rejoice! Emmanuel has come!

  ~ Christianna

God's Plan: Optimal or Optional?

     What do you do when good just doesn't feel good enough, when the smile feels forced and hypocritical?

      What do you do when remembering all your blessings doesn't make you feel any more grateful?

     What do you do when the wait stretches out farther than you'd expected it; when the time you thought you'd be spending doing something new is spent doing the same things you've been doing for the past two and a half years?

       What do you do when you realize that where you are now is not at all what you'd expected, when you'd wished for it years ago, and where you'd hoped you'd be turns out to not really be where you wanted to be?

       In short, what do you do when you realize that God is taking your life in a whole different direction than you'd expected and you really don't like it?

        I distinctly remember having my whole life planned out by the time I was twelve. I was going to get a degree in music, teach violin, write a lot of music, and make a lot of money. When I was nineteen or twenty I would get married and have a dozen children. I would be the model mother and the most helpful and loving wife. We would live in a big house and host lots of parties, be the shining light in our neighborhood, and I would the most popular woman in my community because of my giving spirit and compassionate nature. Our children would grow up surrounded by the their many cousins for of course part of my life plan included my siblings all getting married, living close by and having a lot of children too(though of course not as many as I would). Maybe in my forties when my children were all grown or nearly so, I would write a book which would become a bestseller, maybe my husband would write one too... ;) And he and I would live out our days in blissful harmony surrounded by our loving children and grandchildren.

        You laugh, I know; I am too, while I'm typing this, with the poignant realization that though a few things such as the degree and violin teaching have come to pass, my life and who I am are not at all what I had imagined them to be. Of course it only took my teen years to help me come to the eyeopening realization that I am neither giving nor compassionate by nature. I'm a tight-fisted, cold, calculating person by nature who plots out every kind act as a means to my own advancement, and compassion is only a tool in my belt to make people like me better, I don't genuinely care about least....that's where I would be without God. As it is, I endeavor to do things for the right reason, I endeavor to spread God's glory where ever I go. However, as a twelve-year old with an inordinately high opinion of myself, I could not possibly comprehend how difficult it would be to be "good" as I put it at the time.

        I also realize poignantly how much our family is not what I pictured it to be. Sure, my sister got married to a great guy last year, and yes, nobody's run off to Timbuktu with no plans of ever returning, but past and more recent events in our family's history, events that have surprised my hair on end and caused me to cry for hours, have made me realize that I'm not calling the shots in this family, nor is anyone else. It's God, only God who is directing our paths, certainly, sometimes He channels them in the directions we want, but, most of the time, at least in my case, He doesn't and recently I've had to come to grips with that.

     What if I never get married?

     Or if I do, what if I can't have many children? After all, it's God who gives the babies.

    What if I never publish a book?

     What if my music never becomes popular?

     So, what do you do when you find out that you're not in control of your life? When you discover that it's been God who's been calling the shots all along and you have no idea where He's going to take you?

     I'm not going to tell you not to plan; people are natural planners, we do it all the time and there's nothing wrong with making good plans for the future. The question is simply, what do we do when life doesn't follow those plans?

        1. View your life as an adventure not an obstacle course.

When you read an adventure novel, the very pith of the writing is the suspense; the understanding that you have no idea where the story is going. And you like that about the book; it's part of what keeps you reading. If you could know exactly what was going to happen beforehand, suddenly the book would lose most of its flavor. Why do you think people get so upset over "story spoilers?" So then, why is it that when it comes to real life, we want it to turn out exactly how we'd planned and every twist is an annoying obstacle over which we must jump to achieve our pre-planned life? I think God has been challenging me to live my life more as adventure. Sure there are challenges to overcome, but in the end, we have no idea where the journey will take us, and we should find excitement in that.

       2. Understand the God is the absolute best person to have control over your life.

Have you ever had those moments where you tried really hard to make things better but only made them worse? I think God gives us those moments to remind us that we are not the best people to be in control of ourselves. Think about it for a moment. An all knowing, all powerful God who is the very embodiment of what we call good, not only has complete control over our lives, but will also channel them in the very best direction possible. That's not something to get upset about. Also, remember if God made us, isn't He going to be the one who best knows how our lives should be lived? After all, if there's one person I'd trust more completely to mess around with my violin, it would be a Luthier. If there was one person I'd trust completely to fiddle about with a piece I was going to perform before hundreds of people, it would be the composer. And usually the movie adaption of a book is best when the author is the one writing the screenplay. I've been trying to keep that in mind whenever I start to complain about the way my life is going.

        3. Talk to God.

If you were working in woodcarver's shop as an apprentice and the woodcarver one day picked up a piece of wood which you thought he had began carving into a horse and turned it into a rabbit, would you start muttering under your breath, quietly of course so he didn't hear, "why is he doing that? What a stupid thing to do, the woodcarver is so unkind to that poor horse, look what he's doing, he's turning it into a rabbit, do you really think that horse wants to be a rabbit?" I don't think you would do that at all. You might watch the woodcarver in awe for a few minutes, amazed at how he could take something that seemed like a horse and have it become a rabbit, you might respectfully ask him why he had decided to make it a rabbit, or what was his reasoning behind it looking like a horse at the beginning. You might express your excitement over his creation and ask him to show you how he did it. If perhaps you had a problem with him making it into a rabbit, perhaps you really wanted it to be a horse, it would be quite absurd of you to give him the silent treatment over it. You would instead talk to him, perhaps express your disappointment, and he would explain. I wonder why we can't do that with God? Why can't we talk to him face to face instead of grumbling around corners and complaining behind closed doors? Why don't we just out with it and tell Him directly that we have a problem with what He's doing in our lives and I guarantee He will answer. I know every time I talked to God about a problem He helped me understand that He had it all under control and I could stop worrying. I think we could all stand to talk to God about our problems a little more often!

       Alright, and that's the end of my lecture today. I want to close with a selection from Handel's great oratorio Messiah. You know, this is one of the greatest works in all of music history and people over play it at Christmas time and never perform it on any other occasion...rather sad, really, when this is a work for all seasons. Anyhow, I've been thoroughly enjoying it recently. I think this is the only complete work of music which I can completely mouth the words and get the timing right's kind of funny actually! Most people are bouncing along in their cars mouthing the words to Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran's songs, while I'm mouthing the words to Handel's Messiah. It's way more fun since it's far more complicated, it keeps me working...I never get bored with Messiah. ;)
     Okay, all that aside, the Messiah selection I want to share with you is the very first aria in the oratorio, Comfort Ye and Every Valley. The words come directly from Scripture and are God's own assurance to us that no matter how unusual and turbulent our lives seem, He is working it out for great good.

      This aria just makes my heart melt...I love this part and what a great opening. Because I have this memorized word for word and note for note, and everyone performs it a little differently it took me a while to find a version I liked, even this one isn't perfect, too much deviation from the actual notes in my opinion, too many soloists endeavor to show off at every opportunity, however, I hope you enjoyed it anyway.

      Comfort Ye, My people. Saith your God. Speak Ye Comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God... Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low; the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.

       Let us all take comfort in this promise, when life isn't the way we want it to be and, as always, let us give thanks!

      ~ Christianna