Sunday, December 29, 2019

O Little Town of Bethlehem

O Little Town of Bethlehem
By: Phillips Brooks

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 holy birth, 
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!

How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv'n!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heav'n.
No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, 
Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.

O holy child of Bethlehem! Descend to us, we pray;
Cast our 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 Immanuel!

 The author of this familiar hymn, Phillips Brooks, was born in Boston on December 13, 1835. At an early age, he showed interest in the things of the church, especially the hymns that were sung each week. By the time he entered college, he had memorized all the verses to over 200 hymns. In 1859, at age twenty-four, Phillips was ordained in the Episcopal church. As he began preaching after his training at Harvard, Phillips often used quotations from hymns in his sermons. A few years after preaching at the Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia, Phillips took a trip to the Holy Land. On December 24, 1865, he rode on horseback from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to attend a five hour Christmas Eve service. He listened to the Scripture readings, prayers, and hymns of praise. Later, he said, "I remember standing in the old church in Bethlehem, close to the spot where Jesus was born, when the whole church was ringing hour after hour with splendid praise to God, how again and again it seems as if I could hear voices I knew well, telling each other of the wonderful night of the Saviour's birth."  Three years after his trip, Phillips was preparing for the Christmas season of 1867. He wanted to compose an original Christmas hymn for the children to sing during their Christmas program. Recalling that night in Bethlehem, he wrote four stanzas of the poem and gave them to the church organist, Lewis Redner. Phillips told him, "Lewis, why not write a new tune for my poem. If it is a good tune, I will name it 'St. Lewis' after you." Lewis struggled to come up with a satisfactory melody for Phillips poem. The night before the children's program, he awoke from his sleep, hastily jotted down the notes of a tune, went back to sleep, and completed the harmony the next morning. That day, a group of six Sunday school teachers and thirty-six children of Holy Trinity Church sang "O Little Town of Bethlehem" for the first time.

"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah,  yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."
~Micah 5:2

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas!

 Merry Christmas!

I hope you have a joyful day celebrating the coming of our Saviour to the earth.

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
~Matthew 1:22-23



Wednesday, December 18, 2019

God's Hostage - Book Review

About the book:
In 1993, Andrew Brunson was asked to move to Turkey, the largest unevangelized country in the world, to serve as a missionary. Though reluctant at first because of the daunting task that lay ahead, Andrew and his wife, Norine, became convinced this was God's plan for them.
What followed was a string of difficulties and threats, but there were also successes in starting new churches in a place where many people had never met a Christian. As their work with refugees from Syria, including Kurds, gained attention and suspicion, Andrew and Norine acknowledged the threat but accepted the risk, confident that this work was part of their assignment. 
In 2016, they were arrested. Though the state quickly released Norine, who remained in Turkey, Andrew was imprisoned. Accused of being a spy and being among the plotters of an attempted coup, he became a political pawn whose name was soon known around the world. 
"God's Hostage" is the incredible true story of his imprisonment, his brokenness, his faithfulness...and his freedom.  

My thoughts:  
This book was very interesting. At first, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Many of the books I have read about persecution and imprisonment include gory details. But even though Andrew Brunson was imprisoned in Turkey for being a Christian, he wasn't physically abused or beaten. The author describes his time in prison, how he became so spiritually weak, and how many people fought for his release. He describes how often he was so spiritually weak from the attacks of the devil and of the evil people around him. Christians all around the world were continuously praying for him and for the spiritually dark country of Turkey. Though he wanted to give up living several times, God brought him through that trial. Mr. Brunson recognized that even though he was not in the best of situations, God could still use him for his glory, even if Mr. Brunson could not see how at that time.

 I received a free copy of this book from Baker Books in exchange for a review. 

Psalm 62:5-6
"My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved." 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Stories Behind the Songs & Hymns About Heaven ~ Book Review

About the book:
Behind every song is a story...
In times of doubt, fear, and loss, we turn to the songs and hymns that remind us that this world is not all there is - that what awaits us as followers of Jesus is a heavenly kingdom. Songs like "Face to Face," "Amazing Grace," "Victory in Jesus," and "I'll Fly Away" were written amid circumstances of great personal pain in the lives of the songwriters. In sharing their stories, we can find even more comfort in our own circumstances. 
Award-winning author Ace Collins offers this collection of thirty inspiring true stories that provide hope for this world and insight into the next, painting a picture of eternal life filled with joy, peace, and happy reunions. Perfect for music lovers, pastors, hospice workers, counselors, and all of us who have lost someone we loved. 

My thoughts: 
I love hymns, and I love reading stories behind them. There were many familiar hymns in this book as well as some not-so-familiar hymns, such as the spiritual negro songs. Countless number of hymns were penned during a difficulty or trial in the author's life, and the God-honoring words they were able to pen during such a time are an inspiration. Every song has a message, and in singing a hymn so often, sometimes we don't stop to think about the words. Reading the lyrics and the story behind them helps us remember why it was written and what the message truly is. Not all of the stories had messages I agreed with, but this was a great read. Also, not all of the hymns have the lyrics included, but the reader can certainly search for the words online.

*I received a free copy of this book from BakerBooks in exchange for a review.*

Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.