Tag Archives: Christmas Music

Joseph: The Forgotten Character

When we think of the Christmas story, it seems we tend to forget the role that Joseph played in this historical event. We rightly focus on the baby Jesus, or often on His mother Mary. To be sure, Joseph is there in every nativity scene, but do we really comprehend the importance he plays in this story and what we can learn from him?

Mary knew beyond any doubt that she was a virgin and when she found herself pregnant she had no trouble believing that what the angel had told her was true. But Joseph had no such assurance. He had been told in a dream by an angel that Mary’s baby was the Son of God, but surely he had doubts. For Joseph to believe, he had to have faith and to trust God’s messenger as well as his new bride.

This afternoon I’ve been listening to Christmas music and wrapping presents to the smell of a rib roast in the slow cooker for Christmas Eve dinner. The song Joseph’s Lullaby by MercyMe came on and I found myself pondering the thought of Joseph accepting Jesus as the Son of God while at the same time treating the Holy Child as his own son.

Paul wrote to the Ephesian church, “In love he [God] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesians 1:5-6 (NIV). In the same way, Joseph adopted the baby Jesus as his son, even though he knew the child was not his. In faith, Joseph raised this miracle Child as his own, teaching Him the craft of a carpenter and the love of God. In all that Joseph did as the earthly father of Jesus, he glorified God the Father.

So this Christmas, let’s remember Joseph, the forgotten character of the story at the center of all history.

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Rejoice! He Ransomed Captive Israel!

I’ve been listening to the new Jeremy Camp Christmas Album, Christmas: God with Us, in my car this past week. He does one of my all time favorite Christmas songs: O Come O Come Emmanuel. Of course he does an awesome rendition. My son was with me in the car the other day when it was playing and he said, “I love the way he sings ‘Israel.’”

On a side note, my son and I were on our way to a Winter Orchestra Concert at his high school when he said this. I wasn’t thrilled about going because I didn’t expect any Christmas music at all. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed the whole show and they played some good old traditional Christmas songs, like Silent Night and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, as well as two songs from my favorite Charlie Brown Christmas (which I still need to watch this year). The reason was that the orchestra students were told to form small ensembles and to choose whatever they wanted to play. It was such a blessing to see so many of the kids choose some of my favorite Christmas songs.

Anyway, I thought I would share with you Jeremy Camp’s rendition of O Come O Come Emmanuel to get you in the Christmas spirit if you aren’t already. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

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We Were Gone Astray

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen was never one of my favorite Christmas songs, until a couple of years ago when Mercy Me came out with The Christmas Sessions album. Their rendition of this old classic is much more energetic than any I had ever heard before. I also love the back-up vocals that sound almost like a choir in the background.

As I listened to it this morning getting ready for work, I thought of one of my favorite verses from Isaiah:

Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way
;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:4-6 (NIV).

We all were gone astray and Satan had power over us. But then into the world came the Son of God, and the angels brought us tidings of comfort and joy. Now we are free from Satan’s power and can live instead in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a Merry Christmas, indeed!

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The Problem with Santa Claus

For many people, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa Claus. As soon as Thanksgiving is over, they start looking forward to Jolly Old St. Nick bringing presents to all the good little boys and girls. Every shopping mall has a Santa Claus waiting for long lines of children to sit on his lap and tell him what they want for Christmas. I’ve even known people whose only Christmas decorations in their homes are Santa themed.

Now I will admit that I have a few Santa Claus decorations and we do hang stockings to be opened on Christmas morning. We even label some family gifts as “from Santa.” The spirit of giving that surrounds Santa Claus—which started with the very first real St. Nicholas who gave presents to needy children—is wonderful.

But there is a problem with Santa Claus. The whole idea of a Jolly Old Elf bringing presents only to good boys and girls contradicts the Gospel message of Christmas. We are reminded in Christmas songs that Santa “knows if you’ve been bad or good,” and if you are bad all you get is a lump of coal.

This is the story of most major religions—that if we are good enough we will earn whatever it is we want most.

Jesus tells a different story. Immanuel, God with us, came because He loves us all whether we are good or bad. He offers salvation and eternal life to all. It’s a free gift and all we have to do is accept it to be on His list.

Santa’s list of who’s naughty and who’s nice might seem to work for making kids be good. But long ago God showed that the threat of punishment or withholding of blessings doesn’t work to make people do what is right. “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.” Romans 8:3 (NIV).

That is why for me Christmas isn’t Christmas without the Christ child and most of my Christmas decorations are nativity scenes. And my favorite Christmas songs aren’t about Santa Claus but are old standards like O Come O Come Emmanuel, O Holy Night, and Mary Did You Know?

Which is why today I want to share Jeremy Camp’s rendition of that last of these on his recently released Christmas CD.

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Silent Night, Holy Night

Tonight is Christmas Eve. It is the night of one of my favorite church services of the year because we get to sing Silent Night at our candlelight service. The growing glow of candlelight as each person lights the candle of the person next to them warms my heart and reminds me of how we can warm the hearts of others by sharing the Light of Christ with them.

I decided that for my post today I just wanted to share a video of this wonderful Christmas song. I found this beautiful version by Sixpence None the Richer, featuring Dave Haseltine of Jars of Clay. I loved the video story that goes with it, too.

As you listen and watch, I pray that the Light of Jesus warms your heart and brightens your world this Christmas Eve and always.

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8 Polish Foods of Christmas for Recipe Friday

I know I should post some sort of Christmas-related recipe for Recipe Friday, and the title of this post might have led you to believe that I had. But instead I want to share a funny little Christmas video that I love.

When my son was younger, he really loved Veggie Tales. They are wonderful Christian cartoons in which the characters are, as the name suggests, vegetables and fruits. Each episode and movie has a Biblical lesson wrapped in a lot of fun. If you have young children, I highly recommend Veggie Tales.

This clip really cracks me up, but I won’t give away the commentary that makes me laugh every time I hear it.

If anyone has a recipe for any of these Polish foods, please feel free to share in the comments. Merry Christmas!

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Remembering Why Christ Came

I can’t believe it is the last Monday before Christmas! That means it is my last Music Monday before Christmas Day. I thought it was going to be hard to pick just one more Christmas song that is in my one of my favorites to post about today, but a clear front runner has emerged over the past two weeks, as I heard it on one of the few Christmas CDs I have in my car and we sung it in church. It is God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

I love this song because not only does it tell of the Christ child coming into our midst, but it tells us why He came. He was born “to save us all from Satan’s power when we had gone astray.” It echoes one of my favorite passages in the book of Isaiah, one that we usually meditate on during the Easter season, but which is just as appropriate to consider during this season of Advent.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
   each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:5-6 (NIV).

We are very much like sheep. For those who don’t know much about sheep, let me just say that they are pretty stupid creatures. They will go their own way into harm’s way without a second thought. They need a shepherd to keep them safe. We are no different. Without our Good Shepherd, we will do things and go places that are not in our best interest, often into harm’s way. Obviously we are much more intelligent than sheep, and yet when it comes to choosing among multiple options, some of which are in our best interests and some of which are not, we often seem just as stupid as sheep.

Just as sheep are easily fooled by the lure of greener pastures away from the shepherd, so we can be easily fooled by Satan into what appear to be greener pastures. We are lured by wealth and fame, by fun and games, by the easy way out. The sheep venturing away from the shepherd is often eaten by wolves. When we venture away from the Shepherd we often find a similar fate of pain and sorrow.

But Jesus, our Good Shepherd, came so that we would be able to see through the lies of Satan and choose the better way, that we might know the comfort and joy of our Lord.

Here is a video of the MercyMe version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen that I have been listening to in my car. It is accompanied by a cool light show with someone’s Christmas lights.

 

I also like this instrumental version played on violin, piano, and ocarina, because my son plays the ocarina. (In fact, don’t tell him but I got him a new clay ocarina for Christmas).

 

As you listen to these beautiful renditions of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, or hear it somewhere else, or sing it in church, remember why Christ came. Remember that because He came, those who trust in Him have the power to overcome the lies and tricks of the evil one. We have the power to live a life that glorifies God.

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The Soul Felt Its Worth

I’ve been thinking all week about posting on my very favorite of all Christmas song – O Holy Night. It’s my favorite to sing in church and to listen to at Christmas time. There are quite a few good arrangements of this song available. MercyMe included a beautiful version on their Christmas Sessions CD. I decided to share this version with you all today.

My favorite lyrics of this song are: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining. Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.” I can so relate to this because before I knew Christ my soul did not know how much I was worth to God. But when He appeared in my life, I felt deep in my soul how much He loves me and how much I am worth to Him.

I also love the lyrics: “Fall on your knees. O hear the angel voices.” This is the response we all should have to an encounter with Christ. When we finally see Him face to face, I believe it will be impossible to do anything other than fall on our knees in worship and praise of His greatness. Even now, if we fully grasp who He is and what He has done for us, this will be our response.

I am so looking forward to the most Holy Night, that Night Divine, the most wonderful night of the year, when God comes near and we are reminded of His love lying in a manger.

It just occurred to me that my love of this song is consistent with one of my other favorite Christmas things, and that is nativity sets. I love to collect them and decorate with them for Christmas. I have six full set in my house, one in my yard (new this year that my hubby got at a garage sale last summer), plus quite a few other nativity based decorations and Christmas tree ornaments. Here is a picture of one that is very special to me because it was hand-painted by my mother-in-law for her mother-in-law (my husband’s grandmother), and she passed it on to me after grandma went home to be with the Lord.

I pray that you experience the wonder and joy of the Holy Night in which our Savior was born into this world that He might save us out of it, and redeem us from our sin and error. May you know the worth of your soul to the One who loves you so.

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Lots of Blue – My Tuesday Three

There are so many great Christmas songs, and I know I will never be able to share every one of my favorites this Christmas season. (I guess it’s okay to save some for next Christmas J).

Most of my favorites are religious Christmas songs (that seems a little redundant, but since there are so many non-religious, or secular, Christmas songs these days, it really isn’t). I’m not big on the “Santa Claus is coming to town” type of Christmas songs. But there are a few non-religious Christmas songs that I love. I wanted to reserve Music Mondays for my favorite religious ones, so decided that for My Tuesday Three today I would share three of my favorite non-religious ones.

One of my very favorite non-religious Christmas songs is “Pretty Paper” as sung by Willie Nelson. I know some people don’t like his voice and think he should stick to songwriting. This song, written by Willie Nelson, has been recorded by others. But I think he does the best rendition of this song that I have heard.

The reason I like it, even though it is a bit sad, is because it is a reminder that we need to take the focus off the busy-ness of Christmas, the rushing to and fro to buy presents for everyone, and remember those who are in need. We need to remember those who in the midst of the laughter sit alone and cry. Whenever I wrap presents in pretty paper and ribbons of blue I think of this song.

Another of my favorite non-religious Christmas songs is also a little sad and involves blue – “Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley. Many have recorded this sad tale of someone who is alone at Christmas, having lost the one they love, but the Elvis version is my favorite.

The reason I like it is that it is a reminder of what is most important at Christmas – next to Jesus, of course – and that is relationships. It is a reminder that spending Christmas with friends, family, and a special loved one is such a blessing.

My third favorite non-religious Christmas song doesn’t have anything to do with blue, and is the only one that mentions Santa. It is “Merry Christmas Baby” by Bruce Springsteen. This one was also recorded by Elvis, but I like the Springsteen version.

The reason I like this song is because it is a reminder that treating each other right is so important at Christmas time and always. (Oh, and for those of you who have never seen Bruce Springsteen in concert, don’t worry – that’s not people booing him at the end of the video – they are yelling “Bruuuuuuuuce.”)

I hope you enjoy these Christmas songs, that you remember those who are in need this Christmas, don’t have a blue Christmas, and always treat your loved ones right. Merry Christmas!

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O Come O Come Emmanuel

We are now in the season of Advent, a time of preparation for Christmas. I decided that for Music Monday during Advent and through the day after Christmas I want to share some of my favorite Christmas songs and why I like them.

The first Christmas song I want to share is “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” It is the perfect song to begin Advent because Advent is when we look forward to the coming of Emmanuel, God with us. I love this song because it reminds me of my favorite name for Jesus, which is Emmanuel. I am always awed by the thought that God would choose to come to earth as a human being, in the body of a little baby, to be with us.

I want to share two different versions. The first is a haunting instrumental version by Casting Crowns. Even though it doesn’t have the words, I can hear the words in my head when I listen to it.

The second version is by Jadon Lavik and is more upbeat, but just as beautiful. I first heard it on a CD of various artists that I bought last year.

I hope you will allow this beautiful song to prepare your heart for the coming of our Lord, both His first coming as a baby in a manger, and His second coming that is yet to be. Emmanuel came to be with you, to know you and that you might know Him. He came to ransom you and me just as He came to ransom captive Israel. He came to set the captives free.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14 (NIV).

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