“The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David.”
In December, there was always Christmas music playing in our home. My Mom loved listening to her Perry Como, Andy Williams, and Burl Ives Christmas albums on the family stereo. When music wasn’t playing on the turntable, Mom would be singing “Up on the Rooftop,” or “Here Comes Santa Clause.” Remembering her singing is one of my favorite Christmas memories.
At church we sang Christmas carols, but my favorite time would be the Christmas Eve service and singing Silent Night.
My grandparents and Aunt always visited for Christmas and we attended the service together. It would end with the lighting of small white candles held in the hands of attendees as we all sang Silent Night.
I would stand beside my aunt as the familiar carol began and I would hear her sweet singing voice. As the song progressed my aunt would harmonize with the melody and my heart would swell with joy because it was my favorite holiday, spent with those I loved. As the song came to a close, we would blow out our candles and exit the church in silence, walking down the sidewalk lit by luminaries. It was a special time.
In 1816, the words to the carol we now know as Silent Night were written by an Austrian priest by the name of Joseph Mohr. Two years later, Franz Gruber, the church’s organist, put music to Mohr’s poem and the song, “Stille Nacht” was born. The two men performed the song, accompanied by guitar, for the first time during a Christmas midnight mass at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria.
As the story goes, an organ repairman, Karl Mauracher, was called to repair the organ at St. Nicholas. (The organ being in disrepair was perhaps the reason the song was first sung with guitar accompaniment.) The repairman heard the song and took it back to his hometown of Tyrol, where he shared it with a group of singing sisters, known as the Strassers. The Strasser sisters began singing the song in their performances as they traveled. The carol soon became popular in German-speaking countries. As Germans immigrated to the United States, they brought the song with them. The song was first performed in the U.S. in New York’s Central Park by another singing group of sisters, the Rainer family, in 1839.
It would be hard for me to imagine Christmas without this familiar carol. Growing up in my family’s home, I would always sneak away from the rest of the family at some point on Christmas Eve before it was time for bed. I would go and sit in silence and look at our pretty Christmas tree, all lit up, the only lights in the room. When I married and had a family of my own, I continued this little tradition. Just a few quiet moments, silently looking at the Christmas tree lights, thinking about God’s goodness and Him sending His son, Jesus, all those years ago. He rent the heavens and love’s pure light came down on a silent or maybe even a not-so-silent night, just for you and me. Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born!
A Chant Sublime
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.”
On Christmas Day in 1863, as the American Civil war raged throughout the land, a poet by the name of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow found himself momentarily captivated by the music ringing out from the belfry of the local church. For years Longfellow had been living in a season of personal heartache. First, he experienced the tragic death of his beloved wife, then came the bleakness of a nation at war and then most recently, Longfellow became a caregiver to his son who was seriously injured in battle. All of this despair had taken a toll on the famous poet and he was emotionally and creatively drained. In fact, it had been years since Longfellow had been inspired to write anything new. But, on that Christmas day, when his focus shifted from the distractions of this world to the sublime sound of the bells ringing out, Longfellow sat down and penned the poem, “Christmas Bells”, which would eventually be converted into the carol, “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day”.
What is captivating your attention this Christmas season? Perhaps like Longfellow, you’ve been living in a time of great despair. Maybe you’ve been coping with a loss or affected by a serious illness, maybe you’re struggling financially or dealing with a wayward child or a broken marriage. Or perhaps, maybe everything is going great for you and you’re grateful to be healthy and able to enjoy all of the festivities that this time of year brings. In either case, let me ask again, what is captivating your attention this Christmas season?
What we choose to focus on matters. Especially now when so many things are competing for our attention. Think about the difference between Martha and Mary in Luke 10. Martha was missing out on Christ because she was so busy being “worried and upset about many things”, while Mary sat captivated at his feet. We can become so distracted by the world that we miss out on the significance of Christ’s birth. We miss out on what the angels in Luke 2:14 proclaimed to the shepherds and what Longfellow described in his poem as “a chant sublime“: The sovereign provision of ‘peace on earth, goodwill to men’.
The restored peace with God that was promised to Adam and Eve in the garden was delivered to us in a manger on that first Christmas. The Prince of Peace came to earth in the form of a baby and through his perfect life, sacrificial death and victorious resurrection we have been reconciled to God. Our mighty Lord and Savior came to us; He willingly bound himself up in the weak flesh of an infant, so that we could one day be reunited with Him in heaven. The idea that a wretched person like myself can be so deeply loved and wanted by a perfectly holy God is mind blowing, it’s beautiful, it’s awe-inspiring, it’s…well, it’s sublime.
This year when the festivities and the personal situations tempt you to look away from the true meaning of Christmas, allow yourself to refocus on Christ. Let His gift of everlasting peace ring in your hearts so loudly that it drowns out the distractions of this world until you become completely captivated by what Jesus has done for you.
O Little Town of Bethlehem
“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”
Once again, the year has flown and somehow, we are already back to the month of December. Throughout this month, we will each be sharing some of our favorite Christmas carols. For me, Christmas music is my favorite part of the season, so it was tricky to pick out just one song. However, I finally chose “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” I love how the words throughout are very descriptive of what that night in Bethlehem would have been like, with phrases like, “How still we see Thee lie,” and “The silent stars go by.” It was a quiet city, without a lot of excitement. Except for Mary and Joseph, no one was expecting their Savior to be born that night. Yet what a beautiful thought that at Jesus’s first cry, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”
Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, Isaiah prophesied these words found in Isaiah 9:6: “For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” They were given the promise of the coming Messiah, however, they didn’t know how long they would have to wait for His arrival. I’m sure over the course of hundreds of years, they began to doubt if the prophecy was actually going to be fulfilled. When He was finally born, it was probably not how they would have envisioned a prince’s birth. As the song says, “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.” His arrival was not announced throughout a kingdom, but instead to lowly shepherds. Maybe they thought that He was going to be an earthly King, like David, and bring freedom and peace, not peace to their souls. Perhaps the Israelites were confused or disappointed in the way God’s promises came to be, losing trust that Jesus really was who He was prophesied to be.
Like the Israelites, there are times in our lives, where we know the promises filled throughout Scripture, and yet struggle with doubt as we wait to see how God fulfills those promises. We sometimes think we know what God’s plans will be and envision how He’s going to answer our prayers, instead of releasing control to Him and trusting His plan. Lastly, sometimes we can get confused or angry with God when He finally gives us the answer to our request, but it’s not what we wanted or expected.
We can know that even in the quietness, while we wait to see His plan unfold, He is working in our waiting. Just like the Israelites had to wait for the Messiah, He came when they least expected, and in a way they didn't envision, but it was God’s perfect timing and plan. Even in the waiting, God is working all things out for His glory and our good. We can trust that His plan is perfect, even when it doesn’t look like what we thought it would.
My precious husband, Bill, and I have been planted in Fort Myers, Florida for almost 35 years. As a newly married couple, God most graciously had placed people in both of our jobs to share Christ with us. Its hard to believe it has been almost 34 years since we asked Jesus into our hearts! Bill and I have been blessed with four children, 3 daughters, then a son. These blessings came quickly, all within 6 years!! During these years I'm so thankful I was able to be part of women's ministry classes at our church, helping me to grow in my walk with Him. Then came the day when I was asked that question that stretched me way outside of my comfort zone...will you teach a class? Its hard to believe that I have now been teaching more than 20 years. Bill and I love to travel, most of the time going to visit our 9 grandchildren, oh ya, and their parents! I also love reading, walking and hanging out with some very special young moms in Beloved that bless my socks off!
Julie is a Kansas girl who resides in sunny Southwest Florida. She's been married to her husband Sean for 23 years and they share two boys ages 21 & 17. She enjoys baking and biking, but her absolute favorite thing is snow skiing which is a little difficult to do in a sandy 80 degree land.
She became a follower of Christ at age 10. She loves studying and teaching God's Word. She has a passion for encouraging moms to love and follow Jesus.
Beth grew up in a loving home; however, in her early 20s she faced a very lonely time. During that time, she cried out to God and asked “If You are real, please show yourself to me!” God met her where she was and she trusted in the Lord Jesus at that time. Her life verse and desire is “no matter what happens, to conduct herself in a manner worthy of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27
Beth now resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband Larry. The Lord has blessed them by blending their family of five children. They currently have eight grandchildren and are hoping that there will be more grandchildren in the future.
Donna accepted Jesus as her Savior at the age of nine and has been amazed at God’s goodness and faithfulness throughout her life. She has been blessed to have had many mentors through each season of life, who have shown her what trusting God looks like. Donna and her husband, Bryan, make their home in central Arkansas. They have five grown children and are grandparents to wonderful grandchildren. Donna enjoys spending time with her family, laughing with friends (usually over coffee), going for long walks with her husband, and reading a good book (which may also be accompanied by a cup of coffee).
Sarah is a true Florida Cracker. She was born and raised in Southwest Florida. At the age of 6, Sarah accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior, and she hasn't looked back since. Hebrews 13:8 is one of her favorite verses, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Eating delicious desserts, spending time with her family and friends, and teaching people about Jesus are a few of the things she enjoys to do in her spare time.
Sarah has been married to her best friend and husband, Brandon, for 7 years. They have been blessed with one beautiful, determined son, Asher, who keeps them on their toes. Sarah and her family live in the Tampa area. They love exploring their community together, family hugs, and eating pizza whenever possible.
Katie Flint just recently moved back home to Fort Myers, Florida with her husband, Ryan and two children, Collins and Madden. At the age of 5, Katie accepted Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of her life, after attending Vacation Bible School. Through each phase of her life, God has shown her that He alone is trustworthy. The verse that has been her life source is Psalm 46:10- “Be still and know that I am God.”
She is a stay-at-home mom and enjoys exercising and baking. She has been married to her husband Ryan for almost 9 years, who is her high school sweetheart. They enjoy trying new restaurants, family trips to the beach, and relaxing at home.
Marsha grew up in a small rural town in upstate New York. In 2006, after finishing college, she moved to sunny SW Florida where she met her, now husband, Shawn. Together they enjoy spending family time with their two fun-loving toddler boys Zachariah and Kairos.
Marsha enjoys living an active lifestyle, which is helpful, considering that her favorite hobby is baking.
Though she attended church as a child, Marsha was not saved until adulthood when her eyes were finally opened to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Since being saved, God has placed a loving burden on her heart to share the truth about God’s healing grace with those who may feel like forgiveness is not possible for them.