Christmas Lists

Read: John 15:1-17

With the coming of the internet and purchases on Amazon the online Christmas list has become a popular thing.  Family and friends can make lists of things they want for Christmas and share it with others who might want to get that item for them. It is handy, it is convenient; but I wonder if it encourages us to focus on the material things even more than we did before.  I can find a lot of things on Amazon that I would like to have, but do I really need them?

It is fun to give and receive gifts during Christmas.  I don’t want to be a Mr. Scrooge about those things. But at the same time we must take note of how much that part of Christmas becomes our focus.  As children we loved the idea of gifts under the tree and waking up on Christmas morning to open them together. I suppose as adults we still enjoy that as well.  But what kind of list would best reflect the Savior we celebrate on Christmas day?

Some years ago Amy Grant sang a Christmas song that puts those thoughts into words.  Her song “Grown Up Christmas List” went like this… “So here’s my lifelong wish, my grown-up Christmas list, not for myself, but for a world in need:  No more lives torn apart, that wars would never start, and time would heal all hearts. And every one would have a friend, and right would always win, and love would never end, this is my grown up Christmas list.”  Before she repeats this chorus again she sings… “Well, heaven surely knows, that packages and bows, can never heal a hurting human soul.”

As you think about your own Christmas list this year try to remember others as well.  In John 15 Jesus speaks of the vine and the branches. He talks about loving others as he has loved us.  In verse 17 he ends by saying, “This is my command: Love each other.” We can show our love through material gifts but we can also show our love through gifts that are from the heart.  Who, how, and what is God calling you to this Christmas?

Make it Personal:  With the convenience of Amazon and other store websites we can ship gifts to anyone at any place in the world.  How cool would it be to surprise someone with a gift that shows up at their door unexpected this Christmas? How can you “Love each other” this Christmas?

 Have a Merry Christmas, Pastor Glen Rhodes

Silent Night, Holy Night

Read: Luke 2

One of the best known Christmas songs of all time is Silent Night.  There are different versions of this story about how the song was born, but as we welcome this Christmas season in here is how that beloved song came to be such an important part of our Christmas celebrations….

In 1818, a roving band of actors was performing in towns throughout the Austrian Alps. On December 23 they arrived at Oberndorf, a village near Salzburg where they were to re-enact the story of Christ’s birth in the small Church of St. Nicholas.  Unfortunately, the St. Nicholas’ church organ wasn’t working and would not be repaired before Christmas. Because the church organ was out of commission, the actors presented their Christmas drama in a private home. 

That Christmas presentation of the events in the first chapters of Matthew and Luke put assistant pastor Josef Mohr in a meditative mood. Instead of walking straight to his house that night, Mohr took a longer way home. The longer path took him up over a hill overlooking the village.  From that hilltop, Mohr looked down on the peaceful snow-covered village. Reveling in majestic silence of the wintry night, Mohr gazed down at the Christmas-card like scene. 

His thoughts about the Christmas play he had just seen made him remember a poem he had written a couple of years before. That poem was about the night when angels announced the birth of the long-awaited Messiah to shepherds on a hillside.  Mohr decided those words might make a good carol for his congregation the following evening at their Christmas eve service. The one problem was that he didn’t have any music to which that poem could be sung. 

So, the next day Mohr went to see the church organist, Franz Xaver Gruber. Gruber only had a few hours to come up with a melody which could be sung with a guitar. However, by that evening, Gruber had managed to compose a musical setting for the poem. It no longer mattered to Mohr and Gruber that their church organ was inoperable. They now had a Christmas carol that could be sung without that organ.  On Christmas Eve, the little Oberndorf congregation heard Gruber and Mohr sing their new composition to the accompaniment of Gruber’s guitar.

Weeks later, well-known organ builder Karl Mauracher arrived in Oberndorf to fix the organ in St. Nicholas church. When Mauracher finished, he stepped back to let Gruber test the instrument. When Gruber sat down, his fingers began playing the simple melody he had written for Mohr’s Christmas poem. Deeply impressed, Mauracher took copies of the music and words of “Silent Night” back to his own Alpine village, Kapfing. There, two well-known families of singers — the Rainers and the Strassers — heard it. Captivated by “Silent Night,” both groups put the new song into their Christmas season repertoire.

The Strasser sisters spread the carol across northern Europe. In 1834, they performed “Silent Night” for King Frederick William IV of Prussia. He then ordered his cathedral choir to sing it every Christmas eve.  Twenty years after “Silent Night” was written, the Rainers brought the song to the United States, singing it in German of New York City’s Trinity Church.

In 1863, nearly fifty years after being first sung in German, “Silent Night” was translated into English by either Jane Campbell or John Young. Eight years later, that English version made its way into print in Charles Hutchins’ Sunday School Hymnal. Today the words of “Silent Night” are sung around the world in in more than 300 different languages. (Story used from the Southern Nazarene University website)

Make it Personal:  What is your favorite Christmas hymn or song?  As you listen to Silent Night and the music of Christmas this year reflect on the words of Matthew and Luke that bring this story of the Messiah to the world.  And as you celebrate this year, celebrate the real reason for the season.

 Have a Merry Christmas, Pastor Glen Rhodes


Worship Wednesday

2 Corinthians 4:13-18
Matthew 6:19-24

Well, let’s see, after Thanksgiving Thursday last week we had Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday.  I’m kind of surprised they haven’t come up with something for Sunday. How about Go To Church Sunday? I can hear it now, “Churches all around the nation were so packed on Sunday that extra seating had to be brought in for the overflow crowds.”

It is interesting though how most of these designated days revolve around material things or the temporal things in life.  At least we end with Giving Tuesday, which is a positive way to wrap up all of our consumerism. But what about Wednesday, it needs a designation too.  How about we refocus everything and designate today as Worship Wednesday?

In 2 Corinthians 4 and Matthew 6 scripture speaks of storing up treasures in heaven instead of on earth. It speaks of fixing our eyes on what is unseen (eternal) instead of on what is currently seen (temporal).  Most of all these passages and others are reminding us that our worship of Jesus is the most important thing in life. And oh yes, He is why we celebrate all of this in the first place.

December is a month that is often busy, frantic, and stressful.  But it doesn’t have to be. If we focus our attention on Christ and the gift of our Savior instead of all the other designated things, we can more fully worship him and rest in the peace that he was born to bring to us.  Worship Wednesday may not catch on around the nation, but it could. It starts by you and I praising our Lord and Savior today.

Make it Personal:  What is something you can do today to worship Jesus?  Turn on some worship music or Christmas hymns, read your Bible, pray for peace and calm during this season, help out a neighbor or church friend in need, sit in silence and listen…. or what comes to your mind on this Worship Wednesday?

 Have a blessed week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

Thank You Notes

Read: Psalm 100

Some people are known for their thank you notes.  Through the years I have received some wonderful cards and notes of thanks from people.  Those thank you’s have encouraged me, uplifted me, and reminded me of the good people in this world.  Thanksgiving is a time in which we give thanks in many different ways. How will you give thanks this week?  Psalm 100 is a great place to start.

I thought it might be helpful this week to reflect on some quotes about thanksgiving from various well-known Christian leaders.  Hopefully these words will help us to truly give thanks this week.

“Even when life may be difficult, we should thank God for all He does for us, which we do not deserve.”  – Billy Graham

“In happy moments, praise God.  In difficult moments, seek God. In quiet moments, worship God.  In painful moments, trust God. In every moment, Thank God.” – Rick Warren

“God is in control, therefore in everything give thanks. Not because of the situation but because of the one who directs and rules over it.”   – Kay Arthur

“Gratitude comes from the same word as freedom (Gratis = Free).  Gratitude is the freeing expression of a free heart toward one who freely gave.”   – Ravi Zacharias

“When life is good and we have no problems, we can almost let ourselves believe we have no need for God.  But in my experience, sometimes the richest blessings come through pain and hard things.” – Anne Graham Lotz

“God doesn’t want us to just feel gratitude.  But for us to show it by giving thanks to God with our lives.”  – R.C. Sproul

Make it Personal:  How about you come up with your own Thanksgiving quote to add to these.  It’s sometimes helpful to think about what we would say if we were asked to summarize gratitude or a thankful heart.       

Have a great Thanksgiving, Pastor Glen Rhodes