Day 12/12: Amazing Grace (Christmas Songs countdown)

As we celebrate Christmas Eve today, I thought it appropriate that the final Christmas song be an expression of the grace that comes wrapped up in the gift of Christ. This is “Amazing Grace” performed by Human Nature. Merry Christmas to you all!!


Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear

The hour I first believed.

Amazing grace, amazing grace…
Amazing grace
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace
Amazing grace… amazing grace…
Amazing grace…
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Amazing Grace… amazing grace…
Amazing grace… amazing grace…
Was blind, but now I see

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Day 11/12: Mary did you know?

This song seems to divide people (into those who dislike it and those who love it). I’m somewhere in the middle regarding the lyrics. But this arrangement by the Pentatonix has such drama and beautiful harmony, it is definitely worth a listen.

And in answer to the question, did Mary know? The short answer is yes, in some small measure, she did know who Christ would be and what he would do (see Luke 1:46-55 for details). No doubt the reality was both much worse and much better!

Mary, Did you know?

Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you
Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God

Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know?

Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know?
The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb
Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect lamb?
That sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am
Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know?

Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Oh

Mary did you know?

Songwriters: Buddy Greene / Mark Lowry
Mary, Did You Know? lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Capitol Christian Music Group

Day 10/12: Christmas changes everything (Josh Wilson)

O Holy night, starry sky
We were dead until tonight
Christmas changes everything
Long lay the world inside our sin
He has come here to forgive
Christmas changes everything
[Chorus]
Hallelujah, love has found us
Hope in a manger our Saviour is setting us free
This is rescue, Christ has come to make us new
Oh Christmas changes everything
Now God has met us where we are
A thrill of hope for hopeless hearts
His perfect love will shatter every fear
We’re coming back to life again
And it’s all because of Bethlehem
Rejoice, oh rejoice!
[Chorus]
Hallelujah, love has found us
Hope in a manger our Saviour is setting us free
This is rescue, Christ has come to make us new
Oh Christmas changes everything
We will fall on our knees
We will fall on our knees
We will fall on our knees
O Holy night, holy child
We were dead till you came to life
[Chorus]
Hallelujah, you have found us
Hope in a manger, oh Saviour we fall on our knees
You are rescue, you are making all things new
Oh Christmas changes everything
Yeah Christmas changes everything
Christmas changes everything.

Day 9/12: The bells of Christmas

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men
And the bells are ringing (peace on earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (peace on earth)
In my heart I hear them (peace on earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men
And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men
But the bells are ringing (peace on earth)
Like a choir singing (peace on earth)
Does anybody hear them? (peace on earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men
Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor does he sleep (peace on earth, peace on earth)
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men
Then ringing singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men
And the bells they’re ringing (peace on earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (peace on earth)
And with our hearts we’ll hear them (peace on earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men
Do you hear the bells they’re ringing? (peace on earth)
The life the angels singing (peace on earth)
Open up your heart and hear them (peace on earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men
Peace on earth, peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men

Songwriters: John Mark Hall / Dale Oliver / Bernie Herms

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Capitol Christian Music Group

Songwriters: John Mark Hall / Dale Oliver / Bernie Herms

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Capitol Christian Music Group

Songwriters: John Mark Hall / Dale Oliver / Bernie Herms
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Capitol Christian Music Group

Day 6/12: Heaven Everywhere (Christmas songs Countdown)

Here is a cheery song which reminds us that Christmas brings a sense of hope: we truly can be the selfless people we were designed to be, as we turn our eyes from ourselves and become just a little kinder and more generous towards our fellow humans. There is a little bit of ‘Heaven Everywhere’ at Christmas. The song is from Francesca Batistelli’s 2012 ‘Christmas‘ album.

Heaven Everywhere

I hear the bells, they’re ringing loud and clear
You can’t help but love this time of year
It’s Christmastime, there’s something in the air
There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere

Somehow there’s a little more of love
And maybe there’s a little less of us
Or maybe we’re just slightly more aware
There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere

It’s the smile on a man who has finally found hope
It’s the tears of a mother whose child has come home
It’s the joy that we feel and the love that we share
There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere
There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere

It’s funny how it takes a holiday
To show us how the world could truly change
If we all took the time to really care
There’d be a little more of heaven everywhere

It’s the smile on a man who has finally found hope
It’s the tears of a mother whose child has come home
It’s the joy that we feel and the love that we share
There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere
There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere
It’s the grace that we show to a world that needs hope
It’s giving our lives knowing they’re not our own
It’s the joy that we feel and the love that we share
There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere
There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere
Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plain
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains
Hallelujah, halleljuah

It’s the joy that we feel and the love that we share
There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere
There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere
There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere
Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plain

Songwriters: Ben Glover / Francesca Battistelli

Heaven Everywhere lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Capitol Christian Music Group

The glory of Christmas is Christ!

I just commissioned this Christmas card design, featuring a line from Matt Redman’s ‘O Little Town/Glory of Christmas’. Thanks to my daughter Emily, you can buy yours here:

https://www.redbubble.com/people/emilyrdesign/works/29091114-glory-of-christmas-card?p=greeting-card

What we’re singing this Easter

Today a good friend asked me what songs were on our music roster for next weekend. It then struck me that it might be a useful list to share more widely. Here it is. I’d love to hear what your church is singing . . . and where in the world you are. Please comment!

GOOD FRIDAY

Glories of Calvary (Sovereign Grace)

Man of Sorrows (Hillsong)

Behold the Lamb (Getty)

The Power of the Cross (Getty)

EASTER SUNDAY

The Father’s Love (Sovereign Grace)

Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed (Getty)

Grace has now appeared (EMU)

How deep the Father’s Love (Townend)

Here is the Spotify playlist

More Than A Birthday Party For Jesus? 

away-in-a-manger-king-size-bed-jesus

What can worship leaders, pastors and creative leaders do to help Christians experience the ‘true meaning’ of Christmas? http://worshipsessions.com.au/site/teaching

Christmas can be a stressful time of year, and Christians are not immune to the pressures and demands of this season. Many Christians find it difficult to significantly engage with Christmas on a spiritual level. Have you ever heard a Christian say “it just doesn’t feel like Christmas?”

The Christian experience of Christmas should be much richer, more distinct and more meaningful than the Christmas experience promoted across our culture. But for this to happen, Christmas must become more than just a birthday party for Jesus and a time for family reunions.

For Christians to gain a deeper and richer appreciation for the Christmas season as a Christian event (rather than just a cultural one) we must take a step back and look at Christmas in the broader context of the historical Christian calendar.

For centuries believers have followed the Christian Year as part of their spiritual formation and discipleship. According to this ancient tradition, Christmas was celebrated as a twelve-day feast, not just a one-day event. This celebration was the culmination of four weeks of spiritual preparation and anticipation known as Advent.

The well-known Internet Monk blogger Michael Spencer illustrates the difference between Advent and Christmas. He says, “Christmas is joyous, but the joy comes after weeks of waiting, watching, lamenting and calling upon God. Advent is that season of waiting; of looking for the signs and promises of the Saviour in the Scriptures and in the world.”1

I believe that rediscovering the spiritual rhythm and preparation of Advent will help Christians experience the true meaning of Christmas.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas – when our culture is shouting at us to “spend!” “buy!” and “consume!” – the season of Advent teaches us to slow down and reflect on God’s story and our place in it, it teaches us patience, and cultivates within us a child-like sense of anticipation and longing. Advent does this by helping us to remember the historical silence of the Scriptures between the Old and New Testaments and the expectation of a soon-coming Messiah. Advent also helps us to anticipate Jesus’ future return and the eventual completion of His work in redeeming and renewing all of Creation.

Advent spirituality is about recognising that we are living in the “now, but not yet…” between the inauguration and fulfilment, between promise and completion. During Advent, the words of John the Baptist ring in our ears “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him,”2 as we eagerly await the Messiah’s return. For Christians, Advent is a time for spiritual preparation, reflection and repentance, which directly opposes our culture’s penchant for busy-ness, over-spending and over-indulgence in the lead up to Christmas.

Christmas is more than just a celebration of Christ’s arrival. In the light of Advent, Christmas becomes the fulfilment of the expectation that builds throughout the Advent season. At Christmas, we remember that God broke through into our earthly dimension. Through His birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection, Jesus Christ worked to restore the earth and all creation from within, according to God’s good plan and purpose. Our response as His followers is to join with Him, today and every day, in His ongoing work of restoring the world unto Himself, until the day that He returns.3

In this way, Christmas calls us to a tangible response as followers of Jesus: to live out ‘incarnational spirituality’4 – an expression of Christian faith that embodies the life of Christ into the world in which we live. The prayer of the Christmas season is “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”5 It is a reminder that “the work of restoring creation has begun,”6 and that we are called to join in that work, empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit.

By understanding and integrating these historically important Christian ideas into worship gatherings leading up to Christmas, worship leaders and pastors can help those they lead to discover a deeper and more significant Christmas spirituality. That is, where faith overflows into tangible and intentional expressions of incarnational Christianity – a faith that is in the world but not of it.

Worship leaders and songwriters can help their communities experience Advent by choosing and writing songs, prayers and using language that focuses on the expectation of Christ’s coming; and saving the celebration of his arrival until Christmas Day.

Worship leaders can research, read and learn more about the seasons of Advent and Christmas in order to help their congregations wrap their Christmas experience around God’s story, not the story of commerce, culture and consumption.7

As worship leaders and creative influencers, we have the opportunity to shape the ways in which our worshipping communities experience Christmas, and ultimately influence the kind of Christianity the live out between Sundays. As we learn and immerse ourselves in the rich meaning of the “Christian Year” and prayerfully contextualise the themes and ideas of these seasons into our worship gatherings, I believe that Christmas can once again become a primarily Christian event in our churches – one that encourages us in our faith and empowers us in our witness as we remember, experience and live out the Truth of Christmas.

Ryan Day is the Worship Pastor at Gymea Baptist Church
www.gymeabaptist.org.au   www.ryanday.com.au

References:
1.      Spencer, Michael; http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/imonk-classic-michael-spencer-helps-us-prepare-for-advent (Accessed on 1 December 2011)
2.      Matthew 3:3b (See also John 1:23 and Isaiah 40:3) (NIV)
3.      For a balanced and insightful look at the role of Christians as restorers, see “The Next Christians” (DoubleDay Publishing, 2010) by Gabe Lyons.
4.      Webber, Robert “Ancient-Future Time”, Baker Books (Grand Rapids, MI), 2004, page 61-71.
5.      Matthew 6:10 (NIV)
6.      Webber, page 61
7.      Robert Webber’s book “Ancient-Future Time” would be a great introduction to understanding Advent, Christmas and the entire Christian calendar.

THIS ARTICLE CAME FROM http://worshipsessions.com.au/site/teaching

Songs of the Saved

IMAG3748_1 (1)Sharing today my two favourite songs from Emu Music‘s most recent album Songs of the Saved.
(You can listen to the album on Spotify). Both these songs would probably be good for a congregation to sing. I’m particularly keen on introducing Risen asap. It has such a triumphant chorus and bridge – and much encouragement! Blessings to you in your ministry.

Track 10: Risen 

1. When I am weak you are strong
When I am poor you are rich
When I am on my knees you are with me

2. When I lay down calm my fears
Death has no power you are near
Jesus my Lord will save
Jesus, you conquered the grave

Chorus
Jesus, you are our Saviour
Mighty, death has no hold
Risen, reigning forever
Jesus, you conquered the grave

3. Trumpets will sound, we will rise
Ashes and dust glorified
Never to die again
Never stop singing his praise

Bridge
You are wonderful, you are powerful
You are glorious, Jesus
You are wonderful, you are powerful
You are glorious, Jesus

© 2014 Michael Morrow, Philip Percival & Simone Richardson

Track 3: Rock of our Salvation

1. Have you heard the day is coming?
When the things our hearts have loved –
Dust and ashes ever-failing –
Will be seen for what they are

2. Can you hear a voice now calling?
Saying, “This is not the end
Come and walk new ways of blessing
And sing a new song to our Lord”

He’s the rock of our salvation
We will trust and be not afraid
He’s the sure and firm foundation
When every other ground gives way

3. Have you heard the condemnation?
Who could pay the dreadful price?
But, look, the silent suffering servant
Took on death to give us life!

4. Can you hear the voice of splendour?
Calling out “whom shall I send
To be a light to every nation?”
“Send me Lord God, here I am!”

The former things will be forgotten
A new creation descends at last
All fear and loss will be no more
All grief and sorrow and tears will pass

Mountains and trees will clap their hands
We’ll enter Zion with songs of joy
And every eye will see his glory
Our king exalted forevermore

He’s the Rock of our Salvation
Soon our hearts will be renewed
Crowned in everlasting gladness
And Jesus’ splendour fills our view

© 2013 Liv Chapman & Gavin Perkins

 

 

Sentimentalizing, Sanitizing, and Spiritualizing Christmas | Worship Matters

Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

Here is an excellent description of three possible ways to celebrate Christmas – and the consequences of each. Praying your Christmas celebrations are both merry and meaningful. God is with us – Emmanuel! Blessings to you this Christmas!

“It’s difficult, if not impossible, to overstate the significance of the Incarnation.

Writers, philosophers, poets, and composers through the centuries have searched in vain for words that adequately capture the wonder, mystery, beauty, and power of Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us.

The miracle and meaning of the Incarnation can be so difficult to grasp that we can give up and start to view Christmas in ways that leave us impoverished and unimpressed with the real story. Even in the church our songs and reflections about about Christmas can fail to leave people gasping in amazement or humbled in awe that God would come to dwell among us.

Sometimes we sentimentalize Christmas.
Sentimentalism is focusing on the sights, sounds, and smells of Christmas that give us good feelings. Dazzling decorations, fresh baked sugar cookies, poinsettias, family get-togethers, gift shopping, twinkling lights, Christmas carols, cards from friends, tree-cutting expeditions, wrapping presents. Of course, all these Christmas traditions are an expression of common grace, for which we can joyfully thank God. My family has developed a few of our own over 30+ years and I look forward to them every year. But man-made traditions aren’t the whole story, or even the main story of Christmas, and they fail to solve our deepest problems or fulfill our deepest needs.

Sometimes we sanitize Christmas.
We sanitize Christmas when we only present a picture-perfect, storybook rendition of what took place in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. Kind of like the picture above. The straw in the manger is fresh and clean. There’s no umbilical cord to cut and no blood. It’s a “silent night.” The surroundings are strangely free from the pungent odor of manure. Joseph and Mary are calm, cool, and collected. Everyone gets a good night’s sleep. There’s no controversy or gossip surrounding the birth. It’s a pleasant, appealing way to think about Christmas, but obscures the foulness, uncertainty, and sin that Jesus was born into. We forget that rather than coming for the put-together, well-to-do, and self-sufficient, Jesus identified with the rejected, the slandered, the helpless, and the poor.

Sometimes we spiritualize Christmas.
Spiritualizing Christmas is ignoring Christmas as earth-shattering history and using it simply to promote general virtues like brotherhood, peace, joy, generosity, and love. And tolerance, of course. Again, it’s evidence of God’s common grace and a reason to give thanks that our culture sets aside a time of year, however commercialized it might be, to celebrate and commend loving your neighbor. But the fruit of Christmas is impossible to achieve or sustain apart from the root. We understand what love is by looking not to ourselves and our good deeds, but by considering Jesus, who came into the world to lay down his life for us (1 John 3:16). Preaching or singing about peace without recognizing our need for the Prince of Peace is a shallow peace indeed.

By this time, most of us have already made our choices about what Christmas means to us and how we’re going to present it to others. But Christmas comes every year. And it’s not too early to start thinking about next year.

More importantly, the glory of God becoming man was never meant to be marginalized to a few weeks. It means something cataclysmic every day.

  • Jesus, the eternal Son of God who before time was worshiped by countless angels, set aside his glory and entered the world through the birth canal of a young woman he had created.
  • He came not into a 21st century environment with trained doctors, sterilized instruments and fetal monitors, but into a 1st century cave filled with flies, animal excrement, and filth.
  • The fullness of deity took of residence in the body of a baby gasping for its first breath.
  • The one who spoke the universe into existence lay silent, unable to utter a word.
  • He came by choice and with the sole intention of redeeming a fallen and rebellious race through his perfect obedience, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection.

If we have the privilege of leading others in corporate worship at Christmas, let’s be sure to help them understand why nothing is more wonderful about Christmas than Christ himself.

God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,
Begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. (Nicene Creed)

The incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God entered our world. In one sense, indeed, He was not far from it before, for no part of creation had ever been without Him Who, while ever abiding in union with the Father, yet fills all things that are. But now He entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us. (Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word)

He deigns in flesh t’appear, widest extremes to join;
To bring our vileness near, and make us all divine:
And we the life of God shall know, for God is manifest below. (Charles Wesley)

The Son of God descended miraculously from heaven, yet without abandoning heaven; was pleased to be conceived miraculously in the Virgin’s womb, to live on the earth, and hang upon the cross, and yet always filled the world as from the beginning. (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II, xiii, 4)

See the eternal Son of God, immortal Son of Man,
Now dwelling in an earthly clod whom Heaven cannot contain!
Stand amazed, ye heavens, look at this! See the Lord of earth and skies
Low humbled to the dust He is, and in a manger lies! (Charles Wesley)

Herein is wisdom; when I was undone, with no will to return to him,
and no intellect to devise recovery, he came,
God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me. (The Valley of Vision)

As He sleeps upon the hay, He holds the moon and stars in place
Though born an infant He remains the sovereign God of endless days (God Made Low)

And who would have dreamed or ever foreseen that we could hold God in our hands?
The Giver of Life is born in the night, revealing God’s glorious plan
To save the world (Who Would Have Dreamed)

Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. (Charles Wesley)

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Jn. 1:14

O come, let us adore him.”

by Bob Kauflin

http://www.worshipmatters.com/2014/12/18/from-the-archives-sentimentalizing-sanitizing-and-spiritualizing-christmas-2