Saturday, December 31, 2016

Cyber Greetings


I know that new technology and the Internet are to blame for many of the evils of society.  It is undeniable, however, that when used properly, they could be a huge blessing.  The Internet and all the information-age technological advances have allowed people to keep in touch with their loved ones in ways impossible before the dawn of this madness. 

In my personal experience, I have been able to go from only a hand-full of phone calls a year to daily communications with my sister and my niece (whom I consider my little sister, really).  Particularly, during the last two years, when our technologically savvy niece, Nicole, created a group chat in social-media/message app: WhatsApp, we have been able to remain in constant contact every day!  It has been a precious gift I have treasured with all my heart, and I truly praise God for the ability to keep in touch with my dear sisters through this technology with all my soul.

Today, I praise Him again, as we gather together in the chatroom of cyberspace to give thanks to the Almighty for a year that is ending in which we were able to get together and enjoy the riches of His blessings in different occasions.  As we see the curtain of 2016 close right in front of us, we send our greetings with the urgency of an impending end.  We try to pack in words to express all the love we feel and all the blessings we wish upon each other, regretting the fact that, once again, we are, literally worlds apart, but praising Him for giving us an alternative universe where, regardless of physical distance, it is possible to feel connected to those we love.

A message of peace…the kind of peace that transcends all understanding, travels through cyberspace straight to our hearts, and a hope of seeing each other again, very soon, keeps us standing. 

Happy New Year to all, near and far…may our hearts be merry and bright.  May good health flow abundantly and may peace cover us like a warm blanket every day in 2017 and always.

video

The Road Ahead


Yep…it is the last day of 2016…and as hard as that is to believe, it is true.  The entire year has gone by.  And I don’t know where it went.

For me, this is typically a day full of melancholic feelings.  I sit and ponder the things that went through during the days of the year that is closing and the inevitability of regret covers me in a blanket of guilt for lost opportunities and misused moments…but also, a sense of hope flickers, if ever so faintly inside of my soul…the hope of Jesus who extends His hand to us and says come as we see the long road ahead, filled with unknowns, anticipation, mixed emotions and a pinch of fear.

The Grace of Christ, Our Immanuel, opens wide right in front of us as we step into the new year.  And, even though we have NO clue of what may come, we trust, because we live by faith and not by sight.  Therefore, I hang on tightly to this truth, the truth of Jesus walking with me all along the way in order to I greet 2017 as an adventure to be excited about rather than as a painful road to be dreaded. 


I pray that the limitless mercies of Our Great God may be, indeed new every day in this new year and always.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Surrendering to God´s Will Part 2


The implications of the term “surrender” are pretty strong:

a :  to yield to the power, control, or possession of another upon compulsion or demand
b :  to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another
c :  to give (oneself) up into the power of another especially as a prisoner
d :  to give (oneself) over to something (as an influence)

It is no wonder that at the sound of the word, the human heart and soul tend to shudder.  However, as Christians, we are called to surrender to God.  We are called to surrender to God in perfect obedience…hence the problem…ever since the first time we were told to remain obedient to God´s Word, we failed (see exhibit A in Genesis: Adam and Eve).

Jesus tells us repeatedly in the Gospels to drop everything, even our own lives, and follow Him…but we hesitate…we don´t want to leave our loved ones behind.  We don´t want to give up our fortune or our possessions.  We don´t like the uncertainty of the unknown.  We like our comfort zone. 
The reality is, however, that the tighter we hold on to our lives, the less we become.  The only way to be who we are designed to be is to let go of our very own lives so we can regain our true selves:

Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. 
Matthew 10: 39

If we look at the different definitions of surrender, again, we see an element of loss…as in a war.  That is exactly what must happen within us in order to achieve true surrender to Our Lord.  We must wage a crude war within until we put to death self and yield control completely to the power of the One and Only God, the Lord Almighty. 


May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19: 14

Surrendering to God



As 2016 comes to a close, I can´t help but to look back, particularly at the word I picked to be the guiding word for this year that is now ending:  TRUST.  As I reflect on how much I allowed TRUST to guide my path in 2016 I remember the events that called for a total adherence to the principle behind the word: the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or/and strength of God…and I realize that, for the most part, the Holy Spirit faithfully kept me on the path of trust.  Of course, there were moments of sudden panic…but they did not determine my steps.  Empowered by the strength of He Who Lives in Me, I was able to refocus and retake the road, guided by the light of Trust. 

Today, as I think of 2017, I believe I have found my word:  Surrender. 


Trusting God is, in my opinion, a prerequisite for surrendering to Him.  After all, it is hard to surrender to anything or anyone we don´t trust.  Therefore, as our trust in God´s ability, reliability, truthfulness, strength, etc., etc., etc., increases, so does our ability to surrender to Him.  He Who Has Been Faithful before, will be Faithful again, and again, and again…thus we trust and surrender to His will…even when we don´t understand it...which in my case, it is more often than not.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Immanuel


“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).Matthew 1:23 ESV

This year, I tried to keep my eyes on Christ during the Christmas season.  I’m sure I did not do a good job.  I kept getting distracting with the shopping and the presents and the stress and the grumpiness that comes with the holidays.  But one thing is for sure, I think this Christmas was the first time ever I considered the birth of Christ from a different perspective. 

I mean, I’ve always looked at it from what we have gained from that act of God in which He became flesh for us.  But I truly don’t think I’ve ever thought of this event from the perspective of what Jesus had to give up to come down here and become our Redeemer in the flesh.

He left heaven behind…

If that thought doesn’t shake me to the core, I don’t know what would.

He left heaven behind…for me.

He left the majestic fellowship of the Trinity to be with us, here, on Earth.  He left perfection to enter this world of misery.  He left an environment of bliss to dwell in a pit of darkness, pain and death.  And He did it all for love…for the love He cannot help to feel for the likes of me.  He became Our Immanuel, so we would not feel so alone on our walk through the valley of shadows. 

I never stopped to think how, while I celebrate the opening of gifts to commemorate another year of His glorious birth…for Him it is the anniversary of the moment in which He stepped down from a position of infinite divinity into the self-imposed limitations of humanity.  How much more should I ask of Him?  Why do I still feel the sting of doubt and the chill of fear?

I do, because in my materialism and in my love for this world, I take my eyes off from the thoughts of eternity and focus on the perishable. 

May the Lord, in all His unending love for me continue to remind me in unexpected and creative ways that He is the Immanuel and that as such, I need not feel afraid or alone anymore.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1: 14

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The First Christmas Carol

This Holy Night, the night of Our Dear Savior’s Birth, I’d like to wrap up the time of preparation with what could be considered the first Christmas Carol ever… “Mary’s Song.” “The Magnificat.” 
Let’s remember what happened:

 “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”
Luke 1: 41-55


Mary’s words recounting who God is in celebration and recognition of His Power in her as she walked around carrying the Savior of the World in her womb constitute the first recorded anthem of praise in honor of His Holy Incarnation…the first Christmas Carol in record.  Tonight, we raise these words to Him whose Glory shines within us…Our Immanuel…as we say: Come, Lord Jesus, come again!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Rejoice!


7 O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace. Refrain

Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

Advent is all but done…Christmas is almost here…once again, it has gone way too fast.  My good intentions of spending an Advent laser-focused on Christ succeeded in part, but in other, many others, it failed…sigh…but here we are.  And we Rejoice! No matter what…

Today as I take a look at the last stanza of O Come, O Come, Immanuel, I can´t help but to, indeed, rejoice for these verses talk to us exactly about what we need in this great nation of ours: unity and peace.  In times of deep division, distress and confusion, we find ourselves nervously threading on new paths that seem dauntlessly dangerous and fearfully uncertain.  We are not sure what the future holds for us as a society and as a nation…not that we could ever be sure, but today, it is hard to imagine what is ahead for us.  I find everything so scary, that I don´t even watch the news anymore. 

I know that sounds flaky to say that I stay away from the news, but I need to block as much stress as possible from entering and cluttering my soul…I need the space for Christ.  So these verses bring me back to a place of hope.  He is the King of all nations, and He is the only one who can bind us together and put an end to our divisions…He is the only one who can bring us everlasting peace…So today, let us REJOICE in this truth.  Let us lift up our hearts to Him, the King of Peace and the God who decided to leave Heaven to come and dwell with us in this lonely planet…to be Our Beloved and Glorious Immanuel.


Monday, December 19, 2016

Bright Morning Star


6 O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light. Refrain

A couple of nights ago, we treated our boys to see the newest installment of the Star Wars Saga.  As you sure would probably imagine, these movies are greatly enjoyed by our sons, but not as much as by Dan and I.  Particularly this last one, I’d say it was made especially for old-folks like us who grew up with these stories.  At any rate, that’s not my point. 

As it happened, we drove separately, since Dylan and I had been out earlier in the morning, so Dan and Grant met us there.  It was funny when we were leaving the restaurant after the movie, because Dan was waiting for me to lead, but I hate leading…so I told him, “I don’t remember how to go” so, with a roll of his eyes, he pulled ahead.  A few seconds later I said to an uncharacteristically quiet Dylan, “Boy, am I glad I’m not leading!”

The thing is that as soon as we got on the road, the most intensely thick fog I’ve ever experienced surrounded us in a cloud so dense I had a hard time not becoming disoriented.  The only thing I could see was the two tiny red lights of Dan’s car up ahead.  I had to stay very close though, for if I let him get too much ahead, I’d lose the guiding lights…It was almost half an hour of being on the edge and constant prayer.  When we pulled in the garage, I wanted to kiss the ground, but it was too nasty, so I settled for a hearty, “Praise the Lord!” that Dylan gladly seconded.  I looked at Dan and hugged him, for he knows I would have probably not made it without him in front of me, giving me his tail lights.  He did not have anyone in front of him…so it would have been all me had I gone in first…what a horrible thought.

This is, but a pale reflection of the kind of hope and guidance that we get from our Lord. 
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8: 12

In this valley of the shadows of tears and death, we walk in darkness so thick that it prevents us to even see what’s right in front of us.  However, we don’t despair because we have the Light that dispels all the shadows of the night!  So let us Rejoice! For the Bright Morning Star is coming again!


"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star." Revelation 22: 16

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Key, The Door and The Road


5 O come, O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death's abode. Refrain

The fifth stanza continues with the topic of the Immanuel’s link to King David, and as the Key Bearer, or the Key, rather, the Only Key that could open the door to our “heavenly home.” 
Jesus, our Immanuel, is not only the Key, but the Door that opens for all who put their trust and faith in Him.  Furthermore, He is not only the Key and the Door, but He is the Road that takes us to the place of our eternal dwelling.  He is the Way.  As Jesus, himself says it, our forever home is waiting for us,

2In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am. John 14: 2

And just as if on cue, Thomas, the representative of all of us who ever doubted,

5“Lord,” said Thomas, “we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way?” 6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. 7If you had known Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” John 14: 5-7


This is the promise of Heaven out of the mouth of Jesus, himself!  While He is there, making room for us, we are to follow Him, the Way, until the day we are in front of that Door that only He can open.  In the meantime, we trust His Word, for He Is the Word!  The Life and the Truth! Rejoice, a thousand times, Rejoice!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Branch of Jesse's Stem


This is probably my favorite stanza:

4 O come, O Branch of Jesse's stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o'er the grave. Refrain

These verses are packed full with fundamental Old Testament Prophecy about Jesus.  The “Branch of Jesse’s stem” reference tells us how the Messiah will come from the line of David, as found in Isaiah:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. Isaiah 11: 1-3

This stanza also refers to how this “Branch of Jesse’s Stem” will defeat death, as Isaiah prophesied:

He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. Isaiah 25: 8


The good news is that these are not prophecies any longer.  There is victory over the grave!  The King of King who came from the lineage of King David through both, Mary and His adoptive father Joseph is the One who came to fulfill the word.  Jesus is the Branch of Jesse’s Stem who saves us from the depth of hell and snatches us from the claws of death.  Rejoice!  Indeed, rejoice! Emmanuel has come to us, His treasured possession.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

O Come, O Come, Great Lord of Might!

3 O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain

The third stanza of the hymn O Come, O Come, Immanuel references that great day when God Himself came down to meet His people, Israel at Mount Sinai to give them the law: 

16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. Exodus 19: 16-19

This happened just after the Lord had told Moses the following:

3 Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” Exodus 19: 3-6

In His great mercy, The Almighty reminds us how, among all His creation, He has chosen Israel to be His people, His “treasured possession.”  The good news for us, Christians of the 21st century, is that as Paul reminded us in Galatians 3: 29, we, who are in Christ, also are the spiritual heirs of Abraham and all the patriarchs; therefore, we too can be counted as part of this group!

In humility and praise we accept our place among God’s treasured possessions, and we acknowledge that, as Christians we understand that:

It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. Romans 4: 13


…By faith in Jesus the Christ! Our Immanuel!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

O come, O Wisdom from on High


After looking at the verses in the first stanza talk about our unfaithfulness-induced exile on this land as well as the hope of the coming of the Messiah, the second stanza of O Come, O Come, Immanuel seems to be a prayer to the Almighty petitioning Him for His wisdom as we wait:   

2 O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who ordered all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in its ways to go. Refrain

In these verses we read how the writer asks God to guide him as he waits for the Lord to come.  This is exactly what we ought to do.  While we wait and hope to see the Son of God reappear, we need the wisdom of God to show us and teach us about His ways.  The author recognizes our inability to make sound and Godly choices on our own.  This is a profoundly biblical concept as we see many instances in Scripture that point out our need to be taught the ways of the Lord.  The Psalms alone present several examples, a small sample is here below:

*Teach me your way, LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Psalm 27: 11
*Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. Psalm 25: 4
*Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name. Psalm 86: 11

In all three of these verses we appreciate the implication that we don’t really know God’s ways.  Therefore, the need to pray that He shows us and reveals His paths to us is undeniable.  Our hearts and desires are thwarted and corrupted…thus, we lack God’s wisdom…thus, we walk a different path…thus the need to be taught:

Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. 8"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. 9"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.…Isaiah 55: 7-9


Teach us, Lord!  Give us your wisdom.  May the God who “ordered all things mightily” grant us the knowledge of His ways as we wait for His return.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

O Come, O Come, Immanuel


I have arrived to what probably is my most favorite Christmas hymn.  I don’t know why, but there is something about “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” that truly speaks straight to my soul.  At first, it was its music what attracted me.  The haunting tune just gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.  Then, once I really begun to pay attention to the words…I realized how richly biblical it is.  One song compiles the story of redemption, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy and the hope of Christmas beautifully wrapped in a majestic melody...what’s not to like!?

Because of the richness of the lyrics I would like to take it slow with this hymn, and explore each stanza separately.  Today, let’s look at the first one and dig into the Scriptural treasure that it uncovers. 

Before we do that, though…I just wanted to point out something that’s puzzled me for years: is it Immanuel or Emmanuel?  Well, I found out the following:   Immanuel is the English translation of the Hebrew “עמּנוּ אל” (‛immānū’ēl) and Emmanuel is the English translation of the Greek “Ἐμμανουήλ” (Emmanouḗl) which is a translation of the Hebrew “עמּנוּ אל“.  (https://immanuelsouthern.com/2012/12/04/immanuel-or-emmanuel-which-is-correct/)
So there you have it. 

Now, back to our stanza for the day:

1 O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

The verses in this stanza take us back to Israel’s history of exile, particularly to Babylon, when Judah was carried away for its unfaithfulness (1 Chronicles 9:1).  At that time, the temple was destroyed, the sons of Israel were taken, enslaved and submitted to the conquering culture, leaving little more than distant memories of the God who rescued them from Egypt.  However, the hymn offers the great hope of the truth of the coming of the Lord.

The interesting thing is that, not so much unlike the ancient Israelites, we too are in “lonely exile here.”  Sojourners in this world until He calls us home, or comes again.  We know this is not our home.  So, when we despair, we remember the command to rejoice, always, and in every situation (1 Thessalonians 5: 16) for He “shall come” to us one day.


May the Glorious Immanuel, the ever-present God, come to us soon, very soon!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Watchman, Tell Us of the Night


I’ve always been intrigued by the shepherds.  Outcast…unclean…lonely…away…of course our Great God chose them to be the first ones to witness the arrival of His Son.  That’s how the God we love and serve is like:  delightfully unpredictable.  He’s got a knack for doing extraordinary things through ordinary people.  That’s why it should not be surprising that He decided to reveal Himself to the shepherds.  I also see another lesson here, though:  He often reveals Himself to those who are keeping watch. 

I know, Our Mighty God can command the attention of even the most distracted of us with nothing but a passing glance.  But I also know that He rewards those who intentionally focus their eyes on Him.

I don’t know much about being a shepherd.  But I imagine that shepherds out in the field must be quite alert at night to make sure predators and thieves don’t decimate the herds.  I also imagine it is not every night that they see action.  I bet most nights are quiet and uneventful, leaving them with plenty of time and not much to do…other than to watch and perhaps even meditate.  I know if I were a shepherdess in the field, I would do a lot of thinking during the lonely hours of the night.  That would probably be when I would do most of my pondering…while contemplating the vast expanse of the skies, like a black blanket where the most precious of diamonds have spilled over.  So the way I see it, this was one group God did not have to wake up to present the Good News!

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. Luke 2: 8

At any rate, today I’ve found another Advent hymn, with which I am not familiar either.  However, it reminded me of my old friends, the shepherds of that blessed night, so I decided to add it to my collection.  Here’s a link: Watchman tell us of the night (warning, it is not a great quality sound) and the lyrics.  I hope you enjoy it.

1. Watchman, tell us of the night,
    What its signs of promise are.
Traveler, over yon mountain's height,
    See that glory beaming star.
Watchman, does its beauteous ray
    Aught of joy or hope foretell?
Traveler, yes - it brings the day,
    Promised day of Israel.

2. Watchman, tell us of the night;
    Higher yet that star ascends.
Traveler, blessedness and light,
    Peace and truth its course portends.
Watchman, will its beams alone
    Gild the spot that gave them birth?
Traveler, ages are its own;
    See, it bursts over all the earth.

3. Watchman, tell us of the night,
    For the morning seems to dawn.
Traveler, darkness takes its flight,
    Doubt and terror are withdrawn.
Watchman, let thy wanderings cease;
    Hie thee to thy quiet home.1
Traveler, lo! the Prince of Peace,
    Lo! the Son of God is come!

Words: Sir John Bowring, Hymns: As a Sequel to Matins, 1825
Music: "Watchman," Lowell Mason, The Boston Handel and Haydn Society Collection of Church Music, 10th edition, 1831

There are lots of words from the Old English in this song, but nonetheless, it is precious.  Its intricate dialogue between the watchman and the traveler seeks to discover the knowledge that the one who has seen what happened possesses.  The traveler inquiries about the events to disperse the rumors and uncover the truth.  The watchman is the key as to what happened that special night when they got to see the King … The New Born Prince of Peace.  To me, the watchman is the shepherd, the outcast…unclean…lonely and distant shepherd whose wandering can finally cease for the Lord has come and the Son of God is finally here!


I pray that in this age of waiting, I can be a watchman.  I pray I can be in that chosen group of watchmen that remains awake when the revelation reappears…the promise for every man.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding

I told you I’m not an expert in Hymns.  So don’t be alarmed when I say that I have just recently discovered something…like today.  I just listened for the first time, ever…I think…I’m pretty sure…the hymn:  “Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding.”  And I loved it!  I am almost 100% sure I had never heard this hymn before because its haunting tune and fabulous lyrics would not have escaped my mind, had I heard it before. 

First of all, let me just admit that as a speaker of English as a second language, I have a hard time remembering what the word “hark” means.  So let me just refresh my own mind and begin by stating that “hark” means “listen,” or “pay attention.” I think that in order for me to remember and not forget it anymore, I shall begin every utterance that cometh out of my mouth either here at home or at work with a resounding: “HARK!”  See, that’s the other thing…I have a hard time understanding old English…which is another reason for me to not be much of a hymn buff.

At any rate, the title is so appropriate, so, let’s listen, let’s pay attention to the thrilling voice that is sounding – I really suggest you listen to it, no pun intended.  It is such a better experience than to just read the lyrics, so here’s both, a link for you to hear it, and the lyrics. The video does have the lyrics too!  Here it is:


Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding;
“Christ is nigh,” it seems to say,
“Cast away the works of darkness,
O ye children of the day.”

Wakened by the solemn warning
Let the earthbound soul arise;
Christ, her Sun, all ill dispelling,
Shines upon the morning skies.

Lo, the Lamb, so long expected,
Comes with pardon down from Heav’n;
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all to be forgiven.

That when next He comes in glory,
And the world is wrapped in fear,
With His mercy He may shield us,
And with words of love draw near.

Honor, glory, might, and blessing
Be to God: the Father, Son
And the everlasting Spirit,
While eternal ages run.

Once again…we witness here the beautiful simplicity of the tune and the profound significance of the words combined to bring us the powerful and lasting message of the paradoxical state of the Christian calling to wait for Our Lord to come again as we rejoice in His current presence. 

As I read and hear this hymn, the urgency in the word “hark” commands me to a position of attentive listening for the Lord is near.  The song tells us that it is time to abandon the ways of the world.  It’s time to turn to the Light, give up darkness and give priority to the soul.  The Lamb so long expected is coming!  He is coming in glory and might.  He is coming to right all wrongs.  But He also comes with mercy abounding and with forgiveness for those found in sorrowful repentance, under the shield of His blood.  He will shield us as we give Him all honor and glory for as long as we wait.


May the Father, the Son and the Everlasting Spirit equip us for this period of waiting so He may find us by His side on the glorious day of His return.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus


December surely is on its way.  Shoppers are out.  The air is brisk.  Holiday flicks are populating my Netflix profile. Wish-Lists are carefully and purposely popping up on my kitchen counter and night stand.  And the wonderful sounds of Christmas Carols are in the air.  So, let´s pick up where we left off yesterday.
The hymn “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” is a clear example, at least to me, of an Advent song that sings about the longing of every Christian’s heart for the return of his/her King.  We have, indeed, been waiting a long time…since His Holy birth, until now it has been two millenniums!  God’s time is not our own and His ways are not our ways, so we don’t despair.  We continue trusting.  Generation after generation, we keep the faith and hang on to the truth of His second coming…for He promised. 
In the meantime, we remain in Him as He remains in us.  He sets us free from everything that binds us and enslaves us…and we rest in Him.  He has already delivered us.  The King that came as a Babe rules in our hearts and we know that one day, one glorious day, He will bring His kingdom down for us to see, and to reign in this world, as He reigns in Heaven, forever.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne


May this Advent be a reminder that even though we’ve have seemingly waited for a long while, He is never late.  He is always on time.  

Friday, December 2, 2016

Worship Him in Song!



I figured, what a better song to start Advent meditations than the wonderfully simple, but profoundly meaningful hymn, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.” Let’s take a look at it:

Hymn Lyrics

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

I love it! This song is concisely precise praise! I didn’t grow up listening or singing hymns, but over the years I have been able to gain deep appreciation for them. I have learned a lot about our faith through the help of hymns. Actually, that is one of the primary purposes of hymns: to teach us the principles of our faith and to present the truth about God through song. We know, instinctively, that singing helps us acquire knowledge. Think about every time you need to remember the order of the letters in the alphabet…what do you do? You start singing the alphabet, right? I mean, really…Elementary teachers have known the power of song as a learning tool forever! Teachers also know that music makes people happy. It changes the mood. It touches our emotions. We see then, music carries with it two of the most effective teaching/learning elements: the power to help people memorize concepts and the power to encourage positive moods and to bring people in touch with their emotions. What a great learning tool!

However, there is another purpose for hymns and Christian music in general: we are commanded to sing praises to the Lord!

Sing for joy in the LORD, O you righteous ones; Praise is becoming to the upright. Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; Sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. Psalm 33: 1-3

The Bible tells us to Sing to the Lord very often. Therefore, we need to remember that singing is God-ordained! We are expected to sing! I can’t sing, though…my family keeps reminding me every time I attempt to singing…but I must sing, nevertheless, because God wants me to. It’s just as simple as that. But, why does God want us to sing, I wonder? Well, singing is a way of worshiping Him.

What is worship? This is a sticky subject because of our differences in doctrines and traditions, but I read a definition of worship that I found very helpful, at least for me: “Christian worship is an expression of our affections that are evoked when we encounter the True and Living God.” (Greg Stiekes: http://religiousaffections.org/articles/hymnody/purpose-power-christian-hymnody/)

Like Jesus said to the Samaritan woman:

God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” John 4: 24

Therefore, worship happens when we know Truth and when we are in touch with the Spirit. Hymns and Biblically sound Christian music help us accomplish both: through their theologically based lyrics, we learn and encounter Truth, and through their music we cultivate the Spirit as we are touched emotionally in a way that allows us to express our affection for the God who is Spirit and Love. All that, just to say that exploring Advent through the lyrics and music of our beloved hymns and songs could be not just fun, but also a profound form of worship, and a sound way to help us be intentional about the Christmas Season.



Tomorrow we will get back to “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” since we have just run out of time today.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Slow Down



Someone’s advice to me yesterday, as I rambled about the things that stress me out was to just slow down. Those two words keep resounding in my mind…slow down…slow down…

It sounds simple, right? Putting such an advice to practice, however, is turning out to be a seemingly unsurmountable challenge for me. Call it my personality, my temperament, my tendencies, my defective sense of perspective, my maladjusted development, or a combination of all of them, but something seriously gets on the way of my efforts to relax…to slow down.

If I'm honest with myself, deep down, the core of my issues is my inability to fully trust and rely on God. I get too focused on the things of this world and believe the lie that I can fix it or handle it all by my own might.  I'm filled with pride.  Then, when I inevitably find out that I simply cannot…I freak out, but instead of letting go, I redouble my fruitless efforts, which only intensifies my frustration, my stress and my anxiety! Thus the constant running around, which makes the recommendation to slow down sound laughable.

I’m exhausted…

The truth is, I must slow down. I think one way to help me accomplish this is a transformation of my state of mind. I need to be intentional about remembering that this is not my home. Like my devotional said the other day: “Remember that you are en route to heaven, and let your problems fade in the Light of eternity.” I need the Holy Spirit to keep me aware of this truth always. And when I forget, I need to dial a quick 911 back to Him to remind me and shower me with His peace…

Sigh…

This Advent season it is my desire to take a look at Christ’s Birth in light of His second coming as a clear reminder that we are, indeed, just en route to our forever home, so we can confidently say: “take this world and give me Jesus, this is not where I belong.”

I pray that the thoughts of Our Lord’s second Advent will keep me grounded in His promises and in His love to allow me to TRUST Him, let go of my worries and finally be able to slow down in His presence.