Thursday, December 21, 2006

Peace on Earth

I love this carol, which was written during the Civil War. I’m sure peace on earth seemed as distant then as it does today. Most hymnals and carol books delete the fifth and sixth verses, included here, which speak directly of the war and lead into the seventh verse And in despair I bowed my head, ‘there is no peace on earth I said.’ How marvelous that we are then reminded in the final stanza that God is not dead, He does not sleep! Ultimately, wrong shall fail and right prevail. And ultimately, there will peace.

Until then, what can we do to have peace and provide peace? We find some good answers in Paul’s letters.

Set your mind on the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6

Bring your burdens to God in prayer. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7

Live in peace with others. Your colleagues, family and friends may not be encouraging you in a life of peace, but Paul reminds us that we are responsible for ourselves. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Romans 12:18

Pursue things that create and enhance peace. Pursue is an active verb. Paul is telling us to continually “go after” peace. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Romans 14:19 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. II Tim 2:22

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Words by Henry Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till 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.

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the households born
Of 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.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Home for a Mighty Guest

I love this advent hymn, especially verses two and three. As I discussed in my first post, we can draw near with confidence to the throne of grace to find mercy and grace to help in time of need. Here we see what happens when we fail to draw near, for “without Your grace we waste away like flowers that wither and decay.” I know there have been times I have felt “withered” but His grace abounds – and is there for the asking!

Verse two is really ripe for contemplation: Prepare to be the home where such a mighty guest may come. Jesus lives in our hearts! The Holy Spirit dwells in us. How do our hearts look? What is lurking in the shadows of our hearts that we need to clean out, in order to be the proper home for such a mighty guest?

It is often just overwhelming to me to think that God lives IN ME. As Paul says in I Cor. 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” What kind of home am I providing? How about you? How will this change how you act, react, and even what thoughts you ponder today? Let’s examine ourselves. As we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ coming to earth, let us also celebrate that we have a helper from the Father who is “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” (John 4:17)

On Jordan’s Bank
by Charles Coffin

On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
Announces that the Lord is nigh;
Awake, and listen, for he brings
Glad tidings from the King of kings!

Let every heart be cleansed from sin;
Make straight the way for God within;
And so prepare to be the home
Where such a mighty guest may come.

For You are our Salvation, Lord,
Our Refuge, and our great Reward.
Without Your grace we waste away
Like flowers that wither and decay.

To heal the sick, stretch out your hand,
And make the fallen sinner stand;
Shine out and let your light restore,
Earth’s own true loveliness once more.

To You, O Christ, all praises be
Whose advent sets your people free;
Whom with the Father we adore,
And Holy Spirit evermore!

The Solid Rock

This is a hymn that I find myself singing in my head regularly. So often we sing hymns and songs without even thinking about the truth within them – I know this was the case for me, personally, with this hymn, for a long time. It is only when “all around my soul gives way” that we come to realize we really have no one else but Jesus.

Psalm 73:25-26
Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

I have found that it doesn't cut it to trust in the other “frames” in my life. What frame are you trusting in today? More often than not, I trust in myself. And I can’t be trusted. I can’t do it on my own – and the more I try, the bigger the mess I create!

Instead of trusting in myself, I need to build my hope on Him and rest in His unchanging grace. I love the encouragement from the writer of Hebrews 4, “Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

There are so many scriptural truths in this hymn. I could go on and on. Praise God that our anchor holds with Christ –He is indeed the Solid Rock.

Psalm 18:2
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

The Solid Rock
by Edward Mote

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.