Don’t Leave Him There

I tried to read the Christmas story yesterday. Not the one about the BB gun. The one about Jesus being born in a manger. From Luke chapter two.  I say “tried” because it took three attempts for me to get through it.

It’s such a beautiful story to me, and I wanted to hear it old-school, King James, “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger” because that’s how I learned it so many years ago. And maybe it’s because I know the ending, but I just got overcome with emotion at the thought that God Himself would leave the safety and beauty of heaven to come in such a low and meager way. For me.

After several tissues and raised-eyebrow looks from my husband, I finished reading. Y’all, I felt like I’d been to church!! My heart was full, and I felt cleansed and new. And a little raw.

Still this morning, I am overcome with the joy of the Lord after a blessed Christmas Day with some of my family. I’ve read the story again this morning, sans tears and snot, and I am struck by the thought that the sweet baby in a manger is where a lot of people keep Jesus. They love the Virgin Mary kneeling over the manger of hay, full of Emmanuel, God With Us, Christmas-card perfect halo glowing around His head… But they never let the Prince of Peace grow up!

As I write, I’m hearing music in my head. New words. New music. I need to get this written down, but for now I hear a chorus that goes something like:

Don’t leave Him there, tender and small!

Don’t keep Him stuck in a manger, tiny and helpless and new.

Let Him grow up into your heart

and bring all the Love that His Father sent Him to bring for you.

Jesus did not die on a cross so that we could drink egg nog, watch movies, and spend ourselves into bankruptcy. True, our Lord loved a party and even turned water into wine at a wedding reception! But that tiny Baby in a manger came that we might have LIFE, and have it more abundantly.

The beautiful thing about our Savior is that, just like the wise men, we can bring him our gifts… The best that we have, whatever it may be… And it’s enough. And if all we have is water, He will turn it into the best wine imaginable.

He is born!!!

Go Light Your World

Candles and Christmas go hand in hand, don’t they? We burn those jar candles that smell like balsam and fir trees or peppermint and chocolate. We put those electric candles in all our windows through the holiday season. We give them as gifts. I recently saw a sale on Yankee Candles… Five of the large jar candles for $50!! (Lots of folks excited about that one.)

At church, we have an advent wreath with candles to light for each Sunday during the advent season and a big center candle to represent the light of Christ. We use candles in ceremonies like weddings. Our church has a special candle-lighting on Christmas Eve. Everyone has a candle lit and they turn off the electric lights… It’s stunning and beautiful and moving.

I woke up with Chris Rice’s song in my head this morning, Go Light Your World. Here are some of the lyrics, but please click here to listen.

There is a candle in every soul
Some brightly burning, some dark and cold
There is a Spirit who brings a fire
Ignites a candle and makes His home

Frustrated brother, see how he’s tried to
Light his own candle some other way
See now your sister, she’s been robbed and lied to
Still holds a candle without a flame

Carry your candle, run to the darkness
Seek out the helpless, confused and torn
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world

You know how when the power goes out in a storm, and you light one little candle just to be able to see… That one little candle can light the entire room!!! A little light goes a long way. And one little candle flame lights another and another… The way I see it, our “candle” is our smile. Our hug. That note of encouragement we write. That prayer we send up that he never even knew about. Our gift to the Salvation Army angel tree. The shoebox we packed for Operation Christmas Child. The meal we took to help out a little. The sandwiches we helped make at the soup kitchen. The hand we offer any time, any place. And so. Much. More.

It’s Christmas! Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Go light YOUR world.

Of Love and Angels

Here’s the thing. I am a church musician and it is Christmas time. Advent. The holiday season. I’ve been working on Christmas music for weeks, so my head and my hands are full of it. Honestly, it’s really easy for me to become jaded about Christmas music and Christmas in general. Musicians, especially church musicians, work so long and so hard on the music that we tire of it early on… just get it over with already and move on!

Not so for me. Christmas time is no different for me than any other time of the year. My music is my worship. My music is my offering to God. My music is my sacrifice of praise. At Christmas time, like every time I sit down to play, I sing the words in my head. I hear the lyrics of songs like Angels From The Realms of Glory (the song in my head this morning) and I am once again brought to my spiritual knees that God would love us, love ME, so much that He would be willing to send His one and only Son to this earth so that I could have life eternal. Forever. Never-ending.

Angels from the realms of glory
Wing your flight o’er all the earth
Ye who sang creation’s story
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth
Come and worship.
Come and worship.
Worship Christ, the newborn King!!!

The Angels who were there at the very beginning of creation are the same Angels who heralded the message that Jesus Christ was born, that God’s Son had come to earth in the form of a tiny baby. Humble, poor, human, divine.

These same Angels bid us to come close to Him and worship Him. One of the Christmas songs our choir is working on is my very favorite this season, and I am overcome with emotion every time I play it. Here are a few lyrics from this precious lullaby.

Love came gently, soft as a baby
Born to a lowly virgin girl
Wrapped in rags and laid in a manger
Love came gently to our world

No applause, no fanfare of trumpets
Heralding Hope had come to earth
For the Promise tenderly entered
Choosing, instead, a humble birth

My newborn grandson has been here with his mommy for a couple of weeks, which gives me a whole different perspective on Jesus’ choice to come to this world as a newborn infant. Completely dependent on his mother for every need. Soft and warm, snuggling up to his mother’s neck as she kisses his head. All of His divinity and Lordship packed into a tiny 8 pounds of vulnerability. “Love came gently, sweetly, to save us, knowing the price He’d have to pay. And to all who trust in the Savior, Love comes gently still… Today.”

Here’s the thing. I am a church musician and it is Christmas time. Advent. The holiday season. I’ve been working on Christmas music for weeks, and my heart is full of it!!!

Angels From the Realms of Glory Words by James Montgomery and music by Henry T. Smart.

Love Came Gently Words and music by Marty Funderburk.