Posts tagged ‘Luke’

December 10, 2014

Angels from the Realms of Glory

by Bethany

Daily Reading
Zephaniah 2 (Listen – 2:40)
Luke 24 (Listen – 6:27)

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

— Luke 2.13-14

In November 1771, James Montgomery was born in Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland. His parents were Irish Moravian missionaries, who died when James was only five years old. Throughout his childhood and adolescence, he had no interest in school. By the age of twenty, he spent his time largely unemployed and frequently homeless for weeks at a time.

He was interested, however, in writing. The radical editor of the Sheffield Register hired James to write stories. When he was twenty-three, he became the owner of the Register, when the past owner was run out of town for writing radical editorials about Irish freedom under English rule. Although James changed the name to the Sheffield Iris, he did not change the editorial posture. Between his continuing to publish radical editorials and being a leader in the abolitionist movement, James twice landed in prison. Each time he was released, however, he continued to point to freedom for all.

When he was not fighting for Irish freedom or against English slavery, James was reading his Bible. He wanted to understand the motivation behind the lives (and deaths) of his parents. In time, his studies and zeal blended and sent the Irishman on a new mission. One of the early hints of his change was revealed on Christmas Eve 1816. On that day, his editorial did not divide the Irish from the English. Instead, it unified all of its readers.

“Nativity,” which later came to be known as, “Angels, from the Realms of Glory,” told the story of angels proclaiming the birth of the Savior for all people—Irish and English. Reading between the lines, the hymn has a bit of social commentary. Montgomery eventually returned to the Moravian church and, inspired by his parents, became a missionary. He continued writing hymns until the day he died in 1854. By that time, he had been twice imprisoned for his beliefs and had heard “Nativity” sung in the Anglican churches in London.

Angels from the Realms of Glory (The Choir of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle – 4:33)
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.

Shepherds, in the fields abiding,
Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing,
Yonder shines the infant light:


Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations,
Ye have seen his natal star:


Sinners, wrung with true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence,
Mercy calls you—break your chains:


Though an infant now we view him,
He shall fill his Father’s throne,
Gather all the nations to him;
Every knee shall then bow down:


All creation, join in praising
God the Father, Spirit, Son,
Evermore your voices raising,
To th’ eternal Three in One:



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December 9, 2014

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

by Bethany

Daily Reading
Zephaniah 1 (Listen – 2:58)
Luke 23 (Listen – 6:53)

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

— Luke 2.9-12

In the fifteenth century, church hymns for worship were usually written in Latin and set to somber melodies. Although few church members admitted that they disliked the tunes, the laymen of the time had no power to change them. The peasant class, however, developed an underground genre of worship music that was written in common language and set to lively melodies. This was their musical rebellion and it led to the foundation of our modern collection of Christmas carols.

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen is an English Christmas carol that came out of this tradition. Although it was written as a direct reaction to the church music of the fifteenth century, it was not published until 1833. Ten years later, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens appeared with a quote from the hymn. Like the members of the old church order in the fifteenth century, Scrooge did not want to hear light and vigorous Christmas songs: “ … at the first sound of ‘God bless you, merry gentlemen! May nothing you dismay!’ Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.”

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Listen: Ella Fitzgerald – 1:27)
God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy.
In Bethlehem, in Israel, this blessed Babe was born,
And laid within a manger upon this blessed morn;
The which His mother Mary did nothing take in scorn.

From God our heavenly Father a blessed angel came;
And unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same;
How that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name.

“Fear not, then,” said the angel, “Let nothing you a-fright
This day is born a Savior of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him from Satan’s power and might.”

The shepherds at those tidings rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding in tempest, storm and wind,
And went to Bethl’em straightaway this blessed Babe to find.

But when to Bethlehem they came where our dear Savior lay,
They found Him in a manger where oxen feed on hay;
His mother Mary kneeling unto the Lord did pray.

Now to the Lord sing praises all you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas all others doth deface.

God bless the ruler of this house, and send him long to reign,
And many a merry Christmas may live to see again;
Among your friends and kindred that live both far and near—
That God send you a happy new year, happy new year,
And God send you a happy new year.



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December 8, 2014

Do You Hear What I Hear

by Bethany

Daily Reading
Habakkuk 3 (Listen – 3:03)
Luke 22 (Listen – 8:35)

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together … They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. 

In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

— Isaiah 11:6, 9-10

Noël Regney was drafted into the Nazi army during World War II, but he quickly joined a group of French Resistance fighters and became a double agent for the French. After the war ended, he went to New York City. When he visited the Beverly Hotel (now called the Benjamin Hotel on East 50th Street at Lexington), he saw a beautiful woman, Gloria Shayne, playing the piano. Although he barely spoke English and she barely spoke French, he approached her. They were married within a month.

Their newlywed bliss, however, was dampened by current events. In the 1950s, the United States was involved in Korea. After Korea, Regney watched France and the United States get entangled in Vietnam. Then, in October 1962, they witnessed the 14-day Cuban Missile Crises confrontation between the United States on one side and the Soviet Union and Cuba on the other.

In the midst of this sadness and suffering, Regney saw babies in strollers on the streets of New York City. Then he wrote, “Said the night wind to the little lamb, ‘Do you hear what I hear?’” and, “Pray for peace, people everywhere.” When he finished the lyrics, Shayne composed the tune. The song was released shortly after Thanksgiving 1962. Years later, after the song was popularized, Shayne told an interviewer, “Noël wrote a beautiful song and I wrote the music. We couldn’t sing it, though … Our little song broke us up. You must realize that there was a threat of nuclear war at the time.”

The lyrics of the song describe how news of Jesus’s birth were relayed to increasingly higher authorities—the night wind to the small lamb to the shepherd boy to the king—and then to the people everywhere. The lyrics, however, are not quite biblical. For example, the king at the time of Jesus’s birth was Herod the Great. Far from calling the people to celebrate the birth of Jesus, Herod called for the death of Jesus, which caused Mary and Joseph to flee.

Do You Hear What I Hear? (Listen: Mary J. Blige – 4:20)

Said the night wind to the little lamb,
“Do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite,
With a tail as big as a kite.”

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
“Do you hear what I hear?
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear?
A song, a song high above the trees
With a voice as big as the the sea,
With a voice as big as the the sea.”

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
“Do you know what I know?
In your palace walls, mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold–
Let us bring him silver and gold,
Let us bring him silver and gold.”

Said the king to the people everywhere,
“Listen to what I say!
Pray for peace, people, everywhere,
Listen to what I say!
The Child, the Child sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light,
He will bring us goodness and light.”



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December 5, 2014

Hark the Herald

by Bethany

Daily Reading
Nahum 3 (Listen – 3:20)
Luke 19 (Listen – 5:41)

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 

— Luke 2:13

In 1737, Charles Wesley was already a renowned hymn writer, who infused his music with energy and enthusiasm. One day, during his daily devotional time, he was working on a new Christmas hymn and wrote down the line, “Hark! How all the welkin rings, glory to the King of Kings.” “Welkin,” a word that is probably ancient to most of us, refers to the sky or the heavens or the firmament. Wesley then set the words to his own tune and shared it with his church.

When George Whitefield published the hymn, however, Wesley was not thrilled with his friend’s changes. Whitefield edited the opening phrase to say, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”—even though the Bible never mentions anything about angels singing at the birth of Christ. Whitefield’s independent mind was a mixed blessing—although his rhetoric and evangelicalism got him banned from the Anglican Church, the private meetings that were organized as a result of his departure eventually led to the revival meetings in Europe and the United States.

Although Wesley thought his words would be set to the tune of another hymn that he had written, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” others set it to a different one. In 1840, about a hundred years after the hymn’s composition, Mendelssohn composed a cantata to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Johann Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. Then, in 1855, English musician William H. Cummings adapted Mendelssohn’s composition to fit the lyrics of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

Hark the Herald (Listen: Paisley Abby Choir – 2:59)

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King,
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with th’ angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”

Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail th’ incarnate Deity,
pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”



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Correction: A previous version of this post mistakenly used, “Herold” the proper spelling is, “Herald.”

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December 4, 2014

O Come, All Ye Faithful

by Steven Dilla

Daily Reading
Nahum 2 (Listen – 2:16)
Luke 18 (Listen – 5:14)

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

— Matthew 2:1-2

Little is known of John Francis Wade, but it is clear he was a layman, a published hymnist, and a rebel who died in exile. Long unattributed to its author, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” was thought to be an anonymous Latin hymn. Recently discovered fragments of Wade’s journal revealed the four original stanzas and the centrality faith played in his life. Both they lyrics and music were composed in 1744, the year before Wade’s life would change for good.

Not long after he completed the hymn, Wade filled the margins with calls for the Jacobites to rally against England’s King. It’s unclear how entwined the lyrics of Wade’s hymn were with the Jacobites larger mission, the then-century-old commitment to restore the lineage of James II, although it is clear that the hymn is a rallying cry at its heart. History did not favor the Jacobites, and The Jacobite Rising of 1745 was decisively defeated by the British in less than a year. The uprising’s leader had a price placed on his head and fled to France with what was left of his men.

“O Come All Ye Faithful” was first published in England in 1751, between the exile and Wade’s death in Douai, France. Notably, the published lyrics were written in French. It may be that this is part of why the hymn did not originally catch on, or it may be that more historical distance was needed between the Jacobites final attempt at the throne and modern worshipers. Either way, the hymn fell into relative obscurity until it was translated into English by Frederick Oakeley in 1841. Nearly a century after Wade first marveled at the Christ, the song would be adopted by the Church, new verses were added, and translations were made into over 100 languages.

Through Wade’s words, we are reminded not only of the power of awe, but the rally cry that Christ’s birth is. All earthly kings must be displaced, and while Wade wanted to replace them with kings of his choosing, Christ’s call is for purity in lordship; he is a good King, but he will not share the throne. Come marvel at the King of kings. Come, let us adore him, for he is Christ the Lord.

O Come, All Ye Faithful (Listen: The Baylor University A Cappella Choir – 2:59)

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of Angels:
O come, let us adore Him, (3x)
Christ the Lord.

God of God, light of light,
Lo, he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
Very God, begotten, not created:
O come, let us adore Him, (3x)
Christ the Lord.

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of Heaven above!
Glory to God, glory in the highest:
O come, let us adore Him, (3x)
Christ the Lord.

Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given!
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!
O come, let us adore Him, (3x)
Christ the Lord.



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