Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nothing is Little to God!

We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell,
O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!

Phil was a young minister who was serving a church in Philadelphia. He was well liked by his church for his wonderful sermons and kind, moral spirit. He was an imposing figure who, at six feet four inches tall, commanded respect.

After serving the church in Philadelphia for several years, he took a lengthy vacation to Europe and the Holy Land. While he was in Palestine during the week of Christmas, he wrote the following, “After an early dinner, we took our horses and rode to Bethlehem. It was only about two hours when we came to the town, situated on an eastern ridge of a range of hills, surrounded by its terraced gardens. It is a good-looking town, better built than any other we have seen in Palestine. Before dark, we rode out of town to the field, where they say the shepherds saw the star. Somewhere in those fields we rode through, the shepherds must have been. As we passed, the shepherds were still 'keeping watch over their flocks.’

Can you imagine the thrill of being in that field during Christmas? It thrilled Phil. The images of being in that field at nighttime, during Christmas, made a huge impression on him. He never forgot the images and emotions of that night as he looked from the darkness of the field to the lights of the city of Bethlehem.

Several years later, Phil wrote a poem that he intended to be sung for the children in his Sunday School during Christmas. One Friday, he gave the poem to Lewis Redner, his minister of music, and asked him to set it to music by the following Sunday. Lewis tried all day Friday and Saturday, but nothing felt right. Lewis was stuck, and they were to practice the song the next day. He went to bed, still unsure of the tune. Lewis wrote of that night, “I was roused from sleep late in the night hearing an angel-strain whispering in my ear, and seizing a piece of music paper I jotted down the treble of the tune as we now have it, and on Sunday morning before going to church I filled in the harmony.”

Because of the hasty nature of the composition, neither man thought the song would ever be played after that Sunday. They were very wrong. That was 143 Christmases ago, and the two men’s composition, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” is still sung today. Phil, who is better known as Phillips Brooks, went on to become one of the most famous preachers in the nation in his day. In fact, there is a statue of him outside Trinity Church in the Back Bay area of Boston.

So many times, we think that our contribution to the world is small. We think that very few, if any, will ever be affected by our efforts to share Christ. However, we must remember that something small in our hands, becomes incredibly powerful in God’s.

Jesus didn’t appear on earth riding in a royal caravan with an entourage. He came in a very small, seemingly helpless package. He also didn’t send messengers to announce His arrival in the great city of Jerusalem, which was the hub of politics and religion in those years. His arrival was only noted to a few humble shepherds in a field, who were simply doing their jobs. Even the city of His birth was small compared to where one would expect a king to be born.

If God can use a baby, a small town, a stable, and some shepherds to accomplish His plan of salvation, then He can use whatever you have. If you give Him your all, He will use it to do wonderful and powerful things for His Kingdom, even if you never know it’s happening.

Our job is to simply be available and obey, not to guess what God can or cannot use. Phillips Brooks and Lewis Redner had no idea how God would use their song to bring future generations back to Bethlehem where the Savior was born one holy night, many years ago. We, also, never know how God can use us, until we let Him.

O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth, The everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years, Are met in thee tonight

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. (Micah 5:2)


Tuesday, November 22, 2011


We are headed full-steam into the holiday season, whether we are ready for it or not! Usually, I am bothered by the encroachment of Christmas upon the observance of Thanksgiving, but this year, I’m a little calmer about it. I am not only open to hearing Christmas music, seeing the Christmas decorations in the stores, and Christmas commercials on television, I am embracing it!

However, before I start singing Silent Night, too soon, let’s be sure to enjoy Thanksgiving and what it means. If you asked a group of people what the day means to them, they might give you responses like, “It’s about thanking God for all we have.” Or “It’s about family and friends.” Or, “It’s all about the food!”

While most of us are aware of the fact that the day is set aside to give thanks for all that God has blessed us with, for many, the food is the highlight! I remember the first Thanksgiving that my wife and I shared in our first house. We had lived in an apartment for a couple of years, before purchasing a home that would accommodate a Thanksgiving celebration.

That year, she wanted to cook all of the food, and host Thanksgiving. We knew it would be a little crammed, but we were sure we could pull it off. As she prepared the meal, I remember her calling her mother several times to ask how to make this or that. My wife cooked the food, but with a little instruction from her mother.

I recently read a funny story that reminded me of that Thanksgiving. In the tale, a couple who was celebrating their first Thanksgiving together had planned on having ham. The young wife sent her husband to the store to pick one up. Upon his return, she asked why he didn’t have the butcher cut the ends off the ham. He asked why he should have. She told him that her mother always did it that way.

The young man assumed this was some family secret for cooking ham, so he cut the ends off for her. It happened that the wife’s mother was visiting for Thanksgiving. The young man couldn’t help himself, so he asked his mother-in-law why she cut the ends off of her ham. She replied that she didn’t know, but that her mother always did it.

The young man was on a mission at this point. He called his wife’s grandmother, and asked her why she cut the ends off her ham. She said, “Oh, I always cut the ends off my ham, because my roaster was too small back then to cook a ham in one piece.”

We like to follow traditions. Traditions make us comfortable and secure. However, there are many “traditions” that we follow and have no idea why. I was visiting a church some time back that had an old tin can underneath the altar. When I asked what that was for, no one knew, but quickly told me not to move it, because it had “always been there.”

Christ never called us to follow “religion” blindly. He urges us to know why we believe what we believe. When we are asked why we believe in Christ, we cannot reply, “Because I always have,” or “That’s what I was taught.” Jesus wants to be so much more to us than just a “belief” or a bit of knowledge. He desires a relationship with us.
In fact, He so desires a relationship with us, that He laid His life down to provide a way to make us worthy of that relationship. Then, He chooses to bless us with all of the goodness that we have in our lives. Because He lives, we live.

This Thanksgiving, observe the “traditions’ and enjoy the time with friends and family. Do not, however, forget to give thanks to the One who loves you. Give Him more than just a short prayer over your feast. Give Him your life and friendship. Get to know Him and stop going through the motions of following blindly.

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!!

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. (Psalm 100)