Monthly Archives: December 2013

On the 7th Day of Christmas….

You probably know that the Christian church celebrates Christmas from Christmas Day until Epiphany, January 6.

So we have 5 more days to listen to carols, give gifts, celebrate the birth….

The popular song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is usually seen as simply a nonsense song with secular origins. However, some have suggested that it is a song of Christian instruction, perhaps dating to the 16th century religious wars in England, with hidden references to the basic teachings of the Christian Faith.  They contend that it was a mnemonic device to teach the catechism to youngsters. The “true love” mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The “me” who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the “days” represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn.

While this has not been proven, it is an interesting way to think about the song.  Take a look:

On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Day 1, Christmas Day, December 25
A Partridge in a Pear Tree
The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on December 25, the first day of Christmas. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, recalling the expression of Christ’s sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not have it so . . . .” (Luke 13:34)

On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Day 2, December 26
Two Turtle Doves
The Old and New Testaments, which together bear witness to God’s self-revelation in history and the creation of a people to tell the Story of God to the world.

On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Day 3, December 27
Three French Hens
The Three Theological Virtues:  1) Faith, 2) Hope, and 3) Love (1 Corinthians 13:13)

On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Day 4, December 28
Four Calling Birds
The Four Gospels: 1) Matthew, 2) Mark, 3) Luke, and 4) John, which proclaim the Good News of God’s reconciliation of the world to Himself in Jesus Christ.

On the 5th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Day 5, December 29
Five Gold Rings
The first Five Books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch:  1) Genesis, 2) Exodus, 3) Leviticus, 4) Numbers, and 5) Deuteronomy, which gives the history of humanity’s sinful failure and God’s response of grace in the creation of a people to be a light to the world.

On the 6th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Day 6, December 30
Six Geese A-laying
The six days of creation that confesses God as Creator and Sustainer of the world (Genesis 1).

On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Day 7, December 31
Seven Swans A-swimming
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: 1) prophecy, 2) ministry, 3) teaching, 4) exhortation, 5) giving, 6) leading, and 7) compassion (Romans 12:6-8; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8-11)

On the 8th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Day 8, January 1
Eight Maids A-milking
The eight Beatitudes: 1) Blessed are the poor in spirit, 2) those who mourn, 3) the meek, 4) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 5) the merciful, 6) the pure in heart, 7) the peacemakers, 8) those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. (Matthew 5:3-10)

On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Day 9, January 2
Nine Ladies Dancing
The nine Fruit of the Holy Spirit: 1) love, 2) joy, 3) peace, 4) patience, 5) kindness,
6) generosity, 7) faithfulness, 8) gentleness, and 9) self-control.  (Galatians 5:22-23)

On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Day 10, January 3
Ten Lords A-leaping
The ten commandments: 1) You shall have no other gods before me; 2) Do not make an idol; 3) Do not take God’s name in vain; 4) Remember the Sabbath Day; 5) Honor your father and mother; 6) Do not murder; 7) Do not commit adultery; 8) Do not steal; 9) Do not bear false witness; 10) Do not covet. (Exodus 20:1-17)

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Day 11, January 4
Eleven Pipers Piping
The eleven Faithful Apostles: 1) Simon Peter, 2) Andrew, 3) James, 4) John, 5) Philip, 6) Bartholomew, 7) Matthew, 8) Thomas, 9) James bar Alphaeus, 10) Simon the Zealot, 11) Judas bar James.  (Luke 6:14-16).  The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to the religious leaders and the Romans.

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Day 12, January 5
Twelve Drummers Drumming
The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed: 1) I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 2) I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. 3) He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. 4) He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell [the grave]. 5) On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 7) I believe in the Holy Spirit, 8) the holy catholic Church, 9) the communion of saints, 10) the forgiveness of sins, 11) the resurrection of the body, 12) and life everlasting.

Merry Christmas!

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A Christmas Carol for Advent

Picture1A Christmas Carol for Advent

“It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”


Today I want to think about the hymn, “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” by Edmond Sears, who wrote the words it in 1849.  It’s an unusual carol. There’s no mention of the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the manger, etc. The entire focus is on the message of the angels about peace on earth.

Peace was a timely topic when Sears wrote these words.  The Mexican-American War had just ended, and tensions were rising in America, leading toward the Civil War.  


The message of peace is laid out in the first stanza, leading us to think we’re about to hear of the angels’ appearance to the shepherds.  But the message is for the world:


It came upon the midnight clear that glorious song of old.

From angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold.

“Peace on the earth, good will to men, from Heaven’s all gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay, to hear the angels sing.


That world (and our world today?) is described in stanza 2 as weary, sad, confused (Babel sounds).  And in stanza 3, “the world” becomes personal, about us:


And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow.

It is in the last half of the 3rd stanza that we hear it, the message of Advent!  The weary traveler is encouraged to draw hope from the angels’ promise of peace.  “Glad and golden hours”are coming!


Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.

In the final verse we hear the message that Isaiah foretold in Isaiah 9:1-5:


But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish…

For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor,

you have broken…


Isaiah’s prophecy is repeated, and raises yet again the hope of peace on earth in stanza 4:


For lo! the days are hastening on, by prophet-bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.


So in my mind and heart, this hymn has shifted from a Christmas carol to an Advent hymn. 

Can you make the shift?  What do you think?


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In Our Music This Sunday


1 handbell.qxd“Let the Whole World Sing”

A Christmas Musical by Joel Raney


Since the birth of Christ. the gospel message has spread across the globe to a world that continues to shrink as communication technology expands.  Christmas is now celebrated in more than 160 countries, by people as diverse as the cultures in which they live.  Yet, despite our many differences, we celebrate the season united as one kingdom of believers.  The hope for peace on earth is shared by millions of people in every corner of the globe.  This is the inspiration behind  Let the Whole World Sing. 


From the Celtic lilt of “In the Bleak Midwinter” and “Hear the News of Christmas,” to the African rhythms of “Come, Come, Emmanuel,” through the Caribbean-styled “Christ is Born, Sing Noel!,” and the Middle Eastern motifs of “Rise Up, Shepherd,” these arrangements gently underscore the universality of the gospel message.  New music is blended with familiar carols in a wide variety of styles to create a fresh re-telling of the Christmas story.  The narration uses scripture to remind us of the wide-reaching global message found in the story of Christ’s birth.


Please come to the 11am worship on Sunday, December 15, and enjoy the blessing of this timeless story in song.



Many thanks to all who have committed their time and talent to this effort.


Choir: Geoff McLean, Betsy Stagno, SuJin John, Jay Lough, Shirley Moore, Marilyn Dorn, Taylor Sielenski, Anne Scroggs, Marge Sielinski, Sandy Williams, Howell Thomas, Bill Gilchrist, Kim Cameron, Charles Thies, Diana Maxwell, Tom Shaw, Camille Harvey, Ibrahim El Naggar, Sue Ferguson


Instrumental Ensemble:  Rachel Sarrano Winograd, piano; Carolynn Baer, flute; Joe Sayen, trumpet; Carolyn Tate, percussion; June Gladding, percussion; Breanna Tate, violin; Casey MacLean, violin; Stephanie Twedt, viola; Marvel Onga Nana, viola; Nancy Hardy, cello; Alisha Coleman, clarinet


Narrator: Sheila McLean





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The Music of Advent

indexPrepare the way, O Zion

Author: Frans Mikael Franzen
Tune: BEREDEN VÄG FÖR HERRAN (traditional Swedish)
Published in 23 hymnals

In the desert prepare the way for the LORD;

make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3


These words from the Hebrew Testament form the basis of many hymns and anthems, as well as organ voluntaries.  They are part of the text of the Advent portion of Messiah, which uses the words from Isaiah’s prophecies in eight of the songs!  And these same words, which Matthew, Mark, and Luke quote as John the Baptist tells us of the coming of God’s salvation, are the theme for Hymn 13 which we will sing this Sunday.


This hymn is one of the great Advent hymns of the Church of Sweden.  The hymn was influenced by a poem by Alexander Pope, with which it shares a lively present-tense form:


Hark! a glad voice the lonely desert cheers;
Prepare the way! a God, a God appears:
A God, a God! the vocal hills reply,
The rocks proclaim the approaching Deity.


Other text from the hymn brings the story of Christ’s coming alive to us today:  “His rule is peace and freedom, and justice, truth, and love” (stanza 2).  In stanza 3, we are encouraged to “proclaim in every place” the “tidings of salvation.”


This hymn provides for us a text with deep biblical roots set to a tune of remarkable rhythmic vitality.  I hope you will sing it vigorously on Sunday, as we prepare our hearts to receive the Lord.



1 handbell.qxd

Choral Cantata with instrumental ensemble

Sunday, December 15

 during our 11am worship








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