Archives for the month of: December, 2018

I often forget how fortunate I am. I tend to take things for granted. That has probably never been more truthful than in my marriage. I have not always been as thoughtful and considerate as I should have been. I have been too focused on myself, my work, or something else more than my wife and family.

Some would say that I am a lucky man and they would be right. But I realize that I am more than “lucky.” I am blessed by God.

Tomorrow marks 50 years of marriage to Lena. December 28, 1968 is the most important day of my life next to the day that I decided to follow Jesus. Three days after Christmas a half-century ago I said yes to the questions: “Will you have this woman to be your wife, to live together in holy marriage? Will you love her, comfort her, honor, and keep her in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?”

I have fulfilled those promises but I have not always been as sensitive and helpful as I could have been. Nevertheless, Lena has loved me and stayed with me for all these years. That has not always been easy. There have been many challenges but I am grateful to her and to God that we are still together and still in love.

I am acutely aware that the blessings of life are not always deserved or earned. That is certainly the case in my marriage. When I first met and dated the woman who would become my wife I had no idea how strong she was and how supportive she would be to me through many changes and difficult times. We have traveled together, literally and figuratively, through territories that we could not have imagined at the beginning of our journey.

My life partner and I are very different personalities. We have different strengths and gifts. We have not always been in lock step but we have always been together. There have been many times we have disagreed but I have never doubted her sincerity or her devotion to me and our family.

Daniel Boone said, “All you need for happiness is a good gun, a good horse, and a good wife.” I don’t have a good gun. I have never had a horse of any kind. But I do have a good wife!

Someone said, “Of all the home remedies, a good wife is best.” I can affirm that to be true in my life and family. I agree with Thomas Edison, “A man’s best friend is a good wife.” Lena is and always will be my best friend.

Thank you God, for sustaining Lena and me for 50 years of marriage and for helping us to stay in love with each other.

Jamie Jenkins

 

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In just a few days it will Christmas Day, the day we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. At Christmas Eve services the night before, people all over the world will sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”

On the evening the Bethlehem Baby was born there were shepherds nearby tending their flocks. Their everyday routine. Suddenly the scene changed and an angel appeared among them and the surroundings lit up. They were understandably terrified. Then the angel told them not to be afraid. Oh sure!

Right in the middle of their workaday world an angel appears and the landscape lights up. What are they expected to feel if not fear?

Then the angel said, ““I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. For this day in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Good news! Great joy! A Savior!

The shepherds responded by rushing to see for themselves what the angel proclaimed. Seeing was believing and they told everyone they met what the angel had said about this child.

It has been more than twenty centuries since that event in Bethlehem. Millions have heard the story and have believed. Millions others have heard but have not believed. One reason for this unbelief might be that we who follow Christ have not been the joyful creatures that we should be.

The shepherds rejoiced at the good news of a Savior. They returned to their work “glorifying and praising God.” The Apostle Paul suggests that we who have been redeemed by that same Jesus should likewise be filled with joy- not only at Christmas but at all times. “Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, TLB)

Teilhard de Chardin, says, “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” Acknowledging the Presence of God in our lives will not only enrich our living, it will also be contagious. Mother Teresa suggests that “Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”

Be joyful for a Savior has come!

Jamie Jenkins

 

It’s been said that music can transport our minds to days gone by. Certainly, the songs we sing at Christmas time prove all of this to be true. When I hear the Christmas carols, my mind is flooded with memories.

To enhance your appreciation of the Christmas carols I want to offer a little background information on a few of the favorites.

  • “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is probably one of our oldest carols. It is a traditional Christmas carol- actually an Advent song- dating back to the 12th century and follows a monastery-like chant. The lyrics were originally written in Latin. The author/composer is unknown. It is believed that the melody is of French origin

All of the attributions to the coming Messiah are from the Old Testament except “Emmanuel,” which is found both in Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23. Matthew quotes Isaiah virtually verbatim—“Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel”—with the exception that Matthew adds the phrase: “which being interpreted is, God with us.”

  • “Joy to the World” is based on a psalm and celebrates Christ’s second coming much more than the first. This favorite Christmas hymn is the result of a collaboration of at least three people and draws its initial inspiration not from the Christmas narrative in Luke 2, but from Psalm 98.

The three collaborators: In 1719 Isaac Watts wrote a paraphrase of Psalm 98 and included it in his hymnal, “Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament.” George Frederic Handel (1685-1759), the popular German-born composer, provided the musical phrases. Lowell Mason (1792-1872), a Boston music educator, assured that this tune and text would appear together in the United States.

  • “Silent Night” is one of two hymns (the other is The Old Rugged Cross) that were played for the first time on the guitar. A Catholic priest, Joseph Mohr, wrote “Stille Nacht” and because the organ at Father Mohr’s church was broken, he asked Franz Gruber to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for the Christmas Eve mass in 1818 at Oberndorf, a village near Salzburg, Austria.

Over the years, because the original manuscript had been lost, Mohr’s name was forgotten and although Gruber was known to be the composer, the melody was variously attributed to Haydn, Mozart, or Beethoven. However, a manuscript was discovered in 1995 in Mohr’s handwriting and dated by researchers as c. 1820. This is the earliest manuscript that exists and the only one in Mohr’s handwriting.

  • “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”– In 1627, the English Puritan parliament abolished the celebration of Christmas and all other “worldly festivals.” For the remainder of the seventeenth century and well into the eighteenth, hymn carols were hard to come by, but there was an exception.

John and Charles Wesley had aroused the anger of the Anglican Church in England by their Armenian doctrine of “free grace.” However, because of a printer’s mistake, one of Charles’ poems was printed in the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer. The hymn, originally entitled “Hark, How All the Welkin Rings” with 10 verses, was actually Charles’ “Hymn for Christmas Day.” The church fathers weren’t too happy about it.

Although angered by Wesley’s inclusion in the prayer book, the church fathers concluded that at least the song would only be used once a year and would probably fade into oblivion.

  • “O Little Town of Bethlehem”- Phillips Brooks, Pastor of the Church of the Holy Trinity, in Philadelphia, visited the Holy Land on Christmas Eve 1865. In a letter dated Saturday, December 30, 1865, Phillips Brooks shared with his father what happened next: “After an early dinner, we took our horses and rode to Bethlehem. It was only about two hours when we came to the town. It is a good-looking town, better built than any other we have seen in Palestine. The great Church of the Nativity is its most prominent object; it is shared by the Greeks, Latins and Armenians.”

Under the Church of the Nativity there is a grotto and a 14-point silver star on marble stone which tradition says marks the place where Jesus was born. That Christmas Eve of 1865, Phillips Brooks wrote, “I was standing in the old church at Bethlehem, close to the spot where Jesus was born, when the whole church was ringing hour after hour with the splendid hymns of praise to God, how again and again it seemed as if I could hear voices that I knew well, telling each of the ‘Wonderful Night’ of the Saviour’s birth.” Brooks closed the letter by describing the horseback ride to a field outside Bethlehem where tradition says the shepherds first saw the star of Bethlehem.

Three years later, back in America, preparing the Christmas service for the Sunday School, he remembered that Christmas Eve in Bethlehem. From his mind’s eye, he would record this experience of standing in the fields surrounding the holy place and thinking of how it might have been that night when God sent forth His Son, born of a virgin, to a little town– the little town of Bethlehem

  • “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”- Edmund Sears was born on April 6, 1810, in Sandisfield, Massachusetts. He graduated from Union College in Schenectady, New York, received a doctor’s degree from Harvard and pastored three small churches in Wayland, Lancaster and Weston, Massachusetts. He died in 1876 and would have been forgotten by most except for one little detail.

In 1846, he penned a Christmas poem, entitled Peace on Earth, and put it in his desk where it would stay for the next three years. In 1849, he sent Peace on Earth to the publisher of Boston’s Christian Register. A year went by until finally, for Christmas of 1850, the poem was put in print. Richard Willis, a graduate of Yale and music critic for the New York Tribune added music.

There are many more songs of Christmas that bring back memories and inspire us and some very interesting stories about their origins. I hope that the music of Christmas will help to bring the Spirit of the Christ Child into your life and into the world.

Jamie Jenkins

In the Christian Church Advent is the period preceding the Christmas season. It begins on the Sunday nearest November 30, the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle, and covers four Sundays. This year Advent began last Sunday, December 2.

The word advent, from Latin, means “the coming.” As the Christmas season has become more secular, with advertisers urging holiday gift-givers to buy and buy some more, Advent still focuses more on the observance of ancient customs. Christian families find quiet moments lighting candles in the Advent wreath, and children use Advent calendars to count the days until Christmas.

It is unknown when the period of preparation for Christmas that is now called Advent first began – it was certainly in existence from about 480. Some have even said it goes back to the time of the Twelve Apostles or that it was founded by Saint Peter himself. This has led to the conclusion that it is “impossible to claim with confidence a credible explanation of the origin of Advent”.

Originally, it was a time when converts to Christianity readied themselves for baptism. Advent was considered a pre-Christmas season of Lent when Christians devoted themselves to prayer and fasting. By the 6th century, however, Roman Christians had tied Advent to the coming of Christ. But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world.

Advent hymns are not “Christmas” songs. They are ‘waiting” songs. Songs that help us anticipate the coming of Christ, which is celebrated on Christmas Day. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is one of my favorites.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

This hymn is a prayer that anticipates the coming of Christ to the earth. His coming as the Messiah (“deliverer”) was first prophesied in the sixth century B.C., when the Jews were captive in Babylon. For centuries thereafter, faithful Hebrews looked for their Messiah with great longing and expectation, echoing the prayer that he would “ransom captive Israel.”

Jesus Christ the Redeemer—capstone of man’s longing through the ages—is addressed in the first stanza of this hymn as “Emmanuel.” From beginning to end, all the stanzas of the hymn remind us of Christ’s first advent, and project our attention to His second coming.

An Advent Prayer in the United Methodist Hymnal (#201) helps prepare us for a proper celebration of Christmas.

Merciful God, you sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation.

Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may celebrate aright the coming of the nativity and may await with joy the coming of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. Amen.

May this be our prayer as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Jamie Jenkins