The Message of Christmas – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – a Hymn for Every Generation

Blog - Worship Wednesday - Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

The old hymns are a mainstay for our family. All of us know the lyrics to many of the standards in the Baptist Hymnal. Even our young adult, very cool children. Then the new hymn-writers came along. My favorite newer hymn, when we were overseas, was In Christ Alone. Keith Getty and Stuart Townend wrote this theologically sound, lyric-deep, and glorious hymn. You can read more of the story of this hymn here.

Today, however, we sang another hymn which may become my latest new favorite. [We will always love In Christ Alone as well.] It is Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – written by Matt Boswell,  Michael Bleecker, and Matt Papa. I heard this song earlier this year at a gathering of song-writers and wrote about it then. Matt Papa led a large gathering of people in singing this great old…new hymn. We worshipped.

Here’s what one of the writers, Matt Boswell, says about it:

“We are always reaching for new ways to say the same things. This is a gospel-hymn from first to last. The melody and phrase “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery” serve as a fountainhead of four movements: the incarnation, the life of Christ, the death of Christ, and his glorious resurrection. Its repetition and simplicity are intentional, and are intended to point the singer to the gravity of its lyric.” – Matt Boswell

Scripture reference: Ephesians 3

As our church gathered to worship during this Advent season of Christmas, we worshipped this God who gave Himself to us in Jesus – in his birth, death, and resurrection. As we anticipate celebrating his first coming, we also wait with wonder on his second coming.

Maybe you know this hymn. If not, you won’t want to miss it. Here are the lyrics to Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery (lyric video follows)

VERSE 1
Come behold the wondrous mystery
In the dawning of the King
He the theme of heaven’s praises
Robed in frail humanity

In our longing, in our darkness
Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ, who condescended
Took on flesh to ransom us

VERSE 2
Come behold the wondrous mystery
He the perfect Son of Man
In His living, in His suffering
Never trace nor stain of sin

See the true and better Adam
Come to save the hell-bound man
Christ the great and sure fulfillment
Of the law; in Him we stand

VERSE 3
Come behold the wondrous mystery
Christ the Lord upon the tree
In the stead of ruined sinners
Hangs the Lamb in victory

See the price of our redemption
See the Father’s plan unfold
Bringing many sons to glory
Grace unmeasured, love untold

VERSE 4
Come behold the wondrous mystery
Slain by death the God of life
But no grave could e’er restrain Him
Praise the Lord; He is alive!

What a foretaste of deliverance
How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected
As we will be when he comes

What a foretaste of deliverance
How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected
As we will be when he comes

– Matt Boswell, Michael Bleecker, Matt Papa 2013

We Were Made for Worship – It’s What We Do – Because of What He Did

YouTube Video (Lyrics) – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – Matt Papa

YouTube Video – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery (Acoustic)

YouTube Video – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery featuring Matt Boswell

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery (Lyrics with Chords)

Christmas in a Verse, a Prayer, & a Poem

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[From the Archives]

A Christmas Verse

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Isaiah 9:6

[And One More]

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.  – Matthew 1:23

A Christmas Prayer

O Lord, how hard it is to accept your way. You come to me as a small, powerless child born away from home. You live for me as a stranger in your own land. You die for me as a criminal outside the walls of the city, rejected by your own people, misunderstood by your friends, and feeling abandoned by your God.

As I prepare to celebrate your birth, I am trying to feel loved, accepted, and at home in this world, and I am trying to overcome the feelings of alienation and separation which continue to assail me. But I wonder now if my deep sense of homelessness does not bring me closer to you than my occasional feelings of belonging. Where do I truly celebrate your birth: in a cozy home or in an unfamiliar house, among welcoming friends or among unknown strangers, with feelings of well-being or with feelings of loneliness?

I do not have to run away from those experiences that are closest to yours. Just as you do not belong to this world, so I do not belong to this world. Every time I feel this way I have an occasion to be grateful and to embrace you better and taste more fully your joy and peace.

Come, Lord Jesus, and be with me where I feel poorest. I trust that this is the place where you will find your manger and bring your light. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen. (The Road to Daybreak by Henri J. M. Nouwen)

A Christmas Poem

Not Celebrate?

Your burden is too great to bear? Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season? Your tears have no end?

Not celebrate?

You should lead the celebration! You should run through the streets to ring the bells and sing the loudest! You should fling the tinsel on the tree, and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance!

For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent. It is unto you that a Savior is born this day, One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders, One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes. You are not alone, for He is born this day to you. – Ann Weems

5 Friday Faves – Frost, Blessing Bags for Homeless, Charlie Brown Christmas, Seasonal Treats, a Christmas Poem

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Happy Friday! Here are my 5 Faves for this week – hope they stir up some of your sweet favorites of life.

  1. Frost – For those of you already faced with lots of snow, a frosty morning is no novelty. Remember those first frozen-dew-etched leaves? So beautiful. What a quickly passing sight it is, too, as the sun appears and burns off the frost. I’m glad I didn’t miss it this morning.2015 December - Christmas, Retirement, Sadie, Blog, Frost 0482015 December - Christmas, Retirement, Sadie, Blog, Frost 0562015 December - Christmas, Retirement, Sadie, Blog, Frost 062

2) Blessing Bags for Homeless – As the weather gets colder, I wonder at how those fare – those standing beside busy streets, cardboard signs lifted, asking passersby for help. A few coins or even a granola bar pulled from the grocery bag seem so inadequate. This how-to of making blessing bags for homeless comes at a great time.

Blog - Blessing Bag for HomelessPhoto Credit: pinterest.com

It’s an activity the whole family could work on together. More expensive, sure…but also more substantial for those weathering the cold on the streets of our cities.

3) Charlie Brown Christmas – This year marks the 50th anniversary of the broadcast of this Christmas special.  You can find some of the history of how it was written, produced, and actually debuted, in the midst of controversy, on our TVs years ago, here and here. The sweet and angsty story of Charlie Brown and buddies is set beautifully to the jazz music of Vince Guaraldi. My favorite scene is when Linus explains to Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about.Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown #2“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” – Linus

4) Seasonal Treats – Every holiday has its special edibles. I have long loved Little Debbie cakes with their seasonal offerings – don’t know how Little Debbie stayed little if she ate her own confections. Blog - Friday Faves - Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes BoxPhoto Credit: the-holidaze.blogspot.com

Various concoctions of chocolate and peppermint are favorites in these parts. What are some of yours?Blog - Friday Faves - Christmas Cookies2015 November Phone Pics - Sadie, Blog, Delaware Thanksgiving 271Blog - Christmas HoHos (2)Sidebar: the last HoHos I ever ate were in Cairo, Egypt, a long time ago.

5) a Christmas Poem – Every Christmas that I can remember, growing up, a poem by Francis Thompson (1859-1907) was displayed in our home. I loved it. Entitled Little Jesus, it was written as if a child were speaking to Jesus about His own childhood. It still fills me with wonder to think of God condescending to take human form for our sakes – identifying with us, even as a child.Friday Faves - Christmas Poem, First Frost, Charlie Brown, TreatsPhoto Credit: narrowridge.blogspot.com

Do you have a favorite Christmas poem, or seasonal treat, or some other favorite to share? Please do so in the Comments. Hope your weekend is peaceful, even in the midst of what can be crazy December.

2015 December - Christmas, Retirement, Sadie, Blog, Frost 055Autumn still with us in December.

Traveling Buddies – A Few Quotes, Some Old Pictures, and a Whole Lot of Sentimental

Blog - Traveling Buddy - Sammo - Feeling Sentimental

Sammo, a little plush monkey, has traveled the world. He has been retired, of late, on the made bed of this couple who have quite surprisingly settled in a Richmond suburb. At least for now. Let me tell you his story and a bit of ours.

When I was much younger and still single, the call to other lands was strong in my heart. I studied nursing for the very reason of taking a useful skillset overseas. New Guinea was my decided destination. Due to some unforeseen bumps in the road, instead of New Guinea, I ended up in New Haven…Connecticut.

Preparing for that move meant saying goodbye to friends, for the first of many times in years to come. My friend, Paulette, who I would miss terribly, gave me Sammo. Mom and Dad helped me move my stuff from Atlanta to New Haven. I drove my car and Dad drove the rental truck. Mom was his copilot. Every time we were stuck in traffic, with more than a second to make eye contact, I’d look back and wave. Mom grabbed Sammo off the dashboard and waved one of his long arms back at me. It’s a memory that ever comforts me and has given Sammo traveling buddy status ever since.

Teaching at Yale University and joining in with a church plant there(Trinity Baptist Church), I discovered a very different and diverse culture. That move would be a stepping stone to adapting to cross-cultural living. Meeting Dave, the first week there, was also the sweetest part of that move, away from New Guinea…but not from the world.

2007 - Feb -- Dave & Boys
We would eventually move overseas, taking three other traveling buddies with us, who would all leave home, in turn, from a foreign airport. I will be forever grateful we had these experiences overseas together.
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Over these years, we have had wonderful traveling buddies – those from whom we learned volumes about living and loving across cultures. Others who graciously allowed us to come along to help as we could. Still others, in recent years, who don’t travel so much as they might like but are a strong support to those who do. This morning, many of these dear friends are on my mind.
I unfortunately don’t have words for how I feel about those we’ve walked alongside over the last twenty years, but others more wise and clever will fill in my lacking.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.  – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
 The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see. – G. K. Chesterton
Blog - Traveling Buddies - CairoCairo, Egypt – Nile River
Blog - Traveling Buddies - Tim CahillPhoto Credit: Quotesgram.com
Blog - Traveling BuddiesPhoto Credit: Quotesgram.com
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“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
Blog - Traveling Buddies - Friends ForeverPhoto Credit: Quotesgram.com
In those early days overseas, when Dave traveled internationally for work, I would tuck Sammo secretly in his bag. I wanted him to remember that he always had traveling buddies – with him and at home. Today…thinking about other traveling buddies through the years, I am grateful. Our Sammo isn’t forgotten. These traveling buddies with skin on will never be. Fare well and God speed, Dear Ones…to all the coming adventures.
Blog - Traveling Buddies - Gerry V retirement
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.Hebrews 12:1-2

Worship Wednesday – Be Born in Me – Francesca Battistelli

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The most common command in the Bible is “Fear not” and rightfully so. What a fearful thing it must have been for a young village girl when an angel appeared to her in the night long ago. He also told her not to be afraid:

“Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…” – Luke 1:31-32

In the briefest of terms, the angel Gabriel explained to Mary how, she being a virgin, would miraculously, gloriously conceive this promised one of God. She listened…and she submitted herself to the will of God…this Creator God who draws near to His creation.

Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.Luke 1:38

She had no idea, really, of what would come down the road for her…and for this child…but she recognized the Lord God in the message of the angel to her. She would trust God in this huge thing.

Sometime later, in the wonder of her carrying this divine child, she sang to God:

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.  And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.”Luke 1:46-55

This “song of Mary”, also known as the Magnificat, reminds us of the sacredness of Christmas…that wondrous birth of the Messiah. We are taken aback again at the willingness of this young girl to step into the mystery of this birth and the history marked by it.

Nichole Nordeman wrote a song about Mary and her Savior. This song, Be Born In Me, was part of a project entitled The Story, a film project using music to tell God’s story from Creation to Christ’s second coming.

I don’t cry easily, but I wiped tears away, watching the short film (linked below) and listening to Francesca Battistelli sing the song. I cried at God’s choosing Mary (choosing us) and at His provision of a Messiah at such great cost to Himself…for Mary, and for us. It humbled me all over again…coming face-to-face again with the holding-nothing-back love of God.Blog - Be Born in MePhoto Credit: YouTube.com

Worship God, our Provider and Deliverer, with me.

Everything inside me cries for order
Everything inside me wants to hide
Is this shadow an angel or a warrior
If God is pleased with me, why I am I so terrified
Someone tell me I am only dreaming
Somehow help me see with Heaven’s eyes
And before my head agrees, my heart is on it’s knees
Holy is He. Blessed am I.

(Chorus)
Be born in me, be born in me
Trembling heart, somehow I believe that You chose me
I’ll hold you in the beginning, You will hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle, make my heart your Bethlehem
Be born in me

All this time we’ve waited for the promise
All this time You’ve waited for my arms
Did You wrap yourself inside the unexpected
So we might know that Love would go that far?

Chorus

I am not brave
I’ll never be
The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy
I’m just a girl
Nothing more
But I am willing, I am Yours

Chorus

Lyrics to Be Born in Me by Nichole Nordeman and Bernie Herms

Story Behind the Song Be Born in Me

The Story – a collection of songs and films inspired by the Bible stories,  from Creation to the Second Coming of Christ

Music Inspired by The Story – CD

Blog - Worship Wednesday - The Music Inspired by The Story - Be Born in Me

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

YouTube Video – Mary, Did You Know? – Pentatonix

VCU Holiday Gala – A Christmas Family Tradition

Blog - VCU Holiday Gala - Christmas - vcu.eduPhoto Credit: vcu.edu

Christmas is near and with it come all the traditions that draw us closer . Since Nathan Mills first began performing with the VCU Guitar Ensemble, we became regulars in attendance to their concerts. The VCU Holiday Gala is our favorite. It is a fun and whimsical display of many of the musical groups at VCU.

Professor John Patykula directs the classical guitar ensemble and it’s always a delight. The Holiday Gala begins with the guitarists.Blog - VCU Holiday Gala - John Patykula (2)Professor John Patykula, VCU Guitar EnsembleBlog - VCU Holiday Gala - Guitar Ensemble

Various instrumental ensembles and choral groups take the stage in this fast-paced evening.  With all the favorite musical pieces, twinkling lights, and colorfully clad student musicians, it is a feast for the eyes and ears – a sweet start to the Christmas season. We always sit as near to the front as possible, and every year, we are joined by others who do the same (some for every single year of the Gala).2014 December - VCU Music Holiday Gala 015 (2)Blog - VCU Holiday gala - orchestra musiciansBlog - VCU Holiday Gala - Santa Headband (2)

I would love to share video of the VCU Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, under the direction of Dr. Terry Austin – best performance ever. Since that’s not possible, you just have to come. For the moment enjoy the versions by the United States Marine Corps Orchestra and André Rieu ‘s Johann Strauss Orchestra. Until Friday night…

The Gala evening closes as we exit the concert hall to a lovely cake and punch reception. Here we have the opportunity to greet the professors and students and other guests who are here every year. It’s part of the magic, this afterglow of community.Blog - VCU Holiday Gala = Piano

As if all that wasn’t enough to make a perfect December evening, we drive slowly home via Monument Avenue to look at the stunning Christmas light displays. Happy, happy times.Blog - VCU Holiday gala - Monument Ave. - Phil RigganPhoto Credit: Phil Riggan

What are your family’s Christmas traditions? Would love you to share yours (via comments).

Holiday Gala

Friday, December 4, 2015, 7 p.m.
Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall
W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts

The annual holiday gala is celebrating its 29th year! Come out and celebrate the holidays with this concert featuring holiday music. All proceeds benefit The Doorways (formerly the Hospital Hospitality House).

Tickets are $10, and are available on ShowClix.