December 01, 2020

Christmas Music: The Mystery and the Miracles by Sandi Somers

Besides other forms of worship, music has…been ordered by God’s Spirit.

~J.S. Bach~

 

Wise Ones Still Seek Him


Several years ago at our church Christmas concert, a male trio sang, “Wise Men Still Seek Him.” As their beautiful, reverent voices rang out, the chorus left an indelible impression on me (even though I preferred gender-inclusive language—“Wise Ones Still Seek Him”.)

.

Wise men still seek Him today

His light still shines to point them to the way

Though fools have said in their heart there is no God

Wise men still seek Him today

 

(You can watch two different versions of the song: the CBC choir Or Paul Overstreet’s solo.)

 The best message of the song to me comes from the Wise Men themselves. Who were these men? They were astronomers or astrologers--scientists. They must have been intelligent and highly educated. Perhaps they were wealthy.

 How did they know what the star was telling them, that towards the west, a King was to be born? Scripture tells us nothing except that they were from the East. It has been speculated that the Jewish Daniel in Chaldea (modern-day Iran) had passed down Scripture in some way to the general population. However, the Bible doesn’t give us this information, only that THE MEN KNEW!

Today, God speaks to people in ways they understand, often through their God-given interests. We may not know how God touches a person's life for them to seek Him. But these wise men show us that God was seeking them first. God pursues us, planning “to seek and save those who were lost (Luke 19:10).

These were Gentile men outside of God's first chosen people, the Jews. But God chose them to symbolize how, in a few years, He would open His arms wide to the Gentile world. In the same way today, God reaches out to those who might feel unworthy, who know they have done terrible things, who have made choices they regret.  No matter how we may feel out of God's grace, have made wrong life choices, or turned away from Him, God still extends His love and forgiveness to us.

 The wise men responded to God’s direction to seek Jesus. Theirs was a long journey across the desert, perhaps riding on uncomfortable camels through the heat of the day and tenting in the coldness of the night. Their route took them on a detour to Jerusalem to inquire of King Herod and the Jewish spiritual leaders.

 When they found the baby who would one day be King, they rejoiced. These intelligent, wise leaders bowed down in a gesture that indicated this baby was more esteemed than they. They worshipped Him. They offered Him valuable gifts.

 

 Gold (a treasured and prestigious metal) symbolized Jesus’ Kingship


 Frankincense (an aromatic resin from a tree) symbolized  Jesus’ priestly role

    Myrrh (a tree oil that refreshes, energizes and brings calm) prefigured Jesus’ death and resurrection

 When we come to Jesus, we acknowledge Him, honour and praise Him as our King and Great High Priest who intercedes for us, and we receive new life through His substitutionary death and resurrection.  

 One of the most meaningful lessons for me was how the wise men listened to the Lord. They did not tell King Herod about this new king and their life-changing experience. Instead, God sent them on a different route back to their home.

 When we encounter the living Christ, our lives often lead us in a change of direction. We leave and go another way from the way we came. Our lives have been transformed, and Jesus tells us to, "Return home and tell how much God has done for you" (Luke 8:39)

This Christmas as you hear and sing Christmas carols and attend concerts (if Covid restrictions permit concerts), may you focus on Jesus whom we are celebrating, honouring and worshipping. May you find hope, faith, joy, and peace in Christ, our sinless, pure Saviour.

~ ~ ~

 As you think of this month’s blog themes, we have two possible invitations for you.


Image by My All for Jesus
What is your favorite Christmas song? How has it become your favourite? How has the song impacted you? Research its history as to how/why it was written and composed. What insights has it given you about the meaning of Jesus’ coming? (Bob Jones gave us a great introduction in last December’s post: “Mary Did You Know?”, as did Cara Jantzen in "It's All About You, Jesus." and others.)  

 Think of special memories of singing in a cantata or chorale, music you played for Christmas, music from your family, or any other Christmas music idea that resonates with you. Include how that music has impacted you and what message it leaves for your readers.

 


PS: As we finish writing InScribe blog posts for this year, I thank you for your contributions, as bloggers, commenters , and readers. Tracy Krauss wrote in her annual report that this year’s writing has been of the highest quality. Thank you for your wisdom, the way God is leading you, and how your writing is impacting your life and the lives of others.

November 29, 2020

Peace, Be Still - Gloria Guest

 

Every year around Christmas I choose either a word or a scripture verse that I sense God is wanting to speak over myself and my family in the coming year. Last year as 2019 was waning down, I felt no such inclination. I was a little burnt out from another trying year and just didn’t sense that God had a word or message for me. Or maybe, truthfully, I just didn’t care.

As many know, a huge bright spot in my life are my five grandchildren; four grand-daughters and one grandson. Since the twins, Sydney and Sarah, first entered my life at the age of five, when they moved out west with their momma who was marrying our son, they stole my heart, captured my love and brightened my days. In the next few years, three more little bright spots have come along and all are the lights of my life.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that it would be through one of those little lights that God would provide me with my ‘word’ for 2020. We had been decorating the Christmas tree that day and I had been handing them the ornaments. When it was done, I noticed that one of the girls had found an old sign that I’d forgotten I had and placed it prominently in the middle of the tree. PEACE, it read.

And there was my word.

I knew it came from God straight through my grandchild’s innocent gesture and so I accepted it as my word for the year. Deep inside though I wished it had been something more exciting, more in line with my need to figure out where I fit in this life of mine that had seemed to stall. So I mulled over ‘why that word?' a little bit, feeling it was somewhat out of step.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. We all know what happened in early 2020. And suddenly, peace, which had never been my strong point, was in even shorter supply in my life. My husband and I both struggled to adjust and figure out what the new restrictions and eventual shut downs meant for us and our family. In a nut shell it meant: extra precautions and restrictions for my husband on the road as he was a semi driver and therefore an essential employee. He would come home mentally exhausted from a week’s worth of dealing with it.

I am one who has some medical vulnerabilities so it took some time to figure out just what risks I should take and which I shouldn’t and also put extra pressure on my husband since he was concerned about not bringing the virus home.

Of course, there were the restrictions of not being able to see those lovely little bright spots in our lives I mentioned earlier including a much anticipated visit from our son and his wife and our little grand-daughter from Ontario.

Summer lifted restrictions somewhat and at times it seemed as things were ‘sort of’ normal. Of course they weren’t though and suddenly we found ourselves in the dreaded state of my husband having to get tested for Covid. Way back in January I had dared to pray that God would give us some extra time together this year, but him staying in his semi and me in the house with only our back yard for visiting and shared meals, all six feet apart, was not exactly what I had ordered!! My birthday, in which I had hoped we would go somewhere interesting, ended up being held on our back deck. But I admit that with the addition of the Creators stars and some fun pictures we took and birthday cake in the dark it turned out kind of charming. Of course the great blessing was that he tested negative and was able to go back to work and that he still had work of any kind to do at all!

We are both a little wearier at the end of this year then when it all began last spring. The most crushing blow has come in the form of realizing we cannot travel to see our son in the military and his family, for Christmas and he deploys overseas for six months in January.  It’ll be a long wait to see him now and our daughter-in-law and that precious little two year old, as it’s already been over a year. It crushed my usual Christmas spirit some. I wasn’t even planning on putting up a tree.

But God, in all of His concern for every detail in my life has arranged an unexpected visit from my three grandchildren tomorrow (we are currently allowed five in a household in Sk) and guess who will be helping me decorate that tree?

Peace. It’s such a small little word. But so mighty. When I took the sign off my tree last Christmas I kept it up in my living room all year as a reminder of what God wanted to provide for me. Many times this year I’ve called on Jesus to step out and calm the storm.

“Peace be still,” He said.  (Mark 4:39 NIV)

And it is.

Blogging for inScribe...

What a wonderful group of bloggers we have here on the InScribe Writers' Online Blog!  

If you are a regular contributor, THANK YOU! 

If you were a guest blogger, THANK YOU!

If you wrote a review, made a comment, or shared this blog on your Social Media platforms, THANK YOU! 

So, what's next for the IWO blog in 2021? 

Well, we will continue on, of course, because this is such a wonderful place for members of our organization to share their ideas, practice their writing skills, and connect with one another. 

For those who are regular contributors, you've already been contacted about your plans for 2021. If you are a member of InScribe, you are cordially invited to join us, either as a regular or a guest blogger. If you're just visiting but like what you see, please share or comment. 

The current moderator, (Tracy Krauss) is looking to step down sometime in 2021, so if you feel this is a ministry you would like to take on, please contact her. 

In the meantime, keep on blogging!


November 28, 2020

My Idea of a Joyful Noise - Bruce Atchison

I'll admit it up front. I'm not a good musician. Even so, I had fun dabbling in electronic and experimental music. 

I must have done something right because program hosts in Moscow, Warsaw, Trondheim, and Paris figured my music was good enough to air. Even the CBC played one of my compositions and paid me a hefty royalty cheque.

Though my keyboard skills aren't up to professional standard, I worked diligently on each piece. I layered each instrument's sound on my multi-track machine in the way I felt worked best.

I also made chrome cassette copies of my music from the mix VHS tape. I could have skimped on the quality by using regular cassettes but I wanted the clearest sound possible. When I bought a new computer with a CD-R burner, I made my own disks for sale and to send to radio stations.

The Apostle Paul certainly understood the value of making use of our talents. Romans 12:6-8 (Bible in Basic English) does encourage us to use our talents. "And having different qualities by reason of the grace given to us, such as the quality of a prophet, let it be made use of in relation to the measure of our faith; Or the position of a Deacon of the church, let a man give himself to it; or he who has the power of teaching, let him make use of it; He who has the power of comforting, let him do so; he who gives, let him give freely; he who has the power of ruling, let him do it with a serious mind; he who has mercy on others, let it be with joy."

And as Proverbs 11:27 (BBE) says, "He who, with all his heart, goes after what is good is searching for grace; but he who is looking for trouble will get it.

Now some might say that my music was a vain waste of time. Even so, I knew that God used my compositions to bring disparate non Christians into my life. And as Isaiah 55:2 (BBE) says, so I modeled good Christian conduct in the hope it brought folks to salvation. "Why do you give your money for what is not bread, and the fruit of your work for what will not give you pleasure? Give ear to me, so that your food may be good, and you may have the best in full measure."

Even today, my music videos are on YouTube for all to see and hear.

November 27, 2020

Reflecting by Lorilee Guenter

Promises Kept 

 "For I have not given you a spirit of fear (timidity), but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-control." (self-discipline) 2 Timothy 1:7

In January I chose this verse as a focus verse for the year along with the words courage and boldness. At the time no one predicted what was to come during 2020. When I started to reflect on this verse, I thought about changing my habits to care for this gift of life God has given me. I thought about being willing to grasp hold of the opportunities God showed even in uncomfortable situations. I thought about using what I have to build up those around me, to engage with neighbours more, and to continue to look for God's hand in my life and our community. All these happened and so much more.

This year this verse came to mind in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. Even when I prepared to write this post, God reminded me through a podcast that His spirit of power and love and self-control are working through us to accomplish His work. Not only that but He wants to work with us boldly and powerfully.

I clung to Him during the spring shut down. The absence of physical gathering with community highlighted the value of these communities. But our God made us with creativity and we were able to find new ways to gather, new ways to reflect His love. For me it came at great cost to my mental health but not with fear or panic. God gave me peace in place of panic. Peace I could then share with others.

As we were forced to give up distractions, I was surprised by new things, new opportunities. I had the courage to say yes to telling Bible stories for our Sunday School via video using my art and a basic script. I have been encouraged to share my art in other ways I had never considered. My first response to these opportunities was to be hesitant. When I was asked the same question by three people about an art related possibility, I knew I need to trust God and step into this role with boldness.

I do not know what God will do with any of these things. Some of the things God has shown me this year have been huge, some small. Through it all, at various times and in various ways, I have been reminded that God is at work. He will use what I give Him in unexpected ways. Through His power and love even the small steps of courage through faith will reflect His glory.

As we step towards a second shut down, I continue to trust god will continue to work with me and through me. Where that leads I have no idea, but He does. His power will replace panic with peace, fear with faith.