Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Day of Prayer

Occasionally, as Legacy Church, we set aside days of prayer for different reasons. As we enter the season of Advent and complete our series SENT, we invite you to join us to take today to prepare your heart for the Coming of the Christ Child at Christmas. May the Holy Spirit speak clearly to you today through these meditations.

Morning Devotional: Worship

To worship something is to give it a place of honor or importance. Worship = worth (of value, importance) + -ship (position).

Human beings are geared to worship: the star athlete, the talented musician, the charismatic personality, the successful business leader, the creative author, the generous philanthropist, the intelligent theorist. When humans fail to impress us, we can always turn to money, power, lust, success, acceptance, love, adoration. Sometimes we even worship the reflection in the mirror.

The question, then, is not “Will you worship?” but rather, “Who or what will be the object of your worship?”

In 1851, Anglican minister Frederick Oakeley wanted his congregation to have the opportunity to learn and sing a centuries-old Catholic hymn, so he translated the Latin “Adeste Fidelis” (literally, “Be present or near, you faithful”) to the carol “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Oakeley knew his parishioners had the same struggle we face today: those of you who follow Jesus need to stop and give him top priority.

The entire carol declares that Jesus is worthy of being worshiped:

Verse 1 tells us to visualize Jesus as a baby in the stable.
Verse 2 reminds us that this baby Jesus is truly God himself.
Verse 3 repeats the song of the angels, “Glory to God! Glory in the highest!”
Verse 4 is adoration of Jesus as the Word, who was with God from the beginning of time.

Just as we begin every church service with praise and worship in order to turn our focus from whoever or whatever has the #1 spot of worth-ship in our hearts and minds, get in the habit of beginning your prayer time by declaring Jesus is worthy. Begin and end your Sunday, your every day, your every prayer, with praise. Remind Jesus (and yourself) that He is Lord.

Reflect: 

“O Come, let us adore Him.
O come, let us adore Him.
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”


Noon or Mid-day: Intercession

A quick illustration—don’t panic, it’s easy. I’m going to take a famous song and give you the first two lines. You fill in the blank with the next line.

A, B, C, D, E, F, G
H, I, J, K,
_______________

If you’re like most people, you sang the next five letters as one continuous sound, something like, “el-le-minnow-pee”.

Music therapists, teachers, neurologists, and parents have long understood that combining words/lyrics/ideas (left brain) and music (right brain) results in higher memory or recall. That’s why your parents taught you the alphabet to the tune based on a French folk song from the 1700’s, although you probably know the tune better as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”.

It’s also why the longest book in The Bible is a song book, and why many familiar hymns and praise songs are based on phrases straight from scripture. By singing scripture, you’re more likely to remember it, not only the actual verses but, hopefully, the truth behind those verses.

The title and last verse of the Christmas Carol, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ is based on Isaiah 7:14: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” There are seven verses in the song, each tells of our longing and desperate need for Christ to make all things right.

That longing for Christ to make all things right is the sentiment to have in praying for others.

So why bother with worship? Why not go straight to asking God to provide, to help, or to fix a situation for ourselves or for those we love?

Because it’s too easy to focus on the problem and our inability to fix it. It’s also too easy to lose hope when the answer doesn’t come as expected or when the answer takes a long time to arrive.

Spend some time praying for others. Click here or here to read through (or sing) the lyrics to “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and the names for Christ, each thought with a purpose to give hope to a weary world. Each time you face the enormity of the circumstances rise up, think on this carol, remember that God is greater than your helplessness, and praise him. After all, “Emmanuel” means, “God with us”. 

Reflect: 

“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.”

Evening: Thanksgiving

As darkness has fallen, I can reflect on the time spent praying and thinking on the things of God today, and I am thankful. Although I wait to see how God will answer some of my prayers, and some circumstances remain just as bleak, I can sing and give thanks with full voice and with great enthusiasm.

No one can understand this truth better than Heinrich Suso.

In 1326, this Dominican monk wrote a small book, aptly titled, The Little Book of Truth. His premise was to present the gospel in clear, common language so any person could comprehend it and could receive hope and compassion. Instead of receiving praise, Suso was tried for heresy.

Convinced he was right, Suso defied authority and wrote a second book,The Little Book of Eternal Wisdom, which taught the reader using everyday language the wisdom and joy which comes from following the teachings of scripture. Suso was condemned by the Pope and exiled from Germany, so he escaped to Switzerland. Although he was persecuted, slandered, and faced death threats, he never turned his back on the church and continued to share the gospel and the happiness, peace, and joy he had found by walking with God.

One night, Suso had a dream in which he saw countless angels singing and dancing. He listened and joined in the dance with them. When he woke up, he remembered the details of the dream including the words and the tune to the song. Feeling led by the Spirit, Frederich Suso recorded the words to the song from his dream, and “Good Christian Men, Rejoice” was born.

Although never accepted by the church, Suso taught his song and carried his message to the German people until his death in 1366, and the people wholeheartedly embraced this song of the joy of Christ.

It would be more than 150 years before “Good Christian Men, Rejoice” would be printed, but the song was so popular, it inspired other German writers, including Martin Luther, to compose hymns in the common language for the common people. Suso’s radical thinking became part of the foundation for the way most people viewed and continue to view their relationship to Christ.

James Mason Neale was a priest in England in the mid-1800’s was one of those who was inspired by Suso’s writings and was filled with the desire to bring the joy and hope of salvation to every person in his congregation and beyond.

Unfortunately for Neale, the thought of religion and exuberance was too radical for church authorities, and he was exiled to a pastorate far from his native England. Although ridiculed, stoned, and beaten, James Mason Neale continued to look for ways to reach the lost and the hopeless. In a truly radical move, he founded the Sisterhood of St. Margaret, an order of women whose goal was to feed the poor, care for orphans, and minister to prostitutes.

In spite of death threats to himself and the women who served with him, in 1853 a publisher released Neale’s English translation of “Good Christian Men, Rejoice!” in a book Carols for Christmastide, which carried the song all over the world.

As you end your day today, read through the lyrics to “Good Christian Men, Rejoice!”, and give thanks for men like Frederich Suso, James Mason Neale, and Martin Luther who followed the calling to bring the message--and the joy behind the message--of what it means to know Christ.

Reflect: 

"Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say:
News! News!
Jesus Christ is born today:
Ox and ass before him bow
And He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today!
Christ is born today!"

 ---------------------------------

References:

1.    “O Come All Ye Faithful”-- http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/devotions/Come_Faithful.aspx
2.    “O Come, O Come Immanuel”-- http://www.worshipmap.com/lyrics/storyveni.html
“Good Christian Men Rejoice”-- Collins, Ace. Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001. 58-63. Print.

Thanks to Patsy Weinberg for authoring these meditations. 

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