How Great Our Joy

Advent Hymn #3 ~ How Great Our Joy

Advent Hymn #3 – How Great Our Joy! Traditional German Carol

v. 1-2 by Theodore Baker

Theme: JOY

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Christmas Icons provided by Creative Market

I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!

    For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation

    and draped me in a robe of righteousness.

I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding

    or a bride with her jewels.

Isaiah 61:10

Perhaps you are not feeling it this Christmas.

Maybe you are more like Cindy Lou Who, saying, “Where are you Christmas?” Somehow the JOY has been lost. For many, it has been a dismal year. I hear of tragedy every week. Every day, my Open Doors app goes off with yet another person being persecuted. So how can there be joy?

Let’s take a closer look at this advent hymn, How Great our Joy!

Hymn of the Week How Great Our Joy

Maybe there is a clue here. This hymn speaks of the shepherds’ response to the Good News. Perhaps they can teach us about finding joy when all seems hopeless.

Verse 1

While by the sheep we watched at night,

Glad tidings brought an angel bright.

It was a quiet night. The shepherd-priests we learned of last week were settling down for another night. It had been over 400 years since they had even a word from God and the prophets. When would the Messiah come? Surely they had feelings of despair. “It’s never going to happen. We are stuck under the control of the Romans. At least they were allowing us to worship God and offer sacrifices in the temple. But When, When would the Messiah appear?

Emotions can turn on a dime. Imagine at one moment you are feeling hopeless; thinking it’s never going to happen. Nothing will ever change. I am stuck here in this trial forever. Then in a moment, everything changes. Imagine the excitement that came over the shepherds when they saw the angels and heard the Good News.

“Glory to God in highest heaven,

    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Luke 2:14

The shepherd-priests didn’t stay stuck in their despair. They were filled with joy. They immediately said, “Let’s go see this thing…” After they saw Jesus, they were  “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.

How Great was their Joy!

Verse 2

There shall be born, so he did say,

In Bethlehem a Child today.

A Child in Bethlehem! These were keywords from the prophets. They were words of HOPE.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,

    are only a small village among all the people of Judah.

Yet a ruler of Israel,

    whose origins are in the distant past,

    will come from you on my behalf.

Micah 5:2

They remembered the prophecy of Micah that a great ruler would come out of Bethlehem. Was it finally true? Had a child finally been born who would save them from tyranny? Hope was beginning to burst forth from the hearts. They just had to believe that it was so. After all, angels had come to tell them the news.

And again, Jeremiah had spoken of a Righteous King…

I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, [that is, someone in David’s line] a King who will reign wisely.

Jeremiah 23:5

This is another indication that salvation would come from the lowly town of Bethlehem; the City of David.

There was indeed HOPE RISING!

Verse 3

There shall the Child lie in a stall,

This Child who shall redeem us all.

A Promised Redeemer

Ah! Redemption! Whether you realize it or not, the thing your heart desires most is redemption. Just as God’s heart breaks because of the separation sin has caused, so our own hearts ache for restoration. Oh! How we need to be restored to God. From the beginning, at the Fall of Man in Genesis 3, God had promised a Redeemer. One who would restore man from the fall.

Then the Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this, you are cursed
    more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
    groveling in the dust as long as you live.
15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

Genesis 3:14-15

Revelation 12:9 confirms that God was speaking not just to the serpent but to Satan, himself.

This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.

And believers grasp on to the Apostle Paul’s statement to the Romans

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” (Romans 16:20)

God promised Moses that He would redeem Israel for Himself. (Exodus 6:6-7 ) There was the short-term promise of redemption from Egypt. This promise was also the promise through Christ for all who would believe. (John 1:12, Galatians 4:4-5 ) And finally, the complete fulfillment will come when He returns to restore the world and set up His Kingdom. (Revelation 21 )

Now that GIFT will be JOY indeed!

Verse 4

This gift of God we’ll cherish well,
that ever joy our hearts shall fill.

This is the joy that doesn’t depend on happiness or circumstance. Things may be hard right now. But we can still have JOY in our hearts. Great Joy! We can be “overwhelmed with joy” as Isaiah was because we know that we know that God has done a great work in us.

I conclude with this from Romans 15:13

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope”

Mandy

P.S. I came across this poem by Annie Johnson Flint recently. Had to share it.

For All the Morrows

Has the year brought sadness?
Joy is yet in store.
Has it given gladness?
Next year giveth more.
Let your Father measure
All your pain and care,
Let Him weigh the burden
That your heart must bear,
Sending light or shadow
As He deemeth best,
For in His sure wisdom
You can safely rest.
Peace for all the morrows,
Strength for all the days,
These shall be your portion
Through the New Year’s ways.

Annie Flint Johnson

RESOURCES

The Four-fold Promise of Redemption – The nationhood of Israel is tied together with connection to G‑d. – Contemporary Kabbalists (chabad.org)

How Great Our Joy | Hymnary.org

The First Promise of a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15) | Sharon Bible Presbyterian Church (wordpress.com)

22 Bible Verses about Joy – Uplifting Scripture Quotes (biblestudytools.com)

The Age of Innocence and Promise of a Redeemer – SLJ Institute

For All the Morrows by Annie Johnson Flint (homemakerscorner.com)

O Little Town

Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem

Advent Hymn #2 – O Little Town of Bethlehem by Philip Brooks, 1865

Theme: PEACE

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This week we consider the theme of peace. Christ has brought us perfect peace; something the jews for ages have desired. His blood and sacrifice bring us the true peace that we hope for. The peace that renders our soul free of guilt and sin. However, we often think of peace as quietness, like the little town where Jesus was born.

O Little Town of Bethlehem was written by Phillips Brooks around 1865. He wrote it for a children’s program at church, but it has become a favorite among adults as well. Phillips had visited Israel a few years earlier and took a tour that included riding a horse from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and arriving at dusk. He was so impressed by the little town. So quaint and peaceful. When he sat to write a song for the Christmas service, he was reminded of his time in Israel and these beautiful words came forth.

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“Faith over Fear”, People of the Christmas Story: Zechariah Part Two

Welcome back to today’s “Time in the Word”. We continue in our scripture study, which comes from Luke 1:1-23. If you are reading this digitally you can simply click on the highlighted text, otherwise, I invite you to grab your bible and turn to Luke 1. In the coming weeks, we’ll discover how the people of the Christmas Story: Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph chose “Faith over Fear”.

We last left Zechariah serving the Lord in the temple. Zechariah was burning the incense in the Holy of Holies when the Angel of the Lord appeared to him and gave him the wonderful news. After seeing the Angel of the Lord and hearing this incredible news, Zechariah speaks. Read Part One here.

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COme Thou Long-Expected

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Advent Hymn Studies #1 – Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

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I love to study the lyrics of hymns. They often bless my heart probably because so often they are words straight from scripture. I haven’t done a hymn study in a while so I’m going to try to study some Christmas hymns during December. Won’t you come along with me?

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“Faith over Fear”, People of the Christmas Story: Zechariah

Welcome to today’s “Time in the Word”. Our scripture today comes from Luke 1:1-23. If you are reading this digitally you can simply click on the highlighted text, otherwise, I invite you to grab your bible and turn to Luke 1. In the coming weeks, we’ll discover how the people of the Christmas Story: Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph chose “Faith over Fear”.

Our “Faith over Fear” Christmas bible adventure will focus on building our faith through trusting God. God fashions experiences in our lives to build trust. How was God building trust and growing Zechariah’s faith in the face of fear?

Zechariah Fast Facts: Reading Luke 1:1-10

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Of Christmas and Oysters

Image by Kate Baucherel from Pixabay

I am flabbergasted at the number of folks who enjoy oyster soup or stew as a traditional Christmas Eve staple, or on Christmas Day. This delicious, gelatinous gob of phylum Mollusca, (note my sarcasm) satisfies the bellies of many year-round, but especially during the Christmas season.

How you oyster lovers stomach eating them is beyond me! I get nauseous at the very thought. Still, in order to keep the Edgerton Enterprise readership highly educated in all matters of food and story, I present to you today- the history of the oyster.

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Get Ready for the Lord’s Coming

God’s Preposterous Promise – Devo Series

  1. On Our Way Back to God
  2. The Promise of Restoration
  3. God’s Promise to Comfort
  4. Prepare the Way of the Lord
  5. God Sings Over Us
  6. The Hope of God With us
  7. Trusting God’s Plans and Ways
  8. Get Ready for the Lord’s Coming

Scripture: Luke 12:35-38  

“It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak.” Click here to read entire passage. 

get ready

I’m one who likes to keep things relatively clean all the time so that I don’t have the big job of seriously cleaning the house. Growing up, I had 5 siblings. Not all of them were tidy and I hated to clean up after them. If we were to have company, my mother would crack the whip and get us all cleaning the house to the nth degree. All the high places and the low places. Places that no one ever went… even us. It was drudgery for me. 

The Holy Spirit coming into our hearts has been compared to a house. When we are saved the Holy Spirit comes in as a guest. He is in the Living Room, maybe the kitchen. But He wants to have access to every part. He wants to clean the high parts and the low parts because God cannot abide with sin. It must all go away. He wants to have access to your bedrooms and those closets where you hide away stuff that you want no one to see. He wants to go up in the attic and down in the basement to dig out things you have hidden away so far and so deep that you have completely forgotten about them. 

Just like we look forward to having a guest, we look forward to Jesus coming back and we shall ever be with the Lord. We need to do more than just keep watch at the window for His coming. We must prepare by having our whole hearts cleaned and pure. 

Points to Ponder 

  • Matthew 24 says BE READY for Christ’s Return. How can we be ready? Read (Matthew 24:45-50
  •  Study Matthew 25, What does Jesus say in these parables on being ready: 
  • Matthew 25:1-13 
  • Matthew 25:31-46 
  • What instructions did Paul give about being ready? (1 Thessalonians 5:1-24

PRAYER 

Lord, You have shown us through Your Word that You will come again to reign with us. I pray that I will be ready and watching for that day. Help me to remain in Your Word and work to show others the Way until You come. Work in and through me to shine as a light to the nations so that others may know You and be ready as well.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. 


Published with permission. Originally written by Mandy Farmer and published at the Discipleship Place ~ Women’s Ministries at The Church of the Nazarene November 2019

P.S. Are You Ready For His Coming?

Friend, it may not be long until Christ returns for His Bride. I hope and pray that you are ready for the day. No one knows the day or time. It will happen in the twinkling of an eye. There will be no time to get ready. The time is now. If you are unsure that you are ready, click through this link for more understanding.


get ready

Trusting God’s Plans and His Ways

God’s Preposterous Promise – Devo Series

  1. On Our Way Back to God
  2. The Promise of Restoration
  3. God’s Promise to Comfort
  4. Prepare the Way of the Lord
  5. God Sings Over Us
  6. The Hope of God With us
  7. Trusting God’s Plans and Ways
  8. Get Ready for the Lord’s Coming

Trusting God’s Plans and Ways

Scripture Reading: Psalm 25:1-22

“In you, Lord my God, I will put my trust. I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.” 

I grew up in a farming community. Most farms are on country roads connected by county roads named only with a letter or two. But beware because the next county over may use a different letter for the same road.  

One day, my brother was invited to visit his friend in another county. Mom was busy with farm business and she asked if I would drive him there. I had only a vague idea of how to get to this farm. Mom said that my brother could direct me there. So, with a little fear and trepidation, I headed out the driveway with a five-year-old in the co-pilot’s seat. 

God wants us to trust Him like this. To allow Him to show us the path of life. Usually, He only points in the direction He wants us to go. We must move ahead until He tells us to change directions. It may feel a little risky to trust Him and move ahead without any real plans on where we might be heading. Others might think us a bit foolish. They would say that we need a course of direction. They might say that to head out with no direction is “preposterous.” 

But when we move out on faith, we will find that we are not disgraced. My brother and I arrived safe and sound at his friend’s home. It’s the same with our faith. Trust God and we will arrive safely and right where God wants us to be.  

Points to Ponder 

  • Have you ever struggled to trust God when not knowing His plan? What truths about God do you lean on to help you trust Him more? Think of your own or look up these scriptures (Psalm 9:10, Psalm 28:7, Psalm 37:4-6, Proverbs 3:5-6, Isaiah 26:3-4, Matthew 6:25-27, 1 Peter 5:7, Philippians 4:19)
  • God always has a plan. He is never far away, and we can trust His plan. What do we know about God’s plans and His care? Make your own list or use these scriptures.  (Genesis 28:15, Joshua 1:9, Job 42:1-2, Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah 55:9, Psalm 23:4, Hebrews 13:5, 1 Cor. 3:16, John 14:16-17, Romans 8:37-39, Galatians 2:20)

Prayer 

Dear Lord, You are the God of the impossible. You can do anything. I want to trust your plan for my life whether I know Your will or not. You see the whole picture, so help me trust You completely as I follow You. Teach me to see things from Your perspective, and to know that You go before me and behind me, and Your hand covers me with protection. I declare my faith in Your promises, Lord. You are mighty, powerful, righteous, and true.  

In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen! 


Published with permission. Originally written by Mandy Farmer and published at the Discipleship Place ~ Women’s Ministries at The Church of the Nazarene November 2019

Trust in You by Lauren Daigle


God is Singing Over Us

The Lord is with you… in His love, he will no longer rebuke you but will rejoice over you with singing.” 

Scripture: Zephaniah 3:14-17 

God’s Preposterous Promise – Devo Series #5 of 7

  1. On Our Way Back to God
  2. The Promise of Restoration
  3. God’s Promise to Comfort
  4. Prepare the Way of the Lord
  5. God Sings Over Us
  6. The Hope of God With us
  7. Trusting God’s Plans and Ways
  8. Get Ready for the Lord’s Coming

God Sings Over us

He will rejoice over you with singing

Our daughter was born three weeks premature. Extra days in the hospital, she lay in an incubator. We could only hold her at feeding time. Once she was home, I loved to rock and sing over her. It was the Christmas season, so I began to sing a Christmas song… “Sweet Little Kaela Girl…” I created lyrics about how beautiful she was and how much we loved her. I believed the singing was just what she needed. Hearing my voice was a great comfort to her. 

Think of how God loved His people, the Israelites. Because of sin, a great chasm kept God from coming and walking with them every evening. He wanted to comfort them in their sorrow. There they were in captivity because of their sin. The next best thing was to send them prophets to speak His love over them. 

God sings over us

Zephaniah was one of those prophets. He told them that God loved them, and He had a plan. One day their sins would be completely gone. God would be with them forever. In the meantime, God would comfort them with singing. 

God has sent many muses our way also. He has given us beautiful words of comfort to our souls. I have often gone to playing the piano when my heart was sad. I would open a hymnbook and begin to play the hymns. Soon I would find myself singing the words and finally be comforted through them.  

Is your heart heavy today? Find an old hymnal and meditate on the lyrics. God is singing over you. 

Points to Ponder 

  • What hymn or song do you use to lift your spirits? Find the lyrics of that song or Civilla Martin’s hymn, His Eye is on the Sparrow. Meditate on the lyrics. Think about each word as you read and sing. 

PRAYER 

Lord, I come to You praising You for all You have done. You have _______ (list at least 3 specific blessings from your life) What a joy to know that You are singing over me. Tune my ear to listen to Your song. Thank You for loving me and caring about my every need.

In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen. 


Published with permission. Originally written by Mandy Farmer and published at the Discipleship Place ~ Women’s Ministries at The Church of the Nazarene November 2019


Christmas Goodies 2020: Part 1

With Christmas right around the corner, it’s time to share some delicious recipes. Christmas brings back lots of childhood memories. Memories of all the Christmas cookies, candies, pies and of course, the presents!

This week we have a variety of recipes from different church cookbooks from near and far, and Mrs. Esther Avers has some recipes to share as well. If you’re reading this digitally, you see that “Avers” and “recipes” are highlighted with links back to my previous articles. If your thumbing through a paper (thank you!) you’ll have to go back to the first two weeks of November 2020 to check out Esther’s recipes there.

First up is a Stollen recipe. I have to tell you a story before I give you this recipe. Though this isn’t my mom’s recipe, I remember her making Stollens for my dad’s department that he managed. Along with other goodies, each employee got a big box full of Christmas goodies.

The boxes were well received in his department but the “political correctness” and “fairness” were hard at work in liberal Madison, Wisconsin in 1982. He was told by upper management to never give Christmas boxes of homemade goodies again because the “other departments” didn’t receive those boxes and that’s “NOT FAIR”. Long live generosity and the Christmas spirit!

Christmas Stollen

Image by kakuko from Pixabay

This recipe is from Esther Avers. It makes three stollen. Feel free to give them out in your neighborhood or at work. Enjoy!

Ingredients For The Dough Base
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup lard or butter ( Esther, you have my baking heart)
  • 3 tbsp sugar

Mix as for pie crust.

Ingredients
  • 3 eggs yolks separated, keep the 3 egg whites and set aside for the moment
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 packages of dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 cup sugar

Take your two packages of yeast and dissolve them in the 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Then add the three beaten eggs and the dissolved yeast in the water to the dough and mix together but as little as possible. ( If your a tactile person hold yourself back or you’re going to ruin the dough!-m) Now divide the dough into 3 parts. Roll out each dough ball thin.

Take the three egg whites and beat together till stiff, then one cup of sugar and mix together. Spread this mixture out on the dough. You can sprinkle cinnamon on top of the egg mixture if you like. Now add to that any fruit or nuts of your choice and roll up like a jelly roll.

Place rolled dough on a greased cookie sheet and let rise in a warm, moist place and let rise for 3 hours (go wrap some Christmas presents or send out some more Christmas cards) and then bake at 325° until done (golden brown). Once cool frost with powdered sugar icing and decorate.

Now for a delicious treat, Caramels (yep it’s spelled correctly, how you pronounce it is up to you!). These are fun to make. Enjoy!

Caramels

Image by WikimediaImages from Pixabay
Ingredients
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 3/4 lb butter or oleo (PERISH THE THOUGHT ON THE OLEO)
  • 1 pint light Karo syrup
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • kettle or a big pot
  • candy thermometer
Directions

Mix together in a large kettle, stirring in a large kettle till it comes to a boil. Cook until 250 °F or forms a firm ball in cold water. Remove from heat, add 1 cup nuts and 1 tsp vanilla. Pour into large greased jelly roll pan to cool. Cut into squares and wrap in wax paper.

Caramels make great little gifts. Nothing says love like homemade caramels.

Pecan Tarts

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 c. flour

Filling:

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
Directions

Cream butter and cream cheese. Add flour. Make 24 balls and press into the bottom and up the sides of small muffin tins. Mix filling ingredients and fill each muffin cup. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes.

Next week I will share more great holiday recipes! Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and the Happiest and Healthy New Year.