Christmas Carol Classics: Joy to the World

“Joy to the World, the Lord has come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.”

On this eve of Christmas I want to take a moment to pause and consider the words and story of this famous Christmas carol.  While you listen to the carol, let’s take a look at the story behind it.

Joy to the World was written by Isaac Watts based on the second half of Psalm 98 in the Bible.  It was first published in 1719.  Watts wrote it thinking about not the first Christmas but the second coming when Jesus returns one day.  The song is still one of praise rather than contemplation because God remains faithful to us as we wait through the (long) wait for Jesus’ return.  It’s also one of the most published Christmas hymns in North America and has been recorded by countless well-known artists.

As we await the arrival of Christmas Day just a little over an hour away where I am, Joy to the World is such a great reminder to celebrate this day.  We got such a gift from the birth of Jesus, one that hasn’t been matched since, but each year we give gifts to each other in a way of remembering and commemorating that gift that He gave.  So as you wrap a few last gifts and maybe try to calm the excitement in your hours and hope you get a few hours of sleep before the kids wake you up for gifts, take time to count your blessings and then celebrate them.  Just like on Thanksgiving we make time to give thanks, Christmas is a great time to celebrate all those things we are thankful for and the ways we’ve been blessed in our lives.  What are you celebrating today?

Overflowing with Thankfulness

As we finish out this month this week, today I want to talk about the foundation of our faith: God.  We’ve been talking about being thankful this month, about finding things to be thankful for even when we’re feeling challenged, being thankful for each other, being thankful for blessings, finding things to be thankful for and having a daily thanksgiving practice. But where does being thankful really start, what can we do to make it easier to be thankful and how can we be more thankful on a more regular basis?

Colossians 2:7 says: “Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

Colossians 2 reminds us that not only do we build our relationship with God to grow our faith and live lives that honor Him, knowing more about God, living more in ways that honor Him, learning more about the person He has created us to be and having a deeper faith will help increase the amount of thankfulness in our hearts, minds and lives.  If we want to be more thankful we need more God in our lives.  This means being open to seeing Him work in more ways in our lives, from the little things like seeing cats chase squirrels and the miracle of life, to receiving healing and new purpose in life, to receiving checks in the mail and even getting those holiday gifts on sale.

The other thing this verse reminds us is that we can only be thankful in matters that are true.  We can’t be thankful for the lies, it’s not how we’re designed.  We can only be thankful for that which is true, real, honorable and honest; all things that are good.  It’s a good reminder for our lives as well that our lives only grow and become or stay strong when we’re rooted in that which is righteous, honorable and truthful.  So if you’ve been struggling with thankfulness in your life, maybe it’s time to take a good look at what’s in your life and what you’re building your life on and around.

What are you thankful for today?

Thankful for God

We’re almost at the end of the month and I want to take time over the next few days to talk some more about our topic of being thankful.  One of the biggest challenges we face in life is in dealing with other people.  We’re constantly challenged, disagreed with, hear conflicting statements, see conflicting actions, and have our trust in others challenged because of things they say or do or things that others say about them and who they are or what they do.  While you can’t be too wrong about what they say or do in your presence, the same isn’t true for what others say about them.  That’s not to say that they didn’t do or say something, but it means that you can’t always take what others say as fact, especially when they’re talking about someone else.

It’s pretty much fact that at some point in time or another someone else will let you down.  Maybe they don’t mean to, maybe they were overtired and something stupid slipped out of their mouth, maybe they said or did something without thinking, maybe they thought about it and thought something different would happen as a result, maybe they thought it would be funny, or maybe they thought you were someone else, but one way or another the trust you had in them was broken or you got a glimpse of them in a totally different light than you were used to seeing them in.

The thoughts of thanksgiving that I’ve been reading over the past few days surrounding the holiday have been a reminder, even if they haven’t talked about it directly, of how awesome God is because He doesn’t do stuff like that. Even though He’s perfect and doesn’t have to earn our trust, He has in countless ways and continues to reinforce it each day.  Even on the days that we’re challenged by our faith and the things going on in our lives, we can still trust that He’ll be there, He’ll never give up on us, He’ll always have our best interests at heart, He’ll always remember us, He’ll never give up on us, and He’ll always be the God of Love.

As we head into this Christmas season I encourage you to take time this week to thank God for all He has done, is doing and will do in your life and in the lives of those around you, especially for sending His son on Christmas.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!  His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1

Thanksgiving Reflections

Thanksgiving is just a day away and I’m looking forward to it!  I love what it means, the gathering of family and friends and of course the opportunity to eat!  Today I wanted to share some verses of thanksgiving, verses that speak to what we have to be thankful for, and even verses to challenge us and keep us humble.

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.”  Psalm 1:1-2

“”These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.””  John 16:33

“”For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”” Jeremiah 29:11

“But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 15:57

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things.” 1 Chronicles 29:11

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for all we have, for the very gift of life, and for the gift of God in our lives.  Things could have gone so much differently for us, we could not have a God who’s so involved in and invested in our lives.  We could have fewer blessings and promises that we can depend on.  We could not be able to see the workings of God in big and little ways in our lives and the world.  We could be less individual and more similar.  We could all face significant challenges and threats on our lives.  And most of all we could be without hope in the future and in a permanent home in Heaven some day with God.  And those are just a few of the things we can think about this Thanksgiving as we gather around the table.

The Pilgrims created Thanksgiving because they were thankful for the most simple of things: being alive.  They were thankful to have found friends in the Native Americans and in their own ability to survive and work on thriving in a new world.  They weren’t celebrating billion dollar successes, curing serious diseases or finally helping world peace happen.  No, the were just thankful to be alive.  This Thanksgiving I encourage you to take time to be thankful for the big and little things in your life.  Everyone has something to be thankful for, even if it’s as simple as being alive.

Reality Reflection: Stupid People

Today I’m thinking about something that’s not exactly holiday, as you may have guessed.  Yep, those people that just completely blow your mind with their ignorance, rudeness, and/or laziness.  They’re the people that make you shake your head and stare in disbelief that they’ve gotten this far in life at least somewhat successfully.  It’s the driver who cuts across 6 lanes to take an exit, it’s the person who speaks and reads a certain language perfectly well but has trouble with the big sign practically in front of their face that answers their question yet they insist on asking you, and even the people who do those incredibly dumb things that you can’t help but laugh or giggle at even though it’s not really the right thing to do.  But I don’t need to tell you about them, you’ve probably met a few in your time.

But let’s face it, we are heading into the holiday season.  For business owners that means dealing with people who don’t usually shop with them but are during this time because they need gifts and think that the things a business offers would be perfect.  For everyone who drives it means an increase of people driving to stores and drinking at parties and driving to said parties.  For those who have a particular holiday preference it can be annoying to see the abundance of other holiday gear at this time.  And some people just don’t like the holidays and it makes them grumpy and grouchy.  You really can’t escape the season even if you want to.

So if we’re stating as fact that the number of ‘stupid people’ that we will run into over the next month or so will be more than usual, what’s one to do?  Well, it’s something I think we can do all year long but is especially relevant for people in the US this week: work on your thankful list. No, I’m not suggesting that you start listing reasons why you’re not a stupid person (we all have our moments), but what I’m suggesting is that you instead think about things you’re thankful for, what made you thankful that day or holiday memories that you’re thankful for.  While there may not be anything you can do to help that person who is annoying you so, there is something you can do about your attitude and outlook on life at the moment. So what are you thankful for today?

Thinking about Thanks

Today I’m thinking about being thankful.  It’s funny because sometimes we do have to think about being thankful, but other times it seems natural, like when someone holds the door open for us.  That type of thanks has been (usually) ingrained in us since we were kids, and now it’s second nature to react in that way when events follow a certain progression.  And if people don’t hold the door open or don’t pass the item we asked for or don’t give gifts even though they should have we tend to get grumpy and feel the opposite of thankful.

As much as being thankful is about you and is a personal thing, it’s also something that is all about connection.  When we’re thankful it’s usually because of something someone else did, because of someone else, about something someone made, that someone liked something we did, or that something worked out in our favor.  And, we’re encouraged to express our thanks to others when they do something that has a positive impact on our lives.

But there are times when we’re feeling challenged by the world and not so thankful about how things are going.  It’s during those times that we benefit most from others sharing what they’re thankful for with us.  Hearing that others appreciate who we are or what we bring to the world, or even just that they’re thankful that we exist and are part of their life can be the spark of hope we needed to hear.

So today I encourage you to remember to express your thanks.  Make sure to thank the person who said “bless you” after you sneeze, thank the person holding the door open for you, thank your coworkers for showing up faithfully each day, thank your family for putting up with your quirks, thank the mail person who delivers to you day in and day out, thank your parking guy who is out in the weather, thank the gas guy who works through rain and snow.  Sharing a little thanks will not only brighten their world, it will make you feel good too.

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”  Albert Schweitzer

Thankful for Criticism

This month we’re talking about being thankful.  It’s a topic that is encouraging and brings hope when you think about it typically because it is all about looking for the good and choosing to focus on the good and not the challenges or the problems.  But today I want to take a different perspective and talk about Proverbs 15:31-32 which says:

“If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.”  

Some people are really quick to jump up and offer criticism, it’s always easier to see ways others can improve.  We also don’t really like thinking about our own failures so sometimes we look for the failures of others to hopefully find that they’ll eclipse what we’ve done wrong.  Can we learn from the mistakes of others? Absolutely.  It’s a great idea to learn from their mistakes so that we hopefully can improve on their decisions.  But the simple truth is that everyone screws up at one point in time or another (and most of us do it on a daily basis).

But the real challenge presented in these verses is that it’s really hard to ask for criticism or guidance about your failures.  It’s not easy to ask others to criticize you or something you’ve created and offer feedback, especially when you think you’ve done something really good and others don’t have as much excitement over it as you do.  And then if you do work up the courage to ask for the feedback and they come back with a laundry list of things you can improve on, it can be discouraging.

However, as these verses point out one of the best things you can do is to get constructive criticism (key word there is constructive), and look for ways you can improve yourself. God may have designed you as perfect but that’s not who we are right now, we’ve all got growing to do before we reach that point.  So this week I encourage you to reach out to trusted friends or even to a mentor or someone who doesn’t know you personally and ask them for feedback on how you can grow through the things that are challenging you most right now.  You don’t have to fix everything at once, but you should take at least one forward step each day.