The Tenth Day of Christmas

The Tenth Day of Christmas

This morning, the song & hymn line-up at church* was chock full of songs I love. Because several of them aren’t commonly known, I thought I’d share three with you guys today.

The basic theme of all of the song we sang this morning is one I love and struggle with and am learning all over again: we are each of us too big a train wreck for us to fix, but God is in the business of turning train wrecks into trophies of grace. These are wonderful songs for people who have come to the end of themselves.

And of course, I’ve included commentary, because, hey, this is me we’re talking about.

Come to Jesus by Mindy Smith – I’ve been putting this on mixes for more than 10 years, because sometimes your soul needs a desperate lullaby to remind you to rest like a baby in the arms of Jesus.

Can’t Help Myself by Sandra McCracken – This song is from a few years ago – before the Psalms album came out (which, y’all, is so good you should go buy it right now) – but is a really cool precursor to that album, because it follows the pattern of so many Davidic psalms, where David voices his thoughts and feelings about life being hard and then responds to his own self by reminding himself of Who God is and what God says about him. My favorite part (besides the “I can’t help myself” stuff, which I think is really helpful to repeat over and over, especially if you happen to be a perfectionist like myself) is the last verse: “I trust the Lord, my soul and all that is in me; I trust the Light to show my darkest parts. I pray the Spirit will be strong and mighty – a fool would keep his secrets in his heart.” I mean, isn’t that so deadly to our inclination to hide what is sinful and broken in ourselves from God?

For All the Saints, Indelible Grace style – I absolutely love this song. We started singing it in RUF in college, and it’s one of those rich hymns that takes you all the way to glory. I really love the last verse, but there are LOTS of verses, so I don’t blame our Worship Arts dude for ending at verse 5 or 6 or whatever it is (well, I try not to), and he does it so well – with a huge drum buildup at the end of the previous verse that ushers in the breathtakingly beautiful scene the hymn-writer (William How) describes for us of Jesus coming back to earth and the saints rising, victorious in His righteousness, from the dead. It’s fantastic.

The hardest thing to believe – and the most important – when you’re just having a really hard time in the grittiness of life is that Jesus really does make all things new. I kind of want to spend this year living like a person who knows 1. she will be resurrected 2. to live forever 3. in her (glorified) body 4. enjoying and glorifying God forever 5. with the rest of God’s people and all His creation. I’m not into New Year’s Resolutions or choosing a word for the year or anything like that, but I think this is something I’m gonna see if I can focus on this year. It seems like the kind of thing I should know down to my bones, you know?


* So I just want you to marvel with me for a moment that somehow our brand new church plant, which today held it’s 20th ever service, wound up landing the url citychurch.org. I still can’t believe it. To quote the 1995 BBC Pride & Prejudice mini-series,”I am all astonishment.”

 

The Sixth Day of Christmas (because I skipped the fifth)

The Sixth Day of Christmas (because I skipped the fifth)

So here’s the thing about endometriosis/PCOS/pelvic pain – at least the way it manifests in my life –  it totally derails your plans sometimes.

If I could have picked something to be an advocate for, I would have had one hell of a list to choose from. Black Lives Matter. Ending abortion. Adoption. Good theology. Good theology of sex among Christian women (especially single Christian women – purity culture has had its drawbacks). The sufficiency of Scripture. Discipling women. Mission work with Bedouins. Freeing people from slavery. Streetwalking with Jesus. Making dangerous streets safe again.

Instead, I get to talk about disorders and diseases of the female reproductive system.

Now, don’t get me wrong, those other things matter to me a great deal. Hopefully I will be able to help on some of these fronts at least. I can write about them a lot – and I’m sure I will. But with my illnesses, I feel that I bear responsibility for raising awareness and talking about what it’s like to live with chronic pain. I’m trying to figure out how to value Jesus in

This isn’t what expected 31 to look like for me. But here it is. And you know, it’s beautiful, even in its brokenness.

The Third Day of Christmas

The Third Day of Christmas

Today’s post is a PSA. Are you ready for this?

The “X” in Xmas is not an attempt to take Christ out of Christmas. Well, perhaps some people use it with that in mind, but the joke’s on them, because X in this case is the Greek letter chi, which is the first letter in Christ and often was used on its own, or with the rho (which looks like a P in our alphabet, thus XP), to reference Christ. When I was a seminary student, I used X all the time in my notes.

So next time you see “Xmas,” spaz thou not.

The First Day of Christmas

The First Day of Christmas

Boo, peeps! Bet you forgot this blog existed. I got busy (who didn’t right?), but I have good news for you (well, I guess it depends on whether you like reading this blog, but if you don’t, you should probably stop and ask yourself why you are doing that, right this very minute in fact…):

I am blogging the 12 days of Christmas. That means a blog post per day. For twelve days. In case you’re as bad at math as I am. (I had my husband the engineer check this paragraph for accuracy.)

As you know, there are partridges and pear trees and all sorts of nonsense allotted for this, the first day of Christmas. But since my pear ornament still hasn’t arrived from my Etsy dealer, instead today I am going to talk about my favorite Christmas hymn.

[Spoiler alert: “It’s Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.”]

Now, I grew up (after 4th grade) in the PCA, and at a church where we were pretty obsessed with RUF. I had all the RUF CDs I could get my hands on pretty early in high school. My high school youth group sang way more stuff like “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed” and “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” than that peskily romantic “In the Secret.” And, if you’re familiar with those hymns and you click those links and listen to the demos, you’ll notice that one of them is a folked-up version of the traditional tune and the other is to a completely new tune. That’s what RUF often does with rich, old hymn texts – set them to new tunes, especially if the old tune lack a certain accessibility to the modern ear.

So, thanks to youth group, I learned “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” by heart to the RUF tune of this song (“O Day of Rest and Gladness”), although I’ve found no recording of this song to this tune. (I like the traditional tune as well, but I learned it later.) And when we sang it, we sang it with 4 verses. Unless you were at PCPC with me, I bet you’ve never sung – or heard – all four. I cannot find a single recording on iTunes of all four verses, and believe me, I have looked. The reason is probably that the two verses that are most often sung – below they are 1 and 4 – were written by Charles Wesley in 1744, while the other two were inserted by some fellow named Mark E. Hunt in 1978.

Despite their disparate origins, I think the song 1) flows better with all four verses in play – they’re woven together so nicely, and 2) really isn’t very long anyway, so there’s like zero excuse for the cut. Unless you’re a Wesley-purist or something. But maybe that’s just me.

So here they are: glorious lyrics about our glorious King.

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free.
From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art,
Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of ev’ry longing heart.

Joy to those who long to see Thee, Dayspring from on high, appear!
Come, Thou promised-Rod of Jesse – of Thy birth we long to hear. 

O’er the hills, the angels singing news, glad tidings of a birth:
“Go to Him, your praises bringing – Christ, the Lord has come to earth!”

Come to earth to taste our sadness, He, Whose glories knew no end; 
By His life He brings us gladness, our Redeemer, Shepherd, Friend.
Leaving riches without number, born within a cattle stall –
This the everlasting wonder: Christ was born the Lord of all. 

Born Thy people to deliver, born a Child a yet a King. 
Born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring. 
By Thine own eternal Spirit, rule in all our hearts alone; 
By Thine all-sufficient merit, raise us to Thy glorious throne. 

Come on now, isn’t that brilliant? And packed with riches – so many truths about Christ crammed into such little space. Here are some of my favorites:

  • This song is full of affection for Jesus. I love that, because stirring our hearts to love Him is something music really can helps us with. It’s not creepy, Jesus-is-my-boyfriend affection, but it recognizes Who He has revealed Himself to be and receives Him with faith and love. Look at some of the names used to describe Him: “Strength and Consolation;” “Dear Desire” (not just an important desire, but one dear to the singer); “Joy to those who long to see Thee;” the powerful string “our Redeemer, Shepherd, Friend.”
  • I love the constant juxtaposition of Jesus’ humanity and His deity, His greatness and His teeniness: the story of God-become-zygote; the ineffable becoming a Man with skin and bones; the Holy One bearing the weight of our sin and brokenness; the difference between the the gloriousness of heaven and the poverty and pain of the Son of Man*.
  • The Gospel is so clear: Christ came to deliver for Himself a people. He sets us free, releasing us from our fears and our sins. He does this by His “all-sufficient merit.” This is justification. He sends the Spirit to indwell us and conform us to Him, filling us with appropriate love and awe and gratitude and joy in and for God, as well as holiness (“by Thine own eternal Spirit, rule in all our hearts alone”). This is sanctification. “Raise us to Thy glorious throne” – bring us to Your Presence – this is glorification.
  • There are so many references to Old Testament prophecies! These words are laden with them.
  • The whole song is about anticipation – the anticipation of Christmas, of course, which makes it super-appropriate to Advent, but also the anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ. The hope of things being made right, of brokenness being healed, of joy that doesn’t end – those things we always anticipate. We are groaning right alongside creation for that day.

 

*The Son gave up this incredible glory to secure a greater glory – the glory of redeeming a people for Himself, of reconciling sinners to the Father, of being a God Who saves. Indeed, His right hand is strong to deliver.