Music for Sunday 12/16/12

This Sunday, the Celebration Choir will lead us in worship through their Christmas cantata, Night of the Father’s Love.  Please plan to join us!

The composer of the cantata, Pepper Choplin, says of the writing process: I focused on the words “worship, mystery, and beauty.” My desire was not to be on the cutting edge, but to create a fresh telling of the Christmas story that is worshipful and beautiful.  The result is a lovely collection of readings and songs–both new music and traditional carols–based on three themes: The Anticipation, The Story, and The Response.

1. The Anticipation
We’ll open with The Coming of the Lord, which quotes from Psalm 24:7: Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in and from Isaiah 40:3-5: In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.  And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.  This song is to prepare us for the great story of hope and love that’s about to be told: our waiting soon will end!  God will dwell with us as Emmanuel.

Lift up your heads, O gates, and make the highway straight,
Prepare to celebrate the coming of the Lord!
Your waiting soon will end, God’s glory will descend,
Rise up and welcome in the coming of the Lord.
Prepare the way for the coming of the Lord!
The ancient words foretell, God with us, He will dwell,
Christ, our Emmanuel, and all will see the glory of the Lord!

The second song is simply called Waiting.  It’s a prayer with three parts: 1) We are waiting, 2) We are listening, and 3) Give us patience.

Waiting, we are waiting, Lord.
Fill the mind ’til we find Your light, Your truth.
Waiting, we are waiting, Lord
Fill the mind ’til we find Your will, Your way.

Now let us know Your presence, Lord, Emmanuel, God be with us.
We welcome You with open hearts, Emmanuel, God be with us.

Listening, we are listening, Lord.
Draw near, let us hear Your Word for us.

Patience, give us patience, Lord.
When we pray, give us faith that You hear every prayer.

I find this to be a challenging message.  Are we really seeking God’s will and God’s way?  Are we really listening for His word?  Do we have faith that He hears our prayers?  These are all parts of making room in our own lives for Emmanuel, God with us.

2. The Story
The events of Christ’s birth are told here over the course of four songs which cover the announcements of the angels, the birth, the shepherds, and the wise men.  First is Angels Are Making Their Rounds, which is my favorite song in the cantata.  Look at all the angel activity recorded in the Bible surrounding Christ’s birth: the angel who told Zechariah that Elizabeth would have a son, the angel who told Mary she would have a son, the angel who Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, and the angels who brought the good news to the shepherds. In this song, each of these messages is sung by a section of the choir (alto, soprano, bass, and tenor), each with its own melody, and then all four of those melodies are sung at once!  The effect is that of many angels making their rounds with their messages from God.

Fear not, Zechariah, for the Lord has heard your prayer.
Elizabeth will bear a son.

Hail, O blessed one, you have found favor with God.
O blessed one, you have found favor with God.

Fear not, Joseph, go and take Mary to be your wife,
For she carries a holy Child.

Unto you is born a Savior.
Glory to God and peace on earth, for now the Lord is with you.

The next song is Night of the Father’s Love, which gets its title from the two carols it blends together: Of the Father’s Love Begotten and Silent Night.  Of the Father’s Love Begotten is a lesser-known carol for many people, but the words are beautiful.  (This text is from the 5th century AD and the tune is from the 11th century, so if you tend to like older songs, here you go!)

Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega. He, the source, the ending, He.
Of the things that are, that have been and the future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore.

After the choir sings this verse, the women continue with the same words at the same time the men are singing Silent Night.  Listen for how well these two melodies work together.

The next part of the story is the shepherds, told in The Shepherds’ Song.

While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came near and glory shone around.

He said, “Fear not, for I bring good news, it shall be for all people.
For unto you is born this day a Savior, Christ the Lord.

For unto you is born this day, there in Bethlehem,
A Savior, who is Christ the Lord, and this shall be your sign:

And this shall be the sign to you: for you shall find the baby,
There, all wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo!

The words gloria in excelsis Deo (glory to God in the highest) have been set to music many, many times with many composers’ ideas of the sound of “a great company of the heavenly host.”  And of course we won’t know until we reach heaven what that sounds like, but we can still praise God through these words and through the writings of composers using God’s gift of music.

The story of the wise men is told in Seeking the King, an interesting song because it’s told from the perspective of the wise men themselves–and ourselves, as we continue to seek after our King.  Here’s an interesting thought:

We bring gold to crown Him with royalty, frankincense to show His divinity.
We bring myrrh, the fragrance used when someone dies,
Though we’re not sure the reason why.

Did the wise men realize what was ahead for the newborn King?  Did they know that instead of reigning over an earthly kingdom, that He was the one who would be bruised for our transgressions?

3. The Response
What would be your response to a face-to-face encounter with Emmanuel, God with us, as the shepherds and wise men had?  You would Fall on Your Knees, as they did, and worship Him:

Come, see the Child, He is here by the fire,
Silently come, draw near the manger side.
Look in His face and see the world’s salvation,
And feel the holy peace, fall on your knees.

Come now, and fall on your knees as you worship in His presence.
Thanks be to God you have found the holy Child.
Blessed are all who have seen the Lord’s salvation.
Come and lift your voice. Let your heart rejoice
And praise the Prince of Peace.  Fall on your knees.

And having worshiped Him, you would want to tell others about your encounter!  That’s the idea of the last song, Christ Is Born, Nowell!

Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell!
Joyous news we come to tell,
Christ is born, Nowell!

I want to say a special thank you to each member of the Celebration Choir.  Thank you for spending every week since August rehearsing, practicing at home, marking your music– and remembering to look at what you marked in your music!  Thank you for your loving and giving spirit as you work together to prepare to lead others in worship.  Special thanks to Dee and Hunter for joining us.  Thank you to our narrators, Lara, Tom, and Janice, for sharing the story through the spoken word, and to Steve for wrestling the sound system into submission!

Glory to God in the highest!

Night of the Father’s Love: The Awe and Mystery of God with Us by Pepper Choplin.  Copyright 2010 Lorenz Publishing Company. CCLI #3163058.

Music for Sunday 12/9/12

If you’re a lover of Christmas music, you’re going to love our service this week!  All the music in the service will be traditional Christmas carols now that the Advent season is in full swing.  As a congregation we’ll sing The First Noel, What Child Is This, Angels from the Realms of Glory, and Silent Night.

And this is a special service for us, because the handbell choir will be bringing special music.  We’ll be playing more Christmas favorites: Come to Christmas (a medley of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and O Come, All Ye Faithful), Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, and Joy to the World.  I want to say thank you to Amanda, Summer, Kaitlyn, Martha, Judy, and Carolyn for all the time and hard work they’ve poured into learning the music this fall, and for making our rehearsals a hoot!  (Really, we have the best time together, and we could still use another ringer, so please consider joining us in January.  No experience is necessary!)

There’s a theme that runs through the carols we’re using this week: our response to the coming of our Savior.  Watch for this as we sing: The First Noel, What Child Is This, and Angels from the Realms of Glory each contain a verse about the shepherds’ response (they left their flocks to find the King), the wise men’s response (they saw the star and traveled many miles to find the King), and, finally, our response.

The First Noel:
Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
Who hath made heaven and earth of naught,
And with His blood mankind hath bought.

What Child Is This:
So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king to own Him.
The King of kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Angels from the Realms of Glory:
Saints before the altar bending, watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending, in His temple shall appear:
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Come join us this Sunday, and let us all with one accord sing praises to our heavenly Lord!

Finding Peace and Love in Christ

This week is our second week of Advent, a season during which we prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ and anticipate his second coming. During the four weeks preceding Christmas we light a different candle each week during worship to help us focus on the birth of our Savior. This week during worship we light the Joy candle to remind us of the everlasting joy we find in Jesus Christ.

Our message this week will focus on the third and fourth candles of Advent, Peace and Love. For many of us we find that peace is fleeting in our lives. We are distracted by difficult work schedules and difficult relationships as well as any number of daily chores, responsibilities and activities. Can we find peace in a world gone mad? I believe we can! Join us this Sunday as we seek to find peace and love in the person of Christ. Our primary passage of scripture will come the Gospel of John chapter 14 verse 27.

I also want to encourage you now to make plans to join us for our Christmas Eve service on Monday December 24th at 6.30 pm. This Candle Light, Lord’s Supper is always a special service for our church family.

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…

Pastor Mike

December Newsletter

The December newsletter is here.

Music for Sunday 12/2/12

Born Thy people to deliver, born a child, and 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.

Those words by Charles Wesley sum up the hope we have in Jesus: our deliverer, our eternal King, the hope of all the world, and the only one with all-sufficient merit–the only one able to release us from sin.

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 every longing heart.

Israel’s strength and consolation…this was what the people of Israel longed for, waited for, generation after generation: their promised Messiah, or deliverer.  But what happened when He finally came?  That’s the focus of Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne:

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for Thee!

Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn
They bore Thee to Calvary.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for Thee!

Most people did not even recognize the one they had waited for all their lives.  They rejected Him, scorned Him, and eventually put Him to death.

When the heavens shall ring and the angels sing
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me home, saying, “Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee.”
My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus, when Thou comest and callest for me!

There is room for us!  Our Messiah has made a way for our deliverance, and it’s available to all who will make room for Him and accept His gift.  That’s the hope of Advent.

Finding Hope and Joy in Christ

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. Each Sunday for the next four weeks we will light a different candle having special significance in our prayerful anticipation of the celebration of the birth of Christ. The candles signify Hope, Joy, Love and Peace. And then on Christmas Eve we will light the Christ candle as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Our message this week will center around the first two candles as we look to affirm that we can find hope and joy in the person of Jesus Christ. Our primary scripture passage will be Luke 2.8-11.

Then on Sunday evening we will have our “Hanging of the Greens” service. This service celebrates the “greening” of the church for the Christmas season. I hope you can join us for this special service and the time of refreshments and fellowship that will take place immediately following.

Pastor Mike

Music for Sunday 11/25/12

It’s easy enough to say we’re thankful to God–especially on a holiday for just that purpose.  It’s easy enough to sing words of praise–especially on Sunday morning when everyone else is doing the same.  But what about the rest of the time?  Is this just lip service?  Are these empty words?

Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise.  We truly show our praise and thanks to God through living for Him.  As God’s chosen people, we have been set apart–or consecrated–to love Him and serve Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds.  That’s the idea behind one of my favorite hymns, Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated.

Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love,
At the impulse of Thy love.

Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee;
Take my voice and let me sing always, only for my King,
Always, only, for my King.

Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold;
Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine;
Take my heart, it is Thine own, it shall be Thy royal throne,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

This is complete surrender.  This is our ultimate act of praise: to consecrate to God our lives, the work of our hands, our feet, our voices, our possessions, our time, and–hardest of all–our wills. But what else could we do, in light of God’s great mercy toward us?

I Peter 1:3-4, 13-16: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. 

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.   But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

We’ll open the service with a hymn that’s a call to worship, Come, Thou Almighty King, as we seek the presence of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Then, in Your Name, we’ll sing together: Jesus, in Your name we pray, come and fill our hearts today; Lord, give us strength to live for You and glorify Your name.  Let’s make that our prayer this week as we seek to praise our God through our lives.

Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated: words by Frances R. Havergal and music by Henri A. C. Malan. Your Name: words and music by Paul Baloche and Glenn Packiam.  Copyright 2006 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music/Vertical Worship Songs.   CCLI #3163058.

Living Faithfully

In our worship services the past few weeks we have been talking about how we can praise God with our lives. We have talked about how we can praise Him with worship, how we can praise Him with our giving and how we can praise Him through the trials of life. This week we will be looking at how we can praise God through faithful living. What does it mean to praise God with our lives and live faithfully for Him? As we look at two familiar passages of scriptures I hope we will answer that question.

Our scriptures this week both come out of the Gospel of Matthew. The first, Matthew 22.36-40, is known as The Great Commandment. The second passage comes from Matthew 28.18-20 and is known as The Great Commission. These two passages shape how we live our lives faithfully to the Lord and thus praise Him with our lives.

I hope that you all have a very Happy and Safe Thanksgiving. Please take time during the craziness of the Holiday to sit and be still with the Lord for at least a few moments and thank Him for all that He has done in your life through His Son Jesus Christ.

Grace and Peace…

Pastor Mike

Music for Sunday 11/18/12

These sufferings, this passing tide
Under Your wings I will abide,
And every enemy shall flee.
You are my hope and victory.

Those words are from the choir’s song for this week, Praise the Father, Praise the Son, and set the theme for our service: that we can praise God under any circumstances or sufferings.  I love the image of hiding in the shadow of God’s wings, as found in Psalm 57: Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge.  I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed and in Psalm 17: Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.

This song is made up of a chorus…

Praise the Father, praise the Son, praise the Spirit, Three in One.
Clothed in power and in grace; the name above all other names.

…and three verses giving reasons that we praise Him: He is the Almighty God, He is our hope in trials, and He is our salvation.  In the first verse, God is the Almighty:

O sovereign God, O matchless King, the saints adore, the angels sing,
And fall before the throne of grace.  To You belongs the highest praise.

In the second verse, above, He is our hope and victory in any circumstances.  And in the third verse, He has made us whole.

To the valley, for my soul; Thy great descent has made me whole.
Your Word my heart has welcomed home; now peace like water ever flows.

The first song in the service will be Come Thou Fount, Come Thou King.  The choir sang this song several weeks ago, and now it’s your turn as we join in singing it as a congregation–especially fitting because of this line in the chorus: Hear Your bride, to You we sing.  We, the church, are the bride of Christ, and it’s our privilege to gather together and sing His praises as a body.  Why do we do this?  The answer is in the first verse: Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.

The verses of Come Thou Fount will be familiar to you–they’re the verses of the hymn Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.  I like this song because it has something for everyone when it comes to music styles: it’s an old hymn, with a new chorus, set in a contemporary style but keeping the traditional melody.

And finally, we’ll sing Give Thanks:

Give thanks with a grateful heart; give thanks to the Holy One.
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.
And now, let the weak say, “I am strong;” let the poor say, “I am rich,”
Because of what the Lord has done for us.
Give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Praise the Father, Praise the Son: words and music by Ed Cash and Chris Tomlin.  Copyright 2008 worshiptogether.com Songs/sixsteps Music/Vamos Publishing/Alletrop Music. Come Thou Fount, Come Thou King: words and music by Robert Robinson and Thomas Miller.  Copyright 2010 worshiptogether.com Songs/sixsteps Music/Vamos Publishing/Hillsong Publishing.  Give Thanks: words and music by Henry Smith.  Copyright 1978 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music.   CCLI #3163058.

Praising God in the midst of trials

Life is hard, there is not anyone I know who would dispute that. It is easy to sing our praises to God when things are going well, but how do we still sing praises to God in the midst of the trials of life? How do we sing praises to our heavenly Father when we feel like our world is falling down around us? These are difficult questions and these are questions that are always easier to answer after we are on the other side of our trials and difficulties. When we are on the other side of these struggles things are always more clear.

This week in our message we will try to learn from the biblical examples we have of how and why we can praise God in our storms of life. The group “Casting Crowns” has a song our titled I Will Praise You in this Storm. That song talks about praising God in the storms of life because no matter what we are going through He is still worthy to be praised.

In the book of Revelation we see in chapter 4 that God is worthy of honor and praise because He created all things and through Him all things are made. This fact does not change because we are encountering issues and struggles and trials of life. He is still worthy to be praised. Join us Sunday as we look into this in more depth. Our primary passages of scripture will be James 1.2-4 and Romans 8.28.

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