One of the earliest carols written in North America is a song we never sing. Most of us have probably never even heard of it. It was written by John de Brebeuf, a Jesuit missionary to the Huron Indians.
Brebeuf, along with a group of Jesuits, lived with the Hurons in what is now modern-day Ontario. The missionaries learned the native language and tried to introduce the Christian message in their language. They translated hymns and other Christian writings into the Huron language and then read them aloud to the Indians in their own mother tongue.
Brebeuf wrote the carol “Jesous Ahatonnia” (“Jesus is Born”). For the melody he used a sixteenth century French folk song. As you read the words of the carol you can see how he tried to use their own culture and understanding to tell the story of the birth of Jesus.
The Huron Carol
Twas in the moon of wintertime When all the birds had fled, That mighty Gitchi Manitou Sent angel choirs instead; Before their light the stars grew dim, And wond’ring hunters heard the hymn: Jesus, your King is born, Jesus is born, In excelsis gloria.
O, harken to the angels’ word, Do not decline To heed the message which you heard: The Child Divine, As they proclaim, has come this morn Of Mary pure. Let us adore. Jesus is born, In excelsis gloria.
Within a lodge of broken bark The tender Babe was found, A ragged robe of rabbit skin Enwrapp’d His beauty ’round; But as the hunter braves drew nigh, The angel song rang loud and high: Jesus, your King is born, Jesus is born, In excelsis gloria.
The earliest moon of wintertime Is not so round and fair As was the ring of glory on The helpless infant there. The chiefs from far before Him knelt With gifts of fox and beaver pelt. Jesus, your King is born, Jesus is born, In excelsis gloria.
O children of the forest free, O sons of Manitou, The Holy Child of earth and heav’n Is born today for you.
One of my favorite parts of the resurrection story is when Mary Magdalene was standing outside the empty tomb, heartbroken because the tomb was empty, and she did not know where the body of Jesus had been taken.
When Jesus appeared to her, she did not recognize him and thought he was the gardener. “Sir, if you have carried him away, please tell me where you laid him.” At that moment, Jesus spoke her name. “Mary,”
At the sound of Jesus speaking her name, she realized it was Him!
Something is very special to us – the sound of our name in the voice of a loved one.
Jesus spoke of knowing His voice in John 10
“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”
In Psalm 139 the writer reflects on how well God knows us.
O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!
To me, in times of difficulty – it is so good to know that Jesus knows my name.
Time for making cookies, shopping for gifts, decorating the Christmas tree and all our house inside and out. Time for family gatherings, parties at friends, watching Hallmark Christmas movies. The list goes on and on.
As I listen to people talk about the holiday, it almost seems at times as if it is more of a stressful time for some than a joyous celebration. People wonder if they will get the right gift for that special someone, if their decorations will look as nice as the neighbor’s next door, if they will have enough time for all they need to do to celebrate this holiday.
And I have to ask myself: what are we celebrating?
The Early Church did not celebrate Christmas. For them the important date was the day Jesus arose from the grave. Granted without His birth He could not have grown up and died for us. But for the Early believers, the important thing to celebrate was His resurrection. Two of the Gospels do not even mention the birth of Jesus but all four Gospels give great detail of the last days of His life as He was crucified, buried and rose again. The Aposle Paul shared that this was the heart of the good news.
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
Doing some research into church history, I discovered that the first Christmas was celebrated December 25, 336. The Roman emperor Constantine decreed this celebration to take place throughout the Roman Empire and Pope Julus I selected the date of December 25. Bible scholars tell us there is nothing in the Bible or in Early Church history to know the date of the birth of Jesus. Many reason that it was more lately that his birth was in the spring. Would shepherds be out on the hills with their sheep in the middle of winter?
Many pagan societies observed this date as a celebration of the winter solstice. This was the shortest day of the year and would lead to the return of the sun. In ancient Germanic cultures, they would burn a Yule log, light bonfires, tell stories and drank ale. Ancient Romans had a seven-day celebration, Saturnalia, beginning December 17. They would have a sacrifice at the temple of Saturn followed by several days of a carnival atmosphere. oldest winter celebrations in the world.
It is believed by many scholars that the Pope chose December 25 to try to turn people away from the celebration of Saturnalia and begin to follow the Christian way of life.
Whatever the reason for the choice of December 25 it has come down to us as the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
But again, I ask: what are we celebrating?
I recently visited a Christmas celebration at a local mall. I wondered what someone who had no knowledge of our customs and came to the celebration would think it was all about. There were all kinds of items with Santa Claus, the elves, the reindeer. But I saw nothing about the stable, the manger, Jesus.
Now – do I sound like Scrooge?
I certainly do not mean to. I love the decorations, the Christmas movies of the Elf on the Shelf and all that goes with our holiday in America. This week I will be busy putting up my tree and decorating my home all in red and gold, looking for that perfect gift for my husband.
But I wonder: What if you were told your friends were going to have a party to celebrate your birthday. You get excited and come to the party expecting greetings from everyone – and maybe some presents. You arrive early because you are so happy your friends want to celebrate this day with you. When you arrive, no one acknowledges your presence. No one offers you a seat at the table. There are no signs saying, “Happy birthday.” Instead, another person is seated at the head of the table. Everyone is talking to him, wanting to have their picture taken with him, toasting him. You are totally ignored.
You might go home wondering: what were they celebrating?
I hope you will enjoy this month and all the food, decorations, shopping, family gathering, parties. But I hope you will truly remember who and what we are celebrating.
I hope you will take time to listen to this song – and ask yourself: what am I celebrating?
Normally on Friday I post a list of ten things I have found interesting in my reading and listening to various speakers. For the month of December, I am going to instead post the history of a beloved Christmas song.
The one today is one I hope you will take time to read – and then pray for the Ukrainian nation.
I have always loved this song. It is so cheerful and full of the holiday spirit at Christmas time.
The song first came to worldwide recognition when the Ukrainian National Chorus conducted by Alexander Koshetz performed at Carnegie Hall in October 1922. Dressed in their traditional embroidered dress the audience responded to their rendition of the song by cheering for encores and throwing flowers on the stage.
This traditional Ukrainian song was listed on the playbill as “Shchedryk.” This was actually a pagan folk song that was sung on the New Year and had nothing to do with bells or Christmas. The song tells of a swallow summoning the master of the house to look at the coming spring season and the harvest it will bring. In 1916 composer and teacher, Mykola Leontovych added music to the lyrics. He had worked for several years on his arrangement and orchestration of “Shchedryk.” He sent his arrangement to the director of the National Chorus in August 1916 and several months later it was performed by the choir in Kyiv.
This song is closely associated with Ukraine’s history. When the Romanov dynasty fell in March 1917, the Ukrainian People’s Republic was declared in 1918. Its president, Symon Petilura, wanted the world to know about Ukrainian culture in the hopes it would gain support for his new state. So, the Ukrainian National Chorus began a worldwide tour. On their tour they would pass out brochures with information about their new country.
While the choir was touring Europe and the USA, the Cheka, which later became the KGB, began killing thousands in an effort to bring Ukraine back into Russia which was now ruled by the Bolsheviks. This period became known as the Red Terror.
This terror reached to the composer of this song. On January 23, 1921, the composer was shot by an agent of the Soviets, Afanasy Grishchenko. He had asked for shelter for the night at the composer’s family home. During the night he shot Leontovych with a rifle.
Hearing a performance of the original song, Peter J. Wilhousky copyrighted the music and wrote new lyrics (not based on the Ukrainian folk song) which he published in 1936. The new version became popular in the USA and Canada and became associated with Christmas.
By 1921, the short-lived People’s Republic had fallen. Its terriitories were divided between Russia, Poland, Romanis and Czechoslovakia. It was not until the collapose of the Soviet Union in 1991 that Ukraine became an independent nation once again.
While we enjoy this cheerful song with its cheerful lyrics, let us remember we owe our thanks to the Ukrainian nation for this song. Let us pray for this people who have fought so hard and so long for their own country.
I try to stay away from political posts because my goal for this blog was to encourage, and maybe make someone smile.
However, our current political scene is so chaotic, and our politicians are contributing, not to unity, but division. What makes me sad is to see the church trading its beliefs to gain political power. So when I read this today in my study, I must share it.
These are not my words. The following is taken from the book “The New Testament in Its World” by N.T. Wright.
When Paul says that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20) he is emphasizing that the Messiah, who reigns in heaven, and who will one day return from heaven, is the object of our hope and loyalty. There was nothing wrong with being a citizen of Rome, just as there is nothing wrong with being a British or an American citizen. But when the gospel of Jesus is unveiled it reveals the true empire, the true citizenship, the true lord and in that light all the pretensions of empire, not least the arrogant and blasphemous claims of the emperor himself, or the propaganda of power-hungry presidents, are exposed as folly. The church’s vocation is not to bless the power, policies, and pantheon of civic leaders, but to measure them by the standard of Christ, to pursue the things that make for peace and justice, and to proclaim that all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. The church was never intended to be the religious department of any empire, but always to be building for the true kingdom, setting up an embassy for the one true lord, living lives according to his symbols, his teaching, his story and no other. If that means suffering, that will mean following the pattern of the Messiah, and confidently expecting his rescue and reward. The church’s loyalty cannot be auctioned off to those who promise it political influence; not can its core convictions be pummeled into submission to fit the reigning zeitgeist. For citizens of heaven, the gospel should be declared, not domesticated.
My children say when I die instead of a visitation, they will have a Scrabble tournament. Sounds great to me. Too bad I will not be able to take part in the competition.
However, Scrabble has a rival in our love of games now with a board game we recently discovered.
Ticket to Ride is a board game created by Alan R Moon. The game publisher Days of Wonder first offered this game in 2004. It has grown to be one of the most popular board games in the world selling more than eight million copies all over the world.
The original version shows a map of the USA and southern Canada. Each player has a set of plastic trains and starts out with four cards that show train cars in different colors. When it is your turn you can add more cards to your hand or claim a route on the map. In order to claim a route, you must have enough cards of the same color as the track.
Each time you claim a route you are given points – the longer the route, the more points. This continues until one player has two or less train tokens left. The player with the most points win. To add interest to it, the player with the longest continuous train gets extra points.
The original game was a map of the USA but the game has become so popular that there are multiple versions of the game. You can now play it online, on your iPad or on Xbox. Although the basic concept is the same in each game, there are variations for each game that make it each one unique and keep it interesting.
We currently have:
Original Ticket to Ride (USA and Canada)
Ticket to Ride Rails and Sails (two-sided board with the world on one side and the Great Lakes on the other.) Since we live in Michigan, we love the Great Lakes side.
Our latest addition is Ticket to Ride the Heart of Africa
While this new game does add variety to our game nights and perhaps helps to keep our old age brains working, it is doubtful that it can totally take the place of Scrabble. We have had a long-term love affair with that game. We celebrated reaching 1000 games in 2020 – and while we continue to keep a record of our scores, I doubt we will ever make it to another 1000 games (since I am 74 and my husband is 82.)
If you are looking for a fun board game for yourself or for a Christmas present, I can recommend one of the many different versions of this interesting game.
My devotion today told the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with costly perfume as he sat at dinner with his disciples. Her action was criticized by those who thought it was money that could have been better spent on the poor.
Jesus responded that she had done a beautiful thing and this act was in preparation for His death. He also added that this wherever the Gospel was told this woman’s story would be included.
According to the Gospels, this was not a cheap jar of perfume purchased at the local storefront.
Matthew referred to it as “an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment.” Mark called it “an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly.” John says it was “an expensive ointment made from pure nard.”
Researching the fragrance “nard” it appears it would probably have been imported from India and according to the complaint of…
(This was my first post when I started my blog. Revisiting it still makes me laugh. Hope it will you also.)
For many years I was a pastor’s wife. In many ways, it was a blessing for which I am thankful. What a privilege to be allowed into the lives of families at those very joyous times: weddings, baby dedications, graduations, anniversaries. I have enjoyed providing the music for many a bride to walk down the aisle.
It was also an honor to share with families at those sad times: deaths, divorce, sickness. While “enjoy” is probably not the right word to use, I have felt blessed to provide music for the funeral of many a dear saint.
What a joy to share God’s Word in a class with the children or young adults and to see that moment when their eyes light up with understanding, to watch them grow in their walk with the Lord!
But if I am honest, I must admit that there are also times when being a pastor’s wife felt anything BUT a privilege and honor. Times when I wanted to run from the parsonage and say, “I quit!” It’s hard to hear your husband criticized and hold your tongue. Frustrating when you have planned a date night, are all dressed up and about to walk out the door only to have it cancelled because someone in the congregation calls and needs your husband. Or, you are just about to sit down to a family meal when the phone rings – and off he goes. There were times I wanted to pull the phone out of the wall.
But along the way, I have had moments when I wanted to laugh! Some silly and funny times. I always said when my husband retired, I was going to write a book about “The View from the Parsonage.”
Well, there’s no book – but I certainly want to share some funny stories in my blog. I promised my husband –
the names will be changed to protect the innocent – and the guilty.
For now, let me just share with you some thoughts –
You might be a pastor’s wife if:
You’ve ever had a church board hand you a job description with no attached salary package.
You are the secretary at the church.
You are not the secretary at the church, but people assume you are.
You think about burning down the church if that would give you more time with your pastor.
You used communion cups to serve your grandchildren orange juice.
People automatically assume you know the inside scoop on everything going on at church…and you do…but your lips must remain sealed.
You are expected to attend 2 baby showers, 3 birthday parties, 2 weddings and 1 graduation in a month (and, of course, brings gifts for each one).
You’ve ever had someone angry with you because you sent a card, but didn’t come to see them.
You’ve ever had someone angry with you because you came to see them, but didn’t send a card.
Your house sometimes feels like an extension of the church with all the traffic it gets.
Your husband always knows someone or someone always know him, everywhere you go.
Your husband is constantly excited to tell you something else he’s learned…and you struggle to remain as enthusiastic as you wish you could be.
You get roped into proof-reading or listening to the rough drafts of sermons…all the time.
You’ve resigned yourself to the fact that there will always be more books that your husband will want but will never read…but will buy anyway.
You could pay off your house if you just sold all the Bibles laying around the place.
There will be more stories to come! Believe me, I have plenty.
If you read this and are a pastor’s wife, I would love to hear from you – to hear some of your stories!
Next week we celebrate Thanksgiving. As I began reflecting on my many blessings and making a list of things to be grateful for, I realized we often mention the “big” ones (which we should) like knowing Jesus Christ or our family. Then I thought how often we just take much for granted without stopping to be grateful. Things that are “small” in and of themselves, but that add so much to our life.
So, here’s my 10 things I am thankful for this year.
The freshly fallen snow outside my patio window.
The birds gathered around the birth bath.
The sound of the children’s laughter playing next door.
The leftover chocolate bar I found in my daughter’s collection of Halloween candy. (Don’t tell her I took it.)
The smell of clean sheets taken from the dryer.
Holding my husband’s hand under the covers as I drift off to sleep.
Finding reruns of the Flip Wilson show on YouTube.
The smell of the apple pie as it comes from the oven.
Texts I get with pictures of great grandchildren who live in other states.
My Amazon package bringing me more coffee from around the world.
As I look at this list I realize it reflects the many “big” blessings for which I am thankful. Eyes that can see, ears that can hear, the ability to taste and smell. Family. Finances enough to be able to have food, entertainment, a home.
How often do I just take those things for granted.
This week my prayer is:
Lord, thank you for my eyesight and the beauty I can see each day; for my hearing and the joy of my family’s voices, the music and the bird’s songs; all my senses that help me experience and enjoy the world you have made. Thank you for being able to get out of bed each morning, dress myself and take care of my needs. Thank you for my every breath that keeps me alive. For the love of family and friends which make life worth living. Thank you for another day of life. One more day to love and be loved. One more day to laugh and maybe even cry. One more day to know You better.
And may my gratitude not be a momentary thing as we approach Thanksgiving, but may I be more aware of all my blessings each and every day. Amen.