And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…

“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
Galatians 4:4-5

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

“He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

“John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
John 1:1–18 (KJV)

Merry Christmas!

Anbetung der Hirten: Gerard van Honthorst, Public Domain.

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“Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht”

In many churches I’ve attended it is a tradition to close the Christmas Eve service by singing Silent Night.  This carol was written and first sung in Oberndorf, Austria.

“Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
round yon Virgin Mother and Child,
Holy infant so tender and mild,
sleep in Heavenly peace!
sleep in Heavenly peace!

“Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight;
glories stream from Heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,
Christ, the Saviour, is born!
Christ, the Saviour, is born!

“Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, Love’s pure light
radiant, beams from Thy Holy face,
with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.”

Silent Night, Wikipedia.
Silent Night Chapel in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria, Photograph by Gakuro,
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Video: Phillip Sear, pianist; Gustav Lange: ‘Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht’, Op. 232.

Original content: Copyright ©2010–2016

Iwana Carpenter

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“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”

God rest ye merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day,
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray:
O tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy.

The angel to Zacharias:

And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Luke 1:11–17

Elizabeth to Mary:

And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”
Luke 1:42–45

Mary to Elizabeth:

And Mary said:
“My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is upon generation after generation
Toward those who fear Him.
He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
And sent away the rich empty-handed.
He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.”
Luke 1:46–55

Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives:

Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.
Luke 1:57–58

Zacharias’s Prophecy:

And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of David His servant—
As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old—
Salvation from our enemies,
And from the hand of all who hate us;
To show mercy toward our fathers,
And to remember His holy covenant,
The oath which He swore to Abraham our father,
To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways;
To give to His people the knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins,
Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,
To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Luke 1:67–79

The angel to the shepherds:

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:8–12

The Magi when they saw Messiah’s star:

After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him.
Matthew 2:9–11

O tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy!

You can find the lyrics of other stanzas at Wikipedia: God rest you merry, gentlemen.

Copyright ©2012–2016 Iwana Carpenter

Posted in Christmas, Evil, Forgiveness, God, Grace, Jesus Christ, Joy, Mercy, Music, Sin | Tagged | Leave a comment

Journey to Bethlehem

“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son…”
Galatians 4:4a
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son…”
Hebrews 1:1-2

God spoke through the prophet Malachi and told of a messenger to come.

God was silent for over 400 years. Israel waited.

Then God acted, and the journey to Bethlehem began….

God sends an angel to Jerusalem to speak to a priest in the temple, and that angel reaches back through the centuries for the last words of Malachi to tell Zacharias of the coming birth of John.

God sends the angel Gabriel to Mary to tell her she will bear Jesus, the Son of God—and Mary hurries to visit Zacharias and Elizabeth.

God sends an angel to Joseph to tell him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife—and Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem.

God sends an angel to shepherds to announce the birth of the Savior, Christ the Lord. A multitude of angels appear—and the shepherds go to the manger of Bethlehem.

God sets a star in the heavens to tell the Magi that the King of Israel is born—and they set out for Judea, and then on to Bethlehem.

Stunning news and hard travels. Lives upended in shock and in wonder.

God sent them all on a journey to Bethlehem.

For God, Himself, was making a journey to Bethlehem.

“…Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”
Philippians 2:5b–7

This is the backstory of Christmas—the journey of Jesus Christ to Bethlehem.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”
2 Corinthians 8:9

In a sermon on Philippians 2:5-8, The Humiliation of Christ, John MacArthur said:

“…Though He gave up the full expression of his heavenly glory and the full enjoyment of it, though He gave up independent authority and exercise of His own will and learned obedience, though He gave up the prerogatives to express all of the majesty of all of His attributes which He could have done, by the way, and though He gave up personal riches for the poverty of this world and though He gave up a favorable relationship with God when He was made sin, listen to me, He never ceased to be God, never. He remained fully God. He remained fully God….

“…He became man…truly human, really human. Didn’t stop being God. And He didn’t take on some body. He isn’t God in a body, He is God-man…All of the essence of humanity…”1

Why did Jesus do this? Why?

“Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
Hebrews 2:14–17

And you know what? The word δούλου (doulou) in Philippians 2:7 quoted above is not bond-servant—it’s slave.

“Think of it! The only begotten Son of God took on the form of a slave (Phil. 2:7), so that the slaves of sin might become both slaves of righteousness and sons of God!”2

If you’re reading this, and you have not believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, I invite you, too, to journey to Bethlehem and learn of Jesus. The angel announced the shepherds,

“Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Luke 2:10b-11

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echo back their joyous strains.

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

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be,
Which inspire your heavenly song?

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

Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

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

See, within a manger laid,
Jesus, Lord of heaven and earth,
Lend your voices, lend your aid
To proclaim the Saviour’s birth!

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

Come to Bethlehem and see!

Nativity Silhouette:
The story of the birth of Jesus Christ is recorded in Matthew 1–2 and Luke 1–2:38.
1John MacArthur, “The Humiliation of Christ.” This article originally appeared here at at Grace to You. I highly recommend reading this wonderful sermon!
“Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendour,” Don Reece, soloist. For the story behind this hymn, please see my post by the same name, “Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendour.”
2John MacArthur, Slave (Thomas Nelson, Nashville TN: 2010) 175.
There are several English versions of the lyrics of Angels We Have Heard On High. These are from The Hymns And Carols of Christmas and the Worship and Service Hymnal, Hope Publishing Company, 1957.

Copyright ©2012–2016 Iwana Carpenter

Posted in Christmas, God, Grace, Hope, Jesus Christ, Joy, Love, Music | Tagged | Leave a comment

“Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendour”

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.
2 Corinthians 8:9

The lyrics of “Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendour” were written in China by Frank Houghton, an Englishman.  There are songs in which the music, the lyrics, and the story behind the writing sing with one voice to our hearts. This is my favorite Christmas carol, and 2 Corinthians 8:9 stays at the top of the right sidebar. It’s also by far my most viewed Christmas post; it’s searched for and viewed throughout the year.

“…This hymn was written at a particularly difficult time in the history of the missions to China. Missionaries had been captured by the communist Red Army and released in poor health after over a year of suffering. Others had been captured never to be heard from again. In 1934 the young missionaries John and Betty Stam (my great aunt and uncle) were captured in Anhwei and beheaded.

“The news of these sorrows had reached the mission’s headquarters in Shanghai. Though this was a very dangerous time for both the Chinese Christians and the foreign missionaries, Frank Houghton [Editorial Secretary for the China Inland Mission] decided he needed to begin a tour through the country to visit various missionary outposts. While traveling over the mountains of Szechwan, the powerful and comforting words of 2 Corinthians 8:9, “though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor,” were transformed into this beautiful Christmas hymn…

“Frank Houghton was consecrated as Bishop of East Szechwan in 1937. For the difficult years of 1940 to 1951 he served as General Director of the China Inland Mission, a time when most missionaries were either interred or evacuated. Although some would return after War II, by 1953 there were no more foreign missionaries in China. What Hudson Taylor had begun almost 100 years earlier would be left to the Chinese Christians to continue…”1
Chip Stam

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becamest poor.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest man;
Stooping so low, but sinners raising
Heavenwards by thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest man.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
Make us what thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.

Nativity scene, cropped from 1905 photograph: {{PD-US}}
Brief biography:  Frank Houghton.
1Worship Quote of the Week (WQOTW), a worship ministry of Carl “Chip” Stam.
Chip Stam was Director of the Institute for Christian Worship at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He died of cancer in May 2011. You can learn more about him and his family heritage at In Memory of Carl ‘Chip’ Stam (March 10, 1953 to May 1, 2011) and at

“Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendour,” Don Reece, soloist.

Copyright ©2012–2016 Iwana Carpenter

Posted in Adversity, Christmas, Comfort, Courage, Faith, Forgiveness, Grace, History, Hope, Jesus Christ, Joy, Love, Mercy, Music, Sin, Suffering | Tagged , | Leave a comment