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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Journey to Bethlehem

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

And God was silent for over 400 years. Israel waited.

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

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 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 the Magi follow the star 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

The Greek word δούλου (doulou) in Philippians 2:7 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 ©2012–2017 Iwana Carpenter

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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 ©2010–2017

Iwana Carpenter

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“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 ©2012–2017 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

Christmas Tears

Depression-loss of loved oneChristmas and the holiday season are not always times that are cheery and bright. Loneliness and loss have a sharper edge in contrast with our longings for warmth and love and joy shared with others.

Suffering inflicts a terrible sense of alienation on our hearts. We can feel as if we don’t matter. But what we are going through is taken seriously by God. We are taken seriously by God. We matter to Him.

When I think of suffering in the Bible, I think of Job as most people do. David, Jeremiah, and Joseph also come to mind. We see glimpses of the anguish of Joseph, but Job, David and Jeremiah left us torrents of words. In their words you feel their affliction, and some of their words are as raw as they come.1 Their words give us a voice and lessen our isolation as we read them and realize someone else has known what I experience and felt exactly as I do. That God includes such words of lament in His Word is a mark of His caring: what we are going through is taken seriously by God.

Miedo ajenoGod never trivializes us or treats our pain lightly. In Job we see a man, a good man, who struggles with his doubts and his longing to trust God. Job’s horrific circumstances drive him to grapple with life at its depths as he asks why. God answers Job in the closing chapters of the book, not by explaining why he has suffered so greatly, but by giving Job an understanding of who He is. As He questions Job and calls him to observe Creation, Job realizes that God’s wisdom and power and justice are matters far beyond Job’s ken. There are no glib answers here; there is a call to trust. No glib answers means the horror of Job’s circumstances is not trivialized, and neither is Job. That means neither is ours, and neither are we. We are taken seriously by God.

God calls us to trust. But how can one learn to trust God? And leave vindication and justice in His hands? Os Guinness’ words in his book, Doubt, have been of immense help to me.

“When a Christian comes to faith his understanding and his trust go hand in hand, but as he continues in faith his trust may sometimes be called to go on by itself without his understanding….

“…A Christian does not say, ‘I do not understand you at all, but I trust you anyway.’ Rather he says, ‘I do not understand you in this situation, but I understand why I trust you anyway.’2

“A Christian doesn’t know why…, but (and here alone is the difference) he knows why he trusts God who knows why.

“And how is this? …a Jew not in his youth, but in his prime…suffering in our place he might restore us to his Father, that then we might be sure that God is there, and God is good.

“…Not surprisingly it is those whose faith in God is anchored in the incarnation—God become flesh, crucified, risen—whose faith can pass through the fires of suffering. For there is no question however deep or painful which cannot be trusted with the God who is the Father of Jesus Christ.3

This is why I as a Christian trust God. He sent His Son to suffer in my place. Such great love for me, brings me to continue to trust when I don’t know why.

For all of you who have Christmas tears this year, may you know the depths of God’s love through the gift of His Son.

And remember, Christ was born that day so that one day there will come a day when we will see and know:

Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.
Revelation 21:3b–4

Depression-loss of loved one: I can no longer find the source, but I believe this photograph is in the Public Domain.
Miedo ajeno, RayNata: Public Domain.
1Psalm 13 and Jeremiah 20 are heart-rending cries. Psalm 88, although not one of David’s, is a raw lament.
2,3Os Guinness, Doubt (Lion Publishing plc, England: 1976; Third Edition,1987)
199–200, 211–212.

Copyright ©2012–2017 Iwana Carpenter

Posted in Adversity, Christian Life, Christmas, Comfort, Compassion, Evil, Faith, God, Hope, Jesus Christ, Justice, Mercy, Ministry, Personal Distress, Suffering | Tagged | Leave a comment