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This little babe, so few days old, is come to rifle Satan’s fold; All hell doth at his presence quake. Though he himself for cold do shake, For in this weak unarmèd wise the gates of hell he will surprise. With tears he fights and wins the field; His naked breast stands for a shield; His battering shot are babish cries, his arrows looks of weeping eyes, His martial ensigns cold and need, and feeble flesh his warrior’s steed. His camp is pitchèd in a stall, his bulwark but a broken wall, The crib his trench, hay stalks his stakes, of shepherds he his muster makes; And thus, as sure his foe to wound, the angels’ trumps alarum sound. My soul, with Christ join thou in fight; Stick to the tents that he hath pight; Within his crib is surest ward, this little babe will be thy guard. If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy, then flit not from this heavenly boy. -from "New Heaven, New War," by Robert Southwell (1561-1595)
"The incarnation is the starting point for our spirituality. . . . God united himself with humans in order for men and women to be united with God. The incarnation is not something unrelated to us; it has everything to do with our spirituality—for the incarnation not only brings God to human nature but brings human nature to God." (Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time)
Retweeted Brian Zahnd (@BrianZahnd): Orthodox beauty Catholic mystery Anglican liturgy Protestant audacity Evangelical energy Pentecostal reality We need them all. #AllSaintsDay
Charlotte Baker passed into eternity last week. She was a bold visionary who did much to inspire the renewal of worship throughout the church during her lifetime. She will be missed but her legacy attests to the fruit her ministry. A mighty prophetic word she gave, "The Eye of the Needle" posted below, transformed the lives of those who heard it. A prophetic word/vision given by Charlotte Baker in 1981 Worship Symposium Dallas, TX ...The Eye of the Needle ... The Gate of Worship The Ultimate Choice "I have brought this people together today to make unto you a choice. You can minister unto men...or you can minister unto the King of Glory!" I stood among the sons of men, strong and tall. My heart was filled with enthusiasm. My life was given to the purposes of God. Upon that day, I said to the Lord, "I will do mighty exploits in the name of my God." The Lord came unto me and He said, "What is it, son of man, that thou would have?" I said, "Lord, if I could only be among those who play sweetly upon an instrument and who sing well in the house of the Lord, then I would do great things for my God." The Lord came to me and He gave unto me the desire of my heart. He let me play and He let me sing. I saw the day when the hearts of men were moved by that thing the Lord had given unto me. After hearts of men were moved, I stood back and I said to myself, "Now I will be content for I have been able to move the hearts of men." But in my secret hour I bowed my head before my God and said, "Lord, You have given me what I asked for but my heart is heavy. I have a longing for something more." He came again unto me in the night season. He asked me again, "Son of man, ask Me again the thing that thou would have of Me." I said, "Lord I see men bowed by burdens low. I see hearts that are broken. I see sadness and discouragement. Oh give me the power of the spoken word that I might speak the word and their hearts be delivered." The Lord came unto me and said, "Son of man, I have given thee the things which thou hast desired." With great joy, I marched before the people of God. In my youth and in my enthusiasm, I spoke the Word and men were delivered. I spoke the Word and their hearts were made whole. I knew what it was to bind up the broken hearted and to pour in the oil of joy replacing their mourning. While men were yet praising Him, glorifying His name, I went back to my secret chamber, I bowed my head in sorrow. I said, "Oh my God, my God, I am not satisfied." He came again unto me and He said, "Son of man, what is it that thou desireth of Me?" And I said, "Oh my God, give me power in my hands that as You did, I might lay my hands upon the sick and see the healing flow." He said unto me, "It is done as thou has commanded." God healed the sick. I went to the nations of the earth and I saw the sick raised from their beds. I saw pain and suffering go away. I was rejoicing as I went to my secret place. I bowed my head before my God. I said, "Now my God, I will be satisfied for you have given me that which I have desired." No sooner had the words come out of my mouth when the heart within me began to ache and cry. I said, "God, I don't understand. Again my heart is sad. Lord, will You, just one more time, give me the thing I ask of Thee?" he said, "It is done." "God, I desire to go against principalities and powers, the powers of the wickedness of this world and spiritual darkness in high places. He said, "Surely I give it unto thee. Now go." So I went and the Lord allowed me to go into dens of iniquity, the holes and dives where men hide from the light because of the sin and evil that is upon them. There was a day when I saw demons cry out at the very presence of the power of God that rested on me. Then I went back to my secret place broken. I said, "God, I have asked You for all that I desired and still my heart is not yet satisfied. Nor do I feel that I have touched the thing that You have called me to. In my youth I have expended myself with all the things that my heart had desired." Then one more time a gracious and loving God visited me in the night season. He said, "Now - what is it that thou dost desire?" In brokenness of heart, I bowed before Him and I said, "God, only that thing which You desire to give unto me." He came unto me and said, "Come with Me and I will take you on a journey." He took me past my friends. he took me past those with whom I had come into the house of the Lord. He took me into a desolate place. He caused me to go into a place alone in the wilderness. I said, "Oh my God, what are you doing to me? You have cut me off from those I love." He said, "I take thee to the place where all men must come if their heart's cry is to be fulfilled." At a certain hour, I bowed before a gate that is called... The Eye of the Needle, The gate of Worship! There before the eye of the Needle I heard the voice of the Lord say, "Bow low." So I bowed lower. He said "Yet lower. Thou does not go low enough." So I went as low as I could possibly go. But I had upon my back my books of learning. I had with me my instruments of music. I had with me my gifts and abilities. He said unto me, "Thou has too much, thou can not go through this gate." I said, "But God, You have given me these books. You have given me these abilities." He said, "Drop them. or thou dost not go." So I dropped them. I went through a very small gate that is called "the eye of the needle." As I went through this gate, I heard the voice of the Lord say, "Now rise to the other side." As I rose, a very strange thing happened to me. You see, the gate which was so small on one side that I must lay aside everything, was now so wide I could not fill it. As I stood in the presence of the Lord I said, "God, what is this thing that You have done unto me, for my soul is now satisfied?" He said, "Thou has come through the gate of worship. Now come up to the circle of the earth & I will show thee a great mystery. I will reveal unto thee the thing that I doing among the sons of men." The Spirit of the Lord caught me away. He took me to the circle of the earth, higher than where the eagle flies, beyond where the clouds can rumble, beyond where the sun shines or the moon finds her path. There at the throne of my God, He said, "Look down upon My people." I saw strange things. I saw my companions gathered around a very small gate that is, "the eye of the needle, the gate of worship." I saw them wringing their hands and crying. They were saying one to another, "But God has given us these instruments of war. This sword is my sword and I will work with it against the enemy to bring him down. I cannot go through this gate, for, if I go through this gate, I must put down my sword. God has called me to be a warrior and therefore, I will not do it." And I heard another one say, ""Me? Lay down my instruments of music? Lay down all God has given me, just to go through that silly little gate, to be nothing but a bare man who comes out the other side stripped of everything? I cannot do this thing." I saw them as they stood aside in their pride, afraid to bow themselves before a very small gate. Then I saw again, as the Lord brought me closer to the gate. I saw a man bow low, laying down everything that he had. As he came through the very wide gate on the other side, his instruments of music were there. His sword was there. His books were there. The power was there. The Word of the Lord came to me, "Go now and tell this people before you, I have given unto this people extreme talents and much ability. But I say unto you today, if you do not come through the very small gate, which is the gate of worship, and bow low and lay before me thine instruments, thy talents, abilities, vision and power, thou shall always be among those who will only be able to minister to the hearts of men, and bless the hearts of men. But there is a gate open to the Church in this hour, a very small gate. And through this gate, only men and women who are worshippers will go. These people will lay their talents before their God. These people will say, "God, we will be Your worshippers." Through that wide gate they will come and they will arise on the other side, not to minister unto men, but to minister unto their God. I have brought you together this day, to make unto you a choice. You can minister unto men and I will cause you to sway the hearts of men with your talent. Or, you can go through a very small gate, that is "the eye of the needle, the gate of worship," and while making new worshippers, you will minister unto the King of Kings and Lord of lords!
The popular Christmas carol “Angels from the Realms of Glory” was written by James Montgomery (1771-1854) and was first published in the Sheffield Iris on Christmas Eve, 1816. Scroll down for some verses not usually sung or included in today’s hymnals. Angels from the realms of glory, Wing your flight o’er all the earth; Ye who sang creation’s story Now proclaim Messiah’s birth. Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. Shepherds, in the field abiding, Watching o’er your flocks by night, God with us is now residing; Yonder shines the infant light: Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. Sages, leave your contemplations, Brighter visions beam afar; Seek the great Desire of nations; Ye have seen His natal star. Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. 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. Sinners, wrung with true repentance, Doomed for guilt to endless pains, Justice now revokes the sentence, Mercy calls you; break your chains. Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. Though an Infant now we view Him, He shall fill His Father’s throne, Gather all the nations to Him; Every knee shall then bow down: Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King. All creation, join in praising God the Father, Spirit, Son, Evermore your voices raising, To th'eternal Three in One: Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King.
You have sung the first few verses of this popular Christmas carol, but what about these? Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die. Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!” Come, Desire of nations, come, Fix in us Thy humble home; Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed, Bruise in us the serpent’s head. Now display Thy saving power, Ruined nature now restore; Now in mystic union join Thine to ours, and ours to Thine. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!” Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface, Stamp Thine image in its place: Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in Thy love. Let us Thee, though lost, regain, Thee, the Life, the inner man: O, to all Thyself impart, Formed in each believing heart. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!” Charles Wesley, “Hymns and Sacred Poems,” 1739
"The whole life of Christ was a continual passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha (where he was crucified) even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for, to his tenderness then, the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after; and the manger as uneasy at first, as his cross at last. His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and morning of one and the same day." John Donne, sermon preached at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London on Christmas Day, 1626
As we look back through time at the events surrounding the birth of Christ, we must look beyond the mere commemoration of past events in our worship. Although we read, preach and sing of past events in our Advent and Christmas worship, our concern is not with these events as past. Our worship seeks to bring about an encounter between us as worshippers and Christ’s redemptive work in the past - we are to experience his ministry as present. Our Advent and Christmas worship - and all worship - “is a link between the past and the present or, rather, it looks to the past to recover the power of the primordial event and makes its power present in the here and now so that the worshipper can encounter the redeeming work of Christ.” ( James F. White, Introduction to Christian Worship, 67) Christ’s birth in the manger in Bethlehem is a historical fact, but we celebrate his birth not just to commemorate it, but so that the reality of his incarnation can enter our present moment to transform it.
Tomorrow marks the beginning of Advent and a new liturgical year for Christians throughout the world. As we gather to worship we join the worshippers gathered around God's throne in heaven who proclaim “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and is and is to come." (Revelation 4:8) This proclamation of God’s eternal existence as the One who was and is and is to come has has special significance for our worship during the season of Advent. During this season of the church year we not only look back to Christ’s incarnation in Bethlehem, we also acknowledge his work in our midst today and look forward to his coming again in power and glory. He is a God who has come, is coming, and will come again. Robert Webber writes: “It is commonplace to suggest that the essence of existence is the ability to remember: we are because we remember. As people of God, we are who we are - indeed, we recognize whose we are - precisely because we remember and celebrate those decisive times when God acted in history for us. This remembering, however, is not a simple recalling of past events. It means to capture at once the mighty acts of God in the past, to recognize what God is doing among us in the present moment, and to anticipate the coming activity of God in the future. Liturgical, ritual, remembering, therefore, looks back, looks around, looks forward.” (Robert E. Webber, The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Volume 5, p. 108) Some things to think about . . . How has God acted in your life and in the life of your church community over the past year? How is God present in your life and in his Church at this moment in time? How will he reveal himself in our midst in the year to come?
Happy Thanksgiving! O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works. Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore. Psalm 105:1-4