This one act opera was written specifically for TV in 1951 and was the first Christmas special to be shown annually. My husband and I remembered it from our youth and were eager to see it with our children years ago when a local church began staging it yearly. Children love it — it has funny moments, beautiful costumes and a main character (Amahl, the little shepherd boy) with whom they can identify. I thought I’d include one of the songs here on the blog.
As Michele said in an earlier post, we Lutherans are still celebrating Advent, not Christmas. Every Sunday for the four weeks before Christmas, we light one or more candles on the Advent wreath and we sing “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” My granddaughter who is 15 always tells me it is one of her favorite hymns, maybe because she has been hearing it over and over again every year of her life. The liturgy and the familiar hymns have a way of embedding themselves in our lives that way; they bring back childhood memories and associations that comfort and sustain us.
Anyway, this hymn has an amazing history. We have no idea who wrote it– the song is ancient and penned by monks sometime before 800 A.D.. The tune was written by nuns in an obscure French convent in the 1500’s, then rediscovered by an evangelist named John Mason Neale who had been shunted off to labor in a church in the Madeira islands near Africa. Isn’t it amazing how God works? It uses a wealth of phrases from the Old Testament prophecies that speak of the coming of the Messiah: rod of Jesse, dayspring from on high, key of David, wisdom from on high. It was no doubt meant as a teaching tool for what was then an illiterate population. If you’re not familiar with Katelyn’s favorite hymn, take time to listen as you wait with God’s people for the coming of the Savior.
Have you ever noticed that in many of our commonly used table prayers, we invite Jesus to come and sit at the table with us? These are prayers we’ve heard from youth, and we recite them by rote, from memory, not really thinking about what we’re saying. Maybe we should remember to stop and pay attention. If Christ were our guest, how would we behave? Wouldn’t we be honored and grateful? Would we sit up straighter? Mind our manners? Would we watch out language (and maybe even our thoughts)? Wouldn’t our attention be on Jesus, instead of the cooking? Would we think about our behavior that day and whether our actions had been worthy of our Lord? Maybe we’d have some things to apologize for.
Especially in this season of Thanksgiving, let’s make sure our words match our behavior. Let’s think about WHO we’re inviting and behave as if we mean what we say. Jesus is not only a guest at our dinner table, He’s the real Host. He’s given us everything we have, and is present with us constantly. He doesn’t leave us or forsake us, but sometimes we forget Him.
Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. Luke 7:36
Jesus didn’t mind eating with Pharisees or sinners. He’ll sit at your table, too.
A previous post I did reminded me of this song, Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God. I first heard it on my Lutheran Via de Cristo retreat weekend in 1990 and it has been a favorite ever since. If it’s new to you, I hope it will become one of your favorites as well. It speaks to our need for spiritual, as well as physical bread.
I’ve just started reading the book Michele reviewed a few days ago, “Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family and Church.” I would also recommend it as an easy, but thoughtful read about how and why we sing in our worship service. It reminds me that singing is also a gift from God and one that should be used well. Here’s a quote from the book that helps explain how to do this:
” …don’t just sing, but think What are you singing? How does it point you to Jesus as He reveals Himself in His Word? What truths are being laid on your heart, and how is your singing being used to lay it on the hearts of those around you? Which lines flood you with joy because they move you to consider Christ afresh, and how will you sing them to others and back to yourself this week?”
The songs we sing in worship on Sunday will most likely stick with us, and continue to uplift and encourage us, maybe even more than the words of the sermon. Congregational singing is not just something to “fill in” during the service, and it’s not just entertainment. Our singing is a witness to others both during and after the service. We don’t know who may be in church who is yet unsaved, who we will affect as we sing or hum a song of praise in our daily lives. Singing with our children teaches them gospel truths and Bible stories. So sing! Sing as if lives depended on it!
“Your song may be used to save a soul. Sing it prayerfully.” This sign is on the wall of a studio in the Moody Radio Headquarters.
One day in 1873 hymnist Frances Havergal received a little book entitled “All For Jesus.” It stressed the importance of making Christ the king of every corner of one’s life. Soon afterward, she found herself visiting with a group of ten people, some of them unconverted, others not yet fully devoted to Christ. She prayed, and went to work witnessing, and before she left all ten were yielded Christians. On the last night of her visit, she wrote this great hymn about allowing God to own and control one’s entire life. In the years that followed, Frances often used it in her own devotions.
The author of “We give Thee but Thine Own” was William Walsham How (1823-1897), an Anglican bishop. He was known as “the poor man’s bishop” because of his concern for the poor—and “the omnibus bishop” because he used public transportation rather than a private carriage for travels around town.
Bishop How wrote a number of hymns that reflect his concern for expressing the Gospel in terms that the average person could understand. This hymn is a good example. It speak of stewardship, not as a church budget concern, but as acknowledgement of the blessings that we have received from God.
We sing this hymn every week in our worship service as the collection is taken.
We give Thee but Thine own,
Whate’er the gift may be;
All that we have is Thine alone,
A trust, O Lord, from Thee.
May we Thy bounties thus
As stewards true receive,
And gladly, as Thou blessest us,
To Thee our firstfruits give.
This song has been on my mind since my post on opening our eyes.
This song has been a favorite of mine for a long time. It reminds me of a quote from one of Martin Luther’s earlier books, The Freedom of a Christian (1520). In it, he wrote,
“[A]s our heavenly Father has in Christ freely come to our aid, we also ought freely to help our neighbor through our body and its works, and each one should become as it were a Christ to the other that we may be Christs to one another “