Open Windows A Guide For Personal Devotions ~ Lifeway ~ Monday, December 19
Matthew 1:21 King James Version (KJV)
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.
The advent of the Christ was not idyllic. On the contrary, Jesus was born to be in the eye of the perfect storm. Amidst all the ceremony, it’s easy to forget the story. But you know it. It’s the one about an unwed, pregnant girl, whose fiance is not the Child’s father, giving birth to her Child in the company of mules and manure, visited by commoners, and later becoming refugees to Egypt to escape state-sanctioned terrorists who murdered babies.
Next time you look at the manger scene, remember that the grit of the story is not adequately represented by commercially-crafted figurines and cherubs, daintily lighting on the eave of a picturesque European-style, tiny-house stable.
Our world is a mess. Jesus was to be born in a mess. A mangled mess of taxes, terror, shame, gossip, poverty, insanity, and social misfits.
That’s good, good news for me and for you. It’s a reason to proclaim, “Glory to God!”
Father, thank You for sending Your Son to our messy world.
Are in the middle of your darkest hour? Billy Graham’s fourth Advent meditation focuses on the light of Christ.
Week Four: December 18–24
For this week heading into Christmas, read Luke 2:11, 13-14.
The greatest sermon ever preached was delivered by angels on this historic night. It has always been interesting to me that this message was delivered at night. It wasn’t night because the sun had gone down. It was night because the world was surrounded in spiritual and moral gloom.
People were driven by greed, intolerance and lust for power. Religion had become a device for the rich in the exploitation of the poor. Men robbed and swindled and profiteered under the cloak of religion; they even fought wars in the name of religion. In every arena of life, it was night when Jesus came.
Things haven’t changed. Today, there seems to be a moral night that has settled over our world—sexual immorality, pleasure-mad people, lusting for money and power—the same as it was in the days when Jesus came 2,000 years ago.
It is in the darkest hour that Christ often comes. He brings the joy, the thrill, the peace and the glory such as you have never known—when you and your loved ones give your lives to Him.
How has Jesus shown Himself to you in your darkest hour? Reflect on this for Christmas.
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I love the old Negro spirituals. Swing Low Sweet Chariot is my favorite. They echo the suffering from generations long ago. I am convinced that the good Lord has allowed many to suffer throughout man’s history, in order that they may more easily find Him! You think about that.
The Story Behind the Christmas Carol… “Go Tell It On The Mountain”
The Story Behind the Christmas Carol… “Go Tell It On The Mountain”
December 16 2016
Written by: Prophecy in the News
When something really fantastic happens, what is the first thing you want to do?
Tell someone, of course!
The spiritual, “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” does just that.
The Negro spiritual was created out of need for expression and communication. It was used by slaves to relay coded messages concerning directions for escapes without the knowledge of plantation masters. Many times these coded messages used biblical names and terms to relate their meaning. Harriet Tubman, the great conductor of the Underground Railroad, was known as General Moses. The words “seeker” and “watchman” in “Go Tell It on the Mountain” most likely refer to an escaping slave seeking freedom and the plantation overseer respectively. Another spiritual “Follow the Drinking Gourd” refers to the north star of the constellation Big Dipper as the direction to follow to find freedom in the North. The slaves could sing these songs without notice from the white plantation owners and overseers.
The spiritual was also a means of expression. The bondage of slavery was hard to bear. Some of the spiritual songs of the black man were centered on the biblical stories of the Hebrews (who were in slavery in Egypt) and Moses (their Deliverer). Death was viewed as an escape from this bondage, so likewise should be taken that there are few spirituals about the nativity or the birth of Jesus. It is suggested that this may be a result of the slaves’ hope in an Almighty God, a Deliverer, and an all-powerful Deity who could lead them to the promised land of freedom rather than a vulnerable infant.
Spirituals were first noted in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. During this time, white evangelists introduced to the imported slaves the concept of Christianity using many of the songs of the white church to teach biblical stories. The slaves, with their African roots, tempered the songs to create a new genre. The African influence of syncopation and pentatonic melodies were matched with white harmonies and lyrics to create a new and distinct concept. The songs were passed orally by generations, with each generation modifying the songs. There appears to be little written documentation of the music of the Negro until the late nineteenth century.
Fisk University, created after the Civil War in 1866 in Nashville, Tennessee, in a former Union fort, was established for the education of emancipated slaves.
In October of 1871, the Fisk Singers were organized in an effort to raise funds for the new school, which was quickly falling into disrepair on limited funds. At first, the singers sang standard and classical selections, without much success. As former slaves or children of slaves, they were well acquainted with spirituals, cabin songs, plantation songs and Jubilee songs, which were composed for religious reasons. These songs were sung among the Singers themselves but were not shared in their concerts. After mediocre acceptance and likewise monetary offerings, the group began to include a few of these songs in their repertoire.
Ella Shepherd, a member of the Singers, was a group’s assistant director and a great resource for these songs of the slaves, which had been passed to her by her mother.
George Leonard White, the group’s director, took note of the response of the audience whenever a spiritual was sung. The quietness of the audience, the tears that appeared, and the applause that followed convinced him that the Negro spiritual was the Singers vehicle to fame and acceptance. At first, the members were reluctant to perform what were considered personal and intimate songs of their faith and their people, learned behind closed doors of slavery from parents and grandparents. At a concert held at Oberlin College in Ohio, the group included the spiritual “Steal Away.” All talking ceased and soft weeping could be heard as the ensemble, being moved to tears themselves, voiced the musical renderings of their hearts. The audience was amazed. Word spread from the congregation. Letters and telegrams were sent out from the listeners urging churches and other towns to invite the singers.
This musical triumph encouraged White to add more spirituals to the performances. He also named the singers the “Jubilee” Singers. After prayer and inspiration, he felt the singers should take their name from the Bible. In Jewish custom, in the fiftieth year, slaves were set free and debts were forgiven as documented in Leviticus 25. From then on, the group was known as the Fisk Jubilee Singers.
In December 1871, the group sang for the weekly prayer meeting at the Plymouth Church of Brooklyn, which included some of the most influential families in America and was pastured by the famous Henry Ward Beecher. The new repertoire was on the line. It was make or break time, both musically and financially, for the weary group. Unless a substantial offering was received here, the group would not have funds to return home to Nashville. As the rich dark tones of the students’ voices sang out, the congregation grew still. At the concert’s conclusion, Beecher jumped to his feet with $5 in his hand. He encouraged all his members to follow suit and support these students. After that night, everyone wanted to have the Jubilee Singers to perform for them.
The Fist Jubilee Singers toured the world, singing at such venues as the White House for President Ulysses S. Grant and for Queen Victoria in England. They continued across Europe singing in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. In Scotland and Ireland, their individual and collective tales of rising from slavery were written in books that sold out to adoring fans. They found themselves performing for heads of state and dignitaries in some of the world’s most famous concert halls. However, their fame was marred with incidents of hostility against their race, especially in their own country. After performing for the President at the White House, they were thrown out of their hotel because of their race. The group raised over $150,000 for Fisk University and introduced to the world the sacred hymns and songs of their ancestors.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, John W. Work, Jr.and his brother Frederick J. Work, began collecting and promoting the spirituals of slavery. The song, “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” was published in the Brothers’ book Folk Songs of the American Negro. In this publication, the song was arranged in anthem style with verses and refrain, making it more easily accessible to the average singer. The song gained popularity because of its energetic and enthusiastic message. It had been popularized by the Fisk Singers but was not written and arranged until it appeared in this book.
It also appeared in Thomas Fenner’s book, Religious Folk Songs of the Negro, As Sung on the Plantations, in 1909. The song was also published in a sequel collection by the Work brothers in 1915. Son John W. Work III continued the legacy started by his father and uncle by uncovering the saving spirituals and publishing them in his book American Negro Songs and Spirituals in 1940. He traveled hundreds of miles collecting songs from former slaves, transcribing them and preserving them for future generation.
Noted vocalist Mahalia Jackson was one of the first to record the song. She made the song famous with her rendition. Jackson was the bridge from slavery to recognition with what was termed as an African-American voice as supposed to the voice of a slave. The song, deeply rooted in the black church, is now popular in all religious venues. The song is one of proclamation, excitingly declaring the glorious Christmas story from the mountain top and even further, “over the hills and everywhere.” It is a song of hope revealed. It is a declaration prompted by the arrival of the “Deliverer” who came from heaven’s lofty realms to a lowly manger to provide redemption for a needy and desperate people. What other motivation is needed to sing from the mountains than “Jesus Christ is born!”?
In 2004, William Studwell, noted musicologist and one of the world’s foremost experts on Christmas carols, named the spiritual “Carol of the Year” for 2004.
Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is born!
When I was a seeker
I sought both night and day;
I ask the Lord to help me
And He show me the way.
Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is born!
He made me a watchman
Upon a city wall,
And if I am a Christian
I am the least of all.
Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is born!
Source: “Songs of Christmas” and the stories behind them – by Tommy and Renee Pierce
Do you know people who need to hear about God’s love and forgiveness? Billy Graham’s third Advent meditation focuses on sharing the true Christmas message.
Week Three: December 11-17
Read Luke 2:8-10—On that first Christmas night, the angels appeared to shepherds on a hill near Bethlehem. Alfred Edersheim, the great 19th-century Jewish-Christian scholar, wrote in his book The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah that the shepherds and the sheep to whom the angels appeared near Bethlehem were no ordinary shepherds and sheep.
The sheep were those bound for the temple sacrifices. The shepherds were outcasts because of their necessary isolation from religious ordinances. And their manner of life rendered legal observances unlikely, if not absolutely impossible.
How wonderful that in God’s wisdom and love the angels should appear to them—the doomed and the outcast—that night.
Today we can declare to the world that the Good Shepherd cares for all people and wants to give them peace. Christ came on that first Christmas for one great purpose—to die on the cross for our sins. Now God offers forgiveness, inner peace and eternal life to all who will repent and believe in His Son. This is the Christmas message!
Do you know people who need to hear about God’s love and forgiveness? Will you share the true Christmas message with them this year?
Exact Birthdate for Christ Discovered?
December 09 2016
Written by: J.R. Church
Published in December 1992
A precise astronomical date may be the subject of a “great wonder in heaven” recorded in Revelation 12:1-5 for the birth of Christ. Yet, no earlier theologians have ever bothered to study it enough to determine its meaning – until now!
Recently, I received a study on the subject by Bob Schlenker of Christian Research Ministry. As I listened to his lecture, I realized the importance of his find. The scene in Revelation 12 is that of a woman, great with child, clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet-and upon her head a crown of 12 stars.
It’s really very simple, yet all have overlooked its significance unto now. The woman not only represents Israel and Mary, but is found among the sun and moon, and crowned with 12 stars. The woman is a star group-a constellation-it is Virgo!
Every year, Virgo is “clothed with the sun” in September. The moon under her feet would occur on the night or the new moon. Therefore, The woman gave birth to the son of God on the night of Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the month of Tishri.
It is called the Feast of Trumpets in the Mosaic Law. First, let’s observe the passage of Scripture in question:
“And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
“And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered…
“And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne” (Revelation 12: 1-2,5).
Why no one had ever seen this astronomical sign before is amazing to me. Some years ago, I had become convinced that Christ was born on Rosh Hashanah because of various events that are listed in the Gospels. Now, I have seen a verse in Revelation 12 that confirms my theory!
Though Christ was not born on Christmas Day, do not despair. I am convinced that He was conceived in the womb of Mary on December 25! Here is why I believe that.
Luke 1:5,6 (KJV) “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God…”
In Luke 1:5-25, Zacharias, of the course of Abia (Abijah), is visited by Gabriel as he performs his duties in the Temple. We can date the time of his visitation by following the courses of the Jewish priesthood.
The priesthood was divided into 24 groups or courses (I Chronicles 24: 7-18). Abijah was the eighth course. Throughout the year, each group of priests took their turns with the daily administration of liturgy (a fixed set of religious worship or ceremonies) in the Temple. Each group served for one week.
Therefore, it can be determined that sometime around late May or early June (eight weeks after the first new moon of spring), Zacharias entered the Temple to put incense upon the golden altar and had his encounter with Gabriel. After his tour of duty, he went home and presented the good news to his aged wife!
When she was six months along bearing John (the Baptist), Gabrielwent down to the little village of Nazareth to visit Mary, a virgin who was a royal descendant of King David. Mary received her good news of bearing the Son of God, sometime around the last week of December!
John was born on Passover that following spring, and Christ was born six months later on Rosh Hashanah!
Luke 2 (The birth of Jesus) dates the birth to a taxing of the people by Caesar Augustus. Such a tax would likely be collected immediately following the close of a year. Rosh Hashanah in September is celebrated as New Years Day in the Jewish calendar.
A Crown of Twelve Stars
Well, it seems fairly certain that we have locked in the birthday for Christ, but what about the crown of 12 stars in the head of Virgo. Could that give us a clue to the very year for the Birth of Christ?
Various theologians have tried to date His birth anywhere from 1 to 4 B.C. to as early as 7 B.C. However, I would like to offer my calculation for your consideration.
As I was thinking about the crown of 12 stars in the head of Virgo, I searched the list of possibilities and could only come up with one candidate.
There are only 7 lights in the heavens that move through the constellations. They are the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The days of our week are named after these 7 wanderers.
Only one planet could possibly fit the description of a “crown with 12 stars.” From ancient times, Jupiter has been regarded as the royal planet-the king of the pantheon of planets. Furthermore, Jupiter has 12 moons! And takes 12 years to orbit the sun.
Jupiter spends an entire year in each of 12 constellations until it repeats the cycle all over again. For example, moving out of Leo, Jupiter enters into the head of Virgo. Then, slowly, as the year progresses, it moves across the body and exits out her feet.
Only once every 12 years will Jupiter be found in the head of Virgo. But rarely will we find Jupiter in the head of Virgo when she is clothed with the sun and the moon directly under her feet!
I called Bob Schlenker and asked him to crank up his computer program on astronomy and tell me in what year Jupiter would be found in the head of Virgo on the evening when the sun was in Virgo and the moon was under her feet.
He has one of those computer programs that can tell you precisely where any heavenly body can be found from any location on our planet at any time from 4,000 B.C. to 10,000 A.D.
It took him about 5 minutes to pinpoint the exact date recorded in the story of Revelation 12:1-5. He found Jupiter in the head of Virgo with the sun clothing the constellation and the moon under her feet on September 28, 2 B.C. The moon was .01 degrees from the sun. On the next evening, September 29, the moon was .04 degrees from the sun and moving into Libra.
Therefore, the date of 2 B.C. seems more likely to me to be the year for the birth of Christ than any other suggested date. Though calendars may change, the movement of the heavens are constant enough to give us a precise accounting of ancient events.
The gestation period for the birth of a human child is 280 days. That corresponds to 40, the number of testing, times 7, the number of perfection (40 X 7=280).
According to my calculations, there are 280 days from evening of December 24, 3 B.C., to the following September 28, 2 B.C., offering a perfect gestation period for our Savior’s birth in Bethlehem.
Why did I choose the evening of December 24? Because, in the Jewish calendar, December 25 begins at sunset on the 24th. By the way, Jupiter again appeared in the head of Virgo on Rosh Hashanah, September 28, 1992! Could that be a sign that the rest of the story in Revelation 12 is about to unfold?
The Star of Bethlehem
The December 1991 edition of Sky and Telescope Magazine discussed a triple conjunction of Venus and Jupiter in the October 16th pre-dawn sky, suggesting a possible connection with the star of Bethlehem viewed by the wise men.
The remarkable coincidence about this particular triple conjunction is that these two planets met each other in the sky during 1990-1991 on about the same calendar dates as they did 2,000 years ago.
In 3 B.C., about the same period of time when Christ was born, the two planets met on August 12. The following year (2 B.C.) they met again on June 17. Their third meeting in the sky came only a few months later, October14, 2 B.C.
Though there have been other triple conjunctions of Venus and Jupiter over the centuries, they did not occur on or near the same calendar dated until 1990-1991. The first conjunction occurred on August 12, 1990. The second happened on June 17, 1991, and the third meeting in the heavens was observed on October 16, 1991. Or was it a triple conjunction of planets?
German Astronomer, Johannes Kepler
In 1603, the German astronomer Johannes Kepler referred to a triple conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn in the days of Jesus’ birth and suggested that they might be the Bethlehem star seen by the Magi. Such a triple conjunction did occur in the months of May, October, and December, 7 B.C.
Furthermore, according to his calculations, Kepler wrote that conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn coincided with each climactic event in human affairs, including the flood of Noah and the births of Enoch, Moses, Cyrus, and Charlemagne.
In 1480 the Jewish Rabbi, Abarbanel, suggested that such conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn always betoken some great event or beginning in human affairs.
Because a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn occurred in the year 1480, Abarbanel predicted the coming of the Jewish Messiah.
Well, the Messiah did not come in the months following the 1480 conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. But, 12 years later, in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue and discovered America!
Perhaps Abarbanel’s suggestion that the conjunctions “always betoken some great event or beginning in human affairs” came to pass after all!
According to Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian who lived and wrote 2,000 years ago, a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn attended the birth of Moses.
It is written that the Egyptian astrologers reported their sighting to Pharaoh and warned him that the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn foretold the birth of a child among the Jews who, if allowed to live, would bring the Egyptian dominion very low, excel in virtue and glory, exalt the children of Israel to power and honor, and be remembered throughout all ages.
According to Josephus, it was on this premise that Pharaoh gave the order to slay every male child among the Jewish people.
If conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn attended the birth of Moses, the flood of Noah, the birth of Christ, the birth of Charlemagne, and the discovery of America, could they indeed be, as Abarbanel suggested, tokens of some great event or beginning in human affairs?
A Triple Conjunction
In 1981, there was another triple conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn. It followed a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Mars in the year before and preceded the alignment of the planets in 1982, which some called “The Jupiter Effect.”
In the Bible (Luke 21:25) Jesus said that certain astronomical signs would herald His Second Coming.
He said, “And there shall be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity… and then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”
Furthermore, He said, “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”
Could the 1990-1991 triple conjunction of Venus and Jupiter along with the 1980 triple conjunction of Jupiter and Mars, the 1981 triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, and the 1982 parade of the planets be a declaration from the Great Creator to His creatures on earth that their Savior is soon to appear?
Sign in the Heavens?
In the pre-dawn sky on Rosh Hashanah, September 9, 1991, four planets met in a spectacular conjunction in the constellation, Leo. Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter were so close together near Regulus in the constellation of Leo, the lion, that one could cover all four planets with the little finger nail extended at arms length.
It is most unusual that the conjunction should occur on the Jewish Feast of Trumpets, observed as New Years day in the Hebrew calendar.
Their conjunction near a star called Regulus is fascinating. Regulus is located between the feet of Leo, the lion, and means, “between the feet.”
From the term Regulus, we get the word regulation. I think we can see the background for that in Genesis 49:8-11: “Judah, thou art he whom they brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee.
“Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?
“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.
“Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes” (Genesis 49:8-11).
These cryptic statements of the dying Jacob revolve around the coming of Christ, who is from the lineage of the tribe of Judah.
The symbol of Leo, the lion, is given to Judah as Jacob tells his children what “shall befall you in the last days” (Genesis 49:1).
The passage is a prophecy of both the first and second advents of Christ. When Jesus came the first time, he rode a donkey and her colt from the Mount of Olives across the Kedron valley to the Eastern Gate (Matthew 21:1-9).
This Triumphal Entry fulfilled the first part of the prophecy in Genesis 49:11. When Christ returns, He will fulfill the rest of the prophecy, which says, “he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes.”
Isaiah 63:1-4 and Revelation 19:15 predict that Christ will stain his “garments like him that treadeth in the wine fat.” He “treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”
In ancient star charts, Leo is seen with his feet on the neck ofHydra the serpent, just as Genesis 49:8 says, “thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies.”
The lion is the king of the jungle as seen in the words of Genesis 49:10, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah.”
The Hebrew term, Regulus, is used in that very verse to describe the law-as Jacob says, “nor a lawgiver from between his feet.” Regulus, from which we get the term, regulation or law, is located in the star chart between the front feet of Leo.
Theologians have suggested that the phrase, “until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” refers to the appearing of Christ at the Battle of Armageddon. The“gathering of the people” denotes a massive array of armies moving into the Middle East.
Psalms 91 and 92
Bob Schlenker suggests that Psalm 91:13 may be an important part of that prophecy. The Song of Moses says, “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.”
It is a message about Christ and His Second Coming. He will fulfill the prophecy in the 12thconstellation of the night sky-Leo.
Is it possible that the conjunction of 4 planets with Regulus-between the feet of Leo-in the pre-dawn sky on Rosh Hashanah, September 9, 1991 marked an important prophecy in Psalm 91?
Well, in Psalm 92:10, another night-time constellation is mentioned. Moses wrote: “But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn” Psalm 92:10.
The unicorn was an ancient term used for the constellation, Taurus. Today, it is seen as a bull. Taurus means, “the coming judge.”
On May 31, on the very day the Covenant of Jerusalem was issued and signed by Chaim Herzog, the president of Israel, both the sun and moon were in the constellation Taurus!
Perhaps Moses was referring to Jerusalem when he wrote,“my horn shalt thou exalt…”Jerusalem is being exalted through the Covenant of Jerusalem. Throughout the year, millions of Jews all over the world are signing their covenant with Jerusalem-pledging their eternal loyalty to the city.
All copies of the Covenant will be returned to Jerusalem next May 19 for the closing ceremonies in the year-long celebration of the 25th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. On May 19, 1993, the sun and moon will again be in the constellation, Taurus!
Does Psalm 92:10 thus proclaim another prophecy fulfilled in 1992? The possibility of “signs in the heavens” being fulfilled in our lifetime are both awesome and impressive!
Jesus Christ was with God the Father before the world was created. He became human and lived among humanity as Jesus of Nazareth. He came to show us what God the Father is like. He lived a sinless life, showing us how to live; and he died upon a cross to pay for our sins. God raised Him from the dead.
Jesus is the source of eternal life. Jesus wants to be the doorway to new life for you. In the Bible He was called the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29). In the Old Testament, sacrifices were made for the sins of the people. Jesus became the sacrificial lamb offered for your sin.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). He is waiting for you now.
Admit to God that you are a sinner. Repent, turning away from your sin.
By faith receive Jesus Christ as God’s Son and accept Jesus’ gift of forgiveness from sin. He took the penalty for your sin by dying on the cross.
Confess your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
You may pray a prayer similar to this as you call on God to save you: “Dear God, I know that You love me. I confess my sin and need of salvation. I turn away from my sin and place my faith in Jesus as my Savior and Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”
After you have received Jesus Christ into your life, tell a pastor or another Christian about your decision. Show others your faith in Christ by asking for baptism by immersion in your local church as a public expression of your faith.
From Open Windows
A Guide For Personal Devotions
Winter 2016-2017 LifeWay
Have A Blessed Christmas
Pray For Revival In America!
The Story Behind the Christmas Carol… “Away in a Manger”
December 07 2016
Written by: Prophecy in the News
One of the most loved children’s Christmas songs is “Away in A Manger.” The song is easily learned and the note range is quite within the vocal ability of all children. The lyrics are musical life lessons. They give a brief and simplistic summary of the Christmas birth of Jesus and go on to express a childlike love for the Savior with a desire and assurance that He is always near.
There is much speculation as to the origin of the simple hymn. Richard S. Hill, a reference librarian at the Library of Congress, is considered the authority on the song, having done extensive research on the subject. His findings were published in the Music Library Association’s journal, Notes, December of 1945, in his article “Not So Far Away In A Manger: Forty-one settings of an American Carol.”
According to Hill, the song first appeared in a Lutheran publication Little children’s book: for schools and families. By Authority of the general council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America. The song is listed as a nursery hymn with the book dated “Christmas 1884” and the copyright being June of 1885. In this printing, the tune for the poem is called St. Kilda and was written by J.E. Clark. Only two verses were included with this publication, and those used are without the listing of an author or source, a characteristic unlike other included hymns.
There is speculation that the two verses were from an anonymous play or story written within the German Lutheran sect found in Pennsylvania. In 1883, Lutherans as well as many Protestant groups were celebrating the 400th birthday of German Reformer, Martin Luther. The poem could have been written as part of a local presentation of this event, which possible could have led to the gross misinformation that was printed in a later publication.
It is also been commonly known as “Luther’s Cradle Hymn.” Hill concluded: “Although Luther himself had nothing to do with the carol, the colonies of German Lutherans in Pennsylvania almost certainly did.”
In 1887, the poem with a new melody was published in Dainty songs for little lads and lasses, for use in the kindergarten, school and home by James R. Murray. Mr. Murray, editor with the John Church Company, titled the piece “Luther’s Cradle Hymn.” Beneath the title was the note “Composed by Martin Luther for his children, and still sung by German mothers to their little ones.” The composer indication was marked only with the initials J.R. M. Because of the recent celebrations of Luther’s birth, this may have been an act of giving credence to Luther for the sole purpose of affording the piece notoriety. It was well received, and as its popularity grew, Murray re-published the song the following year (1888) in the publication Royal Praise for the Sunday School. A collection of new and selected gospel songs… by J. R. Murray. He slightly changed the song from the original by changing the key and repeating the last phrase – enough to claim a copyright to the song and stated it at the bottom of the page. In 1892, the carol was again re-published by the John Church Company in a compilation of songs entitled Little sacred songs for little singers of the primary department of the Sunday school and for kindergartens and the home. Murray again edited the collection but this time changing the song back to its original key and adding his initials. It is interesting to note that Murray is not given credit for the piece in subsequent collections by other publishers. This is probably due to his initial indication that the piece belonged to Luther. Fear of copyright infringement probably drove others away from Murray’s claim of copyright.
Originally, the poem had only two verses, which, due to lack of any significant documentation, are considered anonymous, though the German Lutheran congregation of Pennsylvania probably gave birth to the poem. The third verse was added something in the 1890’s. It first appeared in Charles H. Gabriel’s collection Gabriel’s vineyard songs.
Bishop William F. Anderson attributed the third verse to Dr. John T. McFarland. He claimed that McFarland wrote the verse in response to his request for a third verse to be performed at a Children’s Day program. Although Anderson had requested McFarland write a third verse, it is unclear whether he actually wrote the verse or just provided a verse. Dates seem to indicate that McFarland may have supplied Anderson with a copy of Gabriel’s 1892 edition and Anderson may have assumed that McFarland wrote the verse. According to Anderson, McFarland wrote the verse sometime between 1904 and 1908, eliminating McFarland as a viable source of the verse.
The early 1920s saw a new name on Murray’s carol. It was Carl Mueller who was given compositional credit. According to Hill, Mueller may have been a fictional name given by some editors who were still unsure of Murray as the composer. Rather than no indication of composer, a common German name may have been printed so as to dilute the trail of information. It would be comparable to using John Smith if an American name were used. Hill and his colleagues could find no credence to Mueller as the composer or even to the existence to Mueller. Hill gives his allegiance to Murray as composer of the tune, which is traditionally sung in American as “Away in A Manger” although the carol’s tune is officially called “Mueller.”
James R. Murray was born in 1841 in Andover Massachusetts to Walter and Christina Murray. He received his musical training from such hymnology giants as George F. Root, Lowell Mason, William B. Bradbury, George J. Webb, and Whitney Eugene Thayer. After a brief military service during the Civil War, he joined Root assisting in editorial duties. After the Chicago fire, he returned to Andover where he taught public school until 1881. He then joined the John Church Company, where he fulfilled editorial duties. It is supposed that he died in 1904 when his name disappeared from the directory of Cincinnati where he and his wife Isabel resided, although his year of death cannot be substantiated.
Although there are numerous tunes applied to the poem, two melodies are most prevalent in use today. Murray’s tune has become truly an American carol. However, in England and Europe, another tune is more commonly sung. In an ironic sense, another American composer, William J. Kirkpatrick, took the American poem, composed a new tune based on a Scottish song, and introduced it across the seas. In 1895, seven of Kirkpatrick’s compositions were included in a pamphlet published by the Cranston and Curts Company. It included narratives and recitations along with songs, much like today’s sacred musicals or cantatas. The title was Around the world with Christmas. A Christmas exercise. The pamphlet described different settings of Christmas in various countries, including England, Scotland, and Germany. Kirkpatrick’s tune, as arrangement of the song “Flow Gently, Sweet Afton, “was used with the poem “Away in a Manger” and titled “Luther’s Cradle Hymn.” It was sung by children or a selected soloist as a tribute to The German Fatherland in the pamphlet. Because of the popularity of the pamphlet overseas, Kirkpatrick’s setting is more commonly sung in England as opposed to Murray’s setting, which is traditionally sung in America.
Recent collections, which include the carol, still give credit to Luther and the mythical Carl Mueller. Regardless of who wrote what version or verse, the indication is that “Away in A Manger” is truly an American carol loved by many, especially children. This musical portrait of an innocent sleeping king in the humblest of settings is truly a landscape of peace on earth.
Luke 2:7 (KJV)
“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.
I love Thee, Lord Jesus; look down from the sky,
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there.
Source: Song of Christmas and the stories behind them by Tommy and Renee Pierce
Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan