Christmas songs #3: Angels, from the realms of glory

As the time came for Christ to be born, there were two groups that had special visitations or announcements: the shepherds and the wise men. The shepherds, outside in the fields, watched in amazement as first one angel, and then “a multitude of the heavenly host,” appeared and began to praise God. The angel told them to go to Bethlehem and look for a baby lying in a feed trough!

The song progresses through four groups who meditate on the birth of Christ: Shepherds, Sages, Saints, Sinners. The verse that begins with the word “Sinners” is always deleted from this song, yet it expresses the author’s Christian faith very clearly. Jesus is not just a kindly Christmas king who came as a cute baby, he is mostly a Savior of guilty sinners who need him more than any other thing in the world.

(To hear the song, click the link or paste into your browser. Finally, where it says “Don’t have a Rhapsody account?”, push “Play Now.”)

Lyrics (

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:


Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations;
Ye have seen His natal star.


Saints, before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear;
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear.


Sinners, wrung with true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence,
Mercy calls you; break your chains.


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:


All creation, join in praising
God, the Father, Spirit, Son,
Evermore your voices raising
To th’eternal Three in One.


Christmas Songs #2: Come, thou long-expected Jesus

Our second song is Come, thou long-expected Jesus. As we said yesterday, the Old Testament was full of hope for a coming Savior and Kingdom that would somehow be greater than what was known in the time of King David and other kings of Israel. They didn’t know at the time that it would be a kingdom of personal salvation rather than national victory. A new “nation” would be built that would span all nations.

This song also captures the Old Testament flavor by referring to a lot of Old Testament promises, such as Isaiah 11. If you want to see how some Old Testament believers were waiting for a Savior, read the stories of Simeon and Anna in Luke 2.25-38.

Most people may not think of this as a Christmas song. It’s not in any of the Christmas songbooks that I have. But it is what they call an Advent song: a song that meditates on how much we need a Savior and how marvelous it was in human history that a Savior did come. He changed everything. Even the years are numbered in reference to his coming.

Charles Wesley, the author, certainly thought of it as a Christmas hymn. It first appeared in his book, Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord.

(To hear the song, click the link or paste into your browser. Finally, where it says “Don’t have a Rhapsody account?”, push “Play Now.”)

Lyrics (

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Christmas Songs #1: O Come O Come Emmanuel

As I write emails during this season, I’ll post them here too.
Greetings to any relatives and friends who may get this email,

I wonder if you would bear with me this season if I wrote some emails about Christmas? If you know me very well, you know I’m kind of a Scrooge when it comes to lights and trees, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the music and the history of Christmas - Christmas before the stores got hold of it. Christmas was always a mix of the sacred and secular, but there was a time when it was actually celebrated as the birthday of Jesus.

The old Christmas songs had so much of the gospel in them, that they could preach sermons about Christmas all by themselves, no preacher or interpreter required. I’d like to send you some songs and comments this season.

I’ve gathered up a list of my favorites (no Elvis here, sorry) and I propose to send out one a day till Christmas.

Today, the first song is O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Emmanuel, which you will find in Isaiah 7.14 and Matthew 1.23, is a Hebrew word meaning “God with us.” Matthew uses this Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah to show that God himself was coming to earth to be one of us in the birth of Jesus.

The author of this Christmas hymn got excited about the idea of the fulfillment of prophecy, and so each verse of his song brings out some part of the Old Testament story and ties it in to the work of Christ.

O come, o come, Emmanuel

Hear the song:

(To hear the song, click the link or paste into your browser. Finally, where it says “Don’t have a Rhapsody account?”, push “Play Now.”)

Lyrics (

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.


Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.


O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.


O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.


O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.


O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.


O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.


O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.


How about being Republicans now?

John Derbyshire, with whom I never really agree, sums it up best:

I’m sour about the GOP too. What did it all get us, those 8 years of pandering and spending? If GWB had turned his face against new entitlements, closed the borders, deported the illegals, held the line on calls to loosen mortgage-lending standards, starved the Department of Education, and declined those invitations to mosque functions, would the GOP be in any worse shape now?

The vote. The lying media. The Democrats.

Wow. I haven’t seen it written up quite this well in a long time.

Even so, McCain hasn’t earned, and doesn’t deserve, any defense. But I’ve said before, and I’ll say it right here again:

Republicans are corrupt when they betray and don’t live up to their principles. Democrats are corrupt when they are true to and live by their principles.

That is the big difference. And, though Republicans are in disarray because of their corruption and inconsistency, we now have a slick and capable Democrat who (for the first time in forever) will be willing, and will have a Congress that is willing, to live up to those principles. God help our nation.

Say what?

I believe in natural gas as a clean, cheap alternative to fossil fuels.

-Nancy Pelosi

Choosing discouragement or choosing God

I wish I read more articles like this. Andree Seu in World this month has captured part of the essence of life, one of the parts where I most often fail.

Read The Active Heart.


OK, this is just fun. Wordle is a web site where you can plug in a piece of text, or another web site, and it will make a word-art poster out of it. You can tinker with the fonts and colors and such. It uses the frequency of the words to decide which ones are more important. Here is one I made by pasting in the entire text of Calvin’s Institutes.

Setting our eyes on things above

From George Herbert, Man’s Medley. He is talking about a man (or woman):

… Not that he may not here

Taste of the cheer,

But as birds drink, and straight lift up their head,

So he must sip and think

Of better drink

He may attain to, after he is dead.

‘Telescope’ through the earth

I love this device!

You can read the (phony) story at their web site.