The LPC e-pistle is designed for the friends and families of Langhorne Presbyterian Church and any others who happen by. Pastor Bill Teague shares weekly comments on the world, the life of faith and Langhorne Church. A weekly e-mail, sent by request, keeps members up to date on news and prayer concerns within the congregation. Langhorne Presbyterian Church is a warm, Christ-honoring congregation, and we’d love to have you stop by for a visit if you’re ever in our neighborhood. You can get directions to LPC here.
We began our meeting the other night with the leader asking each of us to share our favorite Christmas carol and to say something about it. I paged quickly through the hymnal in my mind and stopped at “In the Bleak Midwinter.”
My favorite recording of “In the Bleak Midwinter” is this by Corrinne May.
The images of the first stanzas of the hymn are painted from poet Christina Rossetti’s memories of winters in Nineteenth Century England; those in the last verses from the First Century and a story told from a little town in the Judean hill country called Bethlehem and from the fields nearby where shepherds were keeping watch over their sheep by night.
Of the bleak midwinter Rossetti writes,
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone.
The words depict not just a scene of gray December, but of a world turned cold and hard – Caesar’s empire, Victorian England, this second decade of the Third Millennium.
Like a sharp knife cutting through the thick plastic packaging of some toy or gadget bought as a Christmas gift, Rossetti’s words cut through the thick glittery plastic and meaningless Muzak of a cultural Christmas as artificial as the trees and garlands that deck the malls.
Our world is in desperate need of a savior and the bright colored lights and tinselly foil do not hide, but call attention to our desperation.
Bethlehem’s story is the story of God breaking into our bleak midwinter world:
Our God, heaven cannot hold him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
The hymn goes on to speak of angels and archangels who throng the air; more than bright light, the glory of the Lord filling the dark night of our times.
Her own heart touched by the Good News of great joy, Rossetti asks the question all of us who know that joy must ask:
What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can, I give him –
Give my heart.
Neither shepherd nor wise man, we give our hearts.
A bit cryptic, nevertheless, I offer my thanks to a cast of LPC people who yesterday left the sheep they were tending and the appointments they had made to give their hearts in service the one whose story unfolds in the bleak midwinter of our world and of our lives. The gospel softens even an earth stood hard as iron.
See you Sunday.
If you use social media, Facebook in particular, you probably know about the “Year in Review” that is popping up on your home feed. If you don’t use Facebook, just know that this Year in Review is a completely insidious invasion of the privacy you surrendered to Facebook when you first opened an account.
Through use of algorithms and other things I don’t understand, Facebook has rummaged through the posts and photos of each of its nearly 2 billion users to create a personalized 65-second highlights video of the past year for each one of us. Continue reading
According to the Advent Calendar – one with those little windows to open each day until Christmas – today is the first day of Advent. Beginning today and, depending on the calendar, each day until December 24 or December 25, we open a new window, each opening one day closer to the biggest and the best window. According to the liturgical calendar, Advent begins Sunday, the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and continues until midnight on Christmas Eve.
According to Amazon and Wal-Mart, you’re running out of time and better start spending now. We used to count the shopping days ‘til Christmas. Now every hour of every day is potential shopping time. You’d better hurry up. Look how little time is left.
But what if Advent is not about so many purchases and so little time? Continue reading
Thanksgiving Day, this best of all the national holidays. Its history is rich and includes the Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation and calls for days of thanksgiving by presidents beginning with George Washington. Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation marks the beginning of fourth or last Thursday in November national days of Thanksgiving. 1863 with its battles at Gettysburg and Vicksburg and elsewhere had been a bloody and sorrow-filled year, yet the nation was called to give thanks.
2017 has been a year of troubles for the nation. The hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. The fires in California. Strife in Charlottesville and bickering in Washington, D.C. Shootings in Nevada and Texas. Terrorism in Manhattan. Lincoln’s word still speak to the nation: Continue reading
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18
The words are memorable and worth memorizing. The verbs are imperative. Commands. Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks. The conditions are unyielding. Always. Without ceasing. In all circumstances.
Thanksgiving Day, the national holiday, falls next week. National holiday or not, it is for many of us a favorite day. Family. Feast. Football. All or some of the above. Of course, not all of us will be able or want to be with family. Some of us don’t like turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pies, or Aunt Mary’s famous candied yams. And maybe you’re boycotting the NFL or just plain don’t care much for football. Scrooge the holiday, but the biblical imperative remains. Give thanks in all circumstances.
It has been a hard week for some in our church family, a difficult season for others. One chair will sit empty at the Thanksgiving Day table in too many of our homes. Death’s dark shadow has fallen cold and hard. Difficult diagnoses have been given; the road to recovery has been hard and has not yet reached its end. For others there will be no recovery. Continue reading