Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow

On this Christmas Eve, I wanted to share with you a favorite hymn of mine, an African American Spiritual called “Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow (the star of Bethlehem).”  Do you know it?

Like the more known, “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” the song was passed down orally by slaves and sung at services on a plantation before emancipation. It is a Christmas Hymn that focuses more on devotion and discipleship. Most Christmas Hymns are about awe and wonder.

In the typical African American Spiritual style, known as the call and response format in which the leader sings and the choir responds.   

What did it mean for the slaves who wrote this spiritual to follow the star in Bethlehem?

According to Luke 2:8-20, the Shepherds dropped everything and left their flocks at night to go to Bethlehem.

What does it mean for us today to rise up and follow the star? I do not have a flock to leave behind, but I oftentimes think about the work I do and how I can pass along this song of hope to others.  In a way, this blog is part of my commitment to help people focus on their faith journey and give hope during the busiest times of the year.

What does this song mean to you?

Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow

There’s a star in the East on Christmas morn,
Rise up, shepherd and follow!
It’ll take you to the place where the Savior’s born,
Rise up, shepherd and follow!
If you’ve taken good notice to the angels’ words,
You’ll leave your flocks and leave your herds,
And rise up, shepherd, and follow!
Leave your sheep,
And leave your lamb,
Leave your ewe,
And leave your ram,
And rise up, shepherd, and follow!

Refrain:

Follow, follow, follow, follow,
Rise, O sinner, rise and follow,
Follow the Savior of Bethlehem.

The King’s Singers version of “Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow”

“I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to give you this Christmas.  I’d really like to give you something that just fits your own wishes and needs the way these shoes just fit me.  I suppose the thing I’d like most to be able to give you is hope.  Hope that through your own doing and your own living with others, you’ll be able to find what fits for you in this life.”

Mr. Rogers, 1977

Shared by Marcie Doll

The Winter Solstice 2018

Good Evening Friends!

On this the shortest day of the year:

We all have winters in our lives;
Darkness fills our world,
Fear is present,
We have a longing for companionship,
Our struggles seem insurmountable,
We feel a sadness that abounds,
Some will forsake us,
Geography can make us feel isolated,
Apart from those we love,
And we will be separated on our journeys.

While you may not in the midst of winter value the “winter” moments, but they help us to look for something to endure and hope again. And appreciate the good times more. For me, I always turn to music with harmonies that defy.

Winter will end, hope will return and you will find a way…as Christ was born for us on a new day.

The King’s Singers version of “Born on a New Day”

Shared by Marcie Doll

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A Message….

CHRISTMAS is celebration; and celebration is instinct in the heart. With gift and feast, with scarlet ribbon and fresh green bough, with merriment and the sound of music, we commend the day—oasis in the long, long landscape of the commonplace. Through how many centuries, through how many threatening circumstances, has Christmas been celebrated, since that cry came ringing down the ages, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11 KJV)

Christmas is celebration, but the traditions that cluster sweetly around the day have significance only if they translate the heart’s intention—the yearning of the human spirit to compass and express faith and hope and love. Without this intention, the gift is bare, and the celebration a touch of tinsel, and the time without meaning. As these attributes, exemplifying the divine spark in mankind, informed the first Christmas and have survived the onslaughts of relentless time, so do they shine untarnished in this present year of our Lord.

Faith and hope and love, which cannot be bought or sold or bartered, but only given away are the wellsprings, firm and deep of Christmas celebration. These are the gifts without price, the ornaments incapable of imitation, discovered only within oneself and therefore unique. They are not always easy to come by, but they are in unlimited supply ever in the province of all.

THIS CHRISTMAS, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion, and replace it with trust. Write a love letter. Share some treasure. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Find the time. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Listen. Apologize if you were wrong. Try to understand. Flout envy. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Appreciate. Be kind; be gentle. Laugh a little. Laugh a little more. Deserve confidence. Take up arms against malice. Decry complacency. Express your gratitude. Go to church. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love. Speak it again. Speak it still once again.

These are but inklings of a vast category; a mere scratching of the surface. They are simple things; you have heard them all before; but their influence has never been measured.

Christmas is celebration, and there is no celebration that compares with the realization of its true meaning—with the sudden stirring of the heart that has extended itself toward the core of life. Then, only then, is it possible to grasp the significance of the first Christmas—to savor in the inward ear the wild, sweet music of the angel choir; to envision the star-struck sky, and glimpse, behind the eyelids the ray of light that fell athwart a darkened path and changed the world.

McCall’s Magazine, 1959

I thought I should share this message, while written in 1959, seems to resonate to me today.  Christmas is not just a day, it should be a movement.  I used an excerpt of this in my Christmas card this year to friends and family and I also share this with you.

Marcie Doll

A Little Evening Advent Humor….

“Why are Dasher and Dancer always taking Coffee Breaks?  Because they are  Star Bucks.”

“Your work holiday party gives you the chance to meet all of the people you’ve been emailing from four feet away.”  from sweatlife_nyc

It’s December 18th, but I already ate all of the chocolate from my Advent Calendar.

I found a meme that had a child fist pumping:  “Day after Christmas and I still have chocolate left in the Advent Calendar, I must have lost weight this Advent.”

Advent Calendars:  A tradition bringing families together so kids have one more thing to fight over.

 

Please feel free to add any other Advent funnies into the comments, I know you have them….

 

Mouths of Babes

14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

My three and a half year old granddaughter Lucia, not only came to me, but spoke up:   “Lita, I don’t like it when you are here because you don’t cuddle!”

At the time, we were in bed and I was reading to her.   I felt a little pin prick at my heart and I know that I turned a bit red in embarrassment.   Truly though, I felt hurt.  At first I did not realize Lucia was telling me what she wanted.  And now I know, I needed to take notice.   She felt that an important part of our relationship should be cuddling while I read to her.

Sometimes from the mouths of babes, a message comes from God and we need to stand at attention and take notice.

Recently, I told Lucia that I’m taking cuddling classes and even ask her from time to time, how am I doing?  Lucia will tell me the truth for sure.

People tell us every day what they want and need from us. Do we listen?

Jesus tells us in those moments of prayer when silence enfolds us what he wants and needs from us —  listen to His message of love and blessings and step forward with grace knowing that He will always give us what we need.

Enjoy the Advent season and let’s all listen together to the spiritual nourishment that this season provides for us all.

Shared by Carmen Matias

In the Bleak Midwinter

For so many, the darkest days of the year that lead up to December 21st, the first day of winter are bleak.  Last night, I watched coverage about a massive snow storm in Romania and the rainy weekend the Northeast endured where many are wondering when the rain will end.

My Sunday was spent in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area shopping with a friend, laughing all the way and attending a wonderful children’s Christmas Concert at a local church.   The children sang their hearts out!  And then there were the angels.  Oh! How they lit up the stage in their wings and waved to the audience of family and friends.  Exactly what our angels are supposed to do in our lives, make us feel like we are valuable and protected.

On our drive back to my hotel, I kind of forgot the bleakness I oftentimes see this week of darkness.  It was strangely a spectacularly beautiful day here in the Twin Cities with a balmy temperature of 48 degrees.  And the sunset had some of the most fabulous colors I have seen in the week leading up to the shortest day of the year.  Hoping that you have one of those days soon!

So, if you have one of those bleak midwinter days, listen to this.  Susan Boyle’s voice somehow makes the day better.

Listen to Susan Boyle singing “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

1. In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

2. 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,
Jesus Christ.

3. Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

4. Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshiped the Beloved
With a kiss.

5. 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.

Shared by Marcie Doll

Hope

Fall is here and winter is on its way. This is my time for reflection and renewal. The anticipation of Christ’s coming brings me comfort with feelings of Hope for the coming year. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” is my mantra of anticipation.

However, there’s actually more encouragement in this verse. Paul wrote these words while facing some of the worst trials of his life. Despite the threat of pain and death, he realized that God gives us strength in ways that go beyond the good times and the not so good moments. The strength of Christ reaches right down into our turmoil and pain. And it’s there that we can truly do “all things.”

Romans 12:12
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Psalm 33:20-22
We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you.

Shared by Brenda Walker

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Finding Salvation in the Midst of Advent

I stumbled on this hymn, which was not previously known to me.  The lyrics tell not just of Advent but the story of salvation.

THOU DIDST LEAVE THY THRONE
by EMILY S. ELLIOT music by Ira David Sankey

Thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown,
When thou camest to earth for me
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For thy holy nativity:

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
There is room in my heart for Thee;
Oh, come to my heart, Lord Jesus, come,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth cam’st Thou, Lord, on earth,
And in great humility:

The foxes found rest, and the birds had their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch the sod, O Thou Son of God
In the deserts of Galilee:

Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn, and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary:

Oh, come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
Thy cross is my only plea;
Oh, come to my heart, Lord Jesus, come,
Thy cross is my only plea.

When heaven’s arches shall ring, and her choirs shall sing
At thy coming to victory,
Let thy voice call me up, “Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee!”

And my heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus!
When Thou comest and callest for me;
And my heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus!
When Thou comest and callest for me.

Shared by Annemarie Edwards

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Grace

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2: 8-10

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”
Anne Lamott

“Grace, then, is grace,–that is to say, it is sovereign, it is free, it is sure, it is unconditional, and it is everlasting.”
Alexander Whyte

“Grace is available for each of us every day – our spiritual daily bread – but we’ve got to remember to ask for it with a grateful heart and not worry about whether there will be enough for tomorrow.”
Sarah Ban Breathnech

Shared by Agatha Pratt

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A Lesson from the Jewish New Year

Happy Rosh Hashanah. Wait!! Isn’t this a Christmas Blog. Well, I’d like to share with you the Christmas lesson that I received during the Jewish New Year.

One Saturday morning in September, I was driving through a narrow street. Suddenly I felt the dreaded thud of my car mirror hitting another car. I pulled up until I found a spot where I could safely pull over. The other car pulled in front of me. When I got out I could see the mirror of the other car dangling from its hinges. “Oh no”,I thought. When I looked closer at the car I realized it was a very expensive car(and thus a very expensive mirror). The gentleman was very civil despite the situation and I greeted him by apologizing. It was my mistake. We exchanged information and agreed that we would decide how to further handle the situation. Later that day I got the most surprising text of my life:

In brevity the text included the following:

Tonight starts the Jewish New Year. My parents who are both gone, always taught me to do an act of kindness for the new year. My parents were Holocaust survivors and 90% of their family were murdered by the Nazis for being Jewish. Despite this they raised me to think of others not only yourself. I have decided that I will take care of the full cost of repairing my car. I ask of you to do kindness for a stranger.

He continued by telling me about an organization in which he is involved . I immediately followed up by seeking out ways in which I could support the organization. We communicated back and forth sharing more life stories. I told him about the wonderful work being done at Marble.

I’ve shared this story with friends and others who might be questioning the kindness of humanity. Each time I read the texts sent by my new friend it ignites the spirit of Christmas in me. I ask myself, “What more can I do?” May I encourage you to do the same?

Shared by Denise Kaaland