“In Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3)
What you observe of something on the surface doesn’t always give the complete picture of its actual substance. To many who look at Jesus, He appears to be nothing more than a good, moral teacher who left humanity with some principles for life that are worth pondering. It’s only when you dig deeper into Christ that you discover Jesus is unimaginably and unfathomably more. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is an ancient hymn that masterfully unpacks the hidden treasures of Christ by unveiling its own hidden treasures. Originally written by 8th-century monks, the hymn was used during Advent to set the expectation of Christ’s coming leading up to Christmas. It’s a beautiful song, but the true hidden gem lies within the structure of the poem. Seven days before Christmas Eve monasteries would sing the “O Antiphons” in anticipation of Christmas Eve. These were songs declaring different attributes of Jesus. In “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” these antiphons are gathered into one song and speak of the various titles of Jesus. Each verse of the hymn calls for Jesus to “come” and addresses a unique part of His identity and mission.
Jesus is Emmanuel (Isaiah 8:8) – Being “God with us,” Christ reveals to us the heart of God the Father.
Jesus is the Rod of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1) – Springing from a dead stump, He will free His people from Satan’s tyranny by death and resurrection, making them free forever.
Jesus is the Dayspring (Luke 1:78) – As the Light of the World, Jesus will shine God’s righteousness and banish darkness forever.
Jesus is the Key of David (Isaiah 22:22) – He alone holds the keys to life and death. He opens doors no man can shut and has unlocked the gate for us into heaven.
Jesus is the Desire of Nations (Haggai 2:7) – One day He will rule and reign over every nation, tribe, and tongue with His benevolent and mighty hand.
The song becomes an even more intriguing treasure when you discover that the antiphons create an acrostic, and when you reverse the acrostic, it becomes that Latin phrase “Ero Cras,” meaning “I will be present tomorrow.” It appears that even the early monks were hoping and praying for the quick return of Jesus! They also recognized that Jesus was ever present for every need. May this also be true of us in every area of life. For every longing and need we have, we must begin with the simple prayer, “O come, O come, Jesus!” We will discover that Jesus isn’t merely the answer to our salvation; He is the answer to everything else as well.
Go into any store, restaurant, or other consumer establishments shortly after Thanksgiving ends, and you’re sure to hear familiar tunes over the bustling crowds that only show up once every year. In between “Jingle Bells” and “Silver Bells,” there’s a good chance you’ll hear no bells at all; there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself thoughtlessly humming along to the humble story penned in “Silent Night.” I say thoughtlessly not because you’re a thoughtless person, but because familiarity with something can often cause us to overlook its significance. How many hundreds of thousands of people sing “Silent Night” every year as part of their Christmas traditions, but ultimately skim over the jaw-dropping theological truths found hidden beneath the surface of those 19th-century lyrics?
It would be difficult for any of us to conceive of what life and ministry would have been like during the height of the American Civil War. Who would have imagined that the Civil War would have been a backdrop for one of the most beautiful and beloved Christmas carols of our time? Phillips Brooks, the author of the “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” was an Episcopal priest, a powerful preacher and committed American patriot in the mid-late 19th century. He was a vocal advocate of the abolitionist cause and believed the gospel should infiltrate and saturate the practical world, bringing forth equity and justice for all.
As I was studying in Hebrews chapter 3, I became mesmerized by the idea of, “considering Jesus.” It’s a theme of Hebrews. If Jesus is actually better and greater than everything else, we must consider Him, turn to Him, and fix our affection and attention wholly upon Him. The song, “Turn your Eyes Upon Jesus” came to mind. Most of you are familiar with the words:
So this is one of those long posts I promised I wouldn’t do. Palm Sunday is a powerful day, here are some thoughts on it from Psalm 24.
[Psa 24:1-10 NKJV] 1 A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. 2 For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters. 3 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. 5 He shall receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6 This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face. Selah 7 Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. 10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah
Do you remember times of anticipating someone’s arrival? When you hear the phrase, “Wait until your father gets home…” What do you think of? I can think of moments in my life that statement has excited me. When my dad and I were working on my restoring my first car, I was excited about his arrival. As a kid, in general I was always excited about my dad getting home from work because he was always doing something with us; some fort to be built, some fish to be caught… and I always looked forward to it. Then there were those times when I feared His coming. Like the time when I laughed at my mom when she tried to spank me. I laughed until I heard the words, “You can wait for your dad to get home.” Yeah, I wasn’t that excited.
Well, Psalm 24 is a Psalm of someone’s arrival. It paints a picture of an eternal, worthy King; a King who is Lord and creator of all, who is coming to a great city. His identifying monicker, “The King of Glory”, sets His arrival apart and above all others. He has an anticipated day of arrival, and along with him He brings blessing and salvation to all whose gates are opened to His coming. So why Psalm 24 on Palm Sunday? Many of us are familiar with the Hallel Psalm 118 that declare the cries of the people on that first Palm Sunday, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” While Psalm 24 is not directly mentioned in the triumphal entry narrative, it is an appropriate, prophetic picture for Palm Sunday. It’s also interesting Psalm 24 is one of the psalms used by the Jews in their daily liturgies. On Monday they meditate on Psalm 48 – on Tuesday, Psalm 82 – on Wednesday, Psalm 94 – on Thursday, Psalm 81 – on Friday, Psalm 93 – the Sabbath psalm is 92 – on Sunday, Psalm 24.
The concept of grace is of the utmost importance, not only for the Christian, but for the human. Grace is paramount in understanding the gospel. The fact that grace is associated with God indicates that it is in His nature to extend supernatural favor to undeserving people. God predicated the incarnation of Christ, the cross, the hope of our salvation, and so much more on the concept of grace. Grace imparts forgiveness where judgement was deserved, makes possible friendship with God where enmity once existed, and enables us to live, both physically and spiritually. God’s grace is at the core of everything you are.
So as the main theme of Paul’s writings, you would think that the subject of grace would be found everywhere in the gospels, scattered throughout the teachings of Jesus. A small study quickly provides an intriguing insight… Jesus never uses the word grace. Not even once. Why is this? I believe the answer is found in John 1, the only place in the gospel we find the word grace used.
John 1:14 – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
I had the joy of performing a wedding today. It wasn’t one that I was expecting to officiate, but was honored that this couple thought of me when the pastor who did their premarital counseling wasn’t available. They had to change their venue to an outside wedding last minute due to a fire two nights before the wedding in the building! But wow, could you have ever asked for a more perfect day? Sunny and 72 degrees at the beginning of February. Someone was looking out for these two ;-).
I love doing weddings because I get to preach the gospel to myself and everyone present. I get to talk about the boundless, matchless, always reaching, never resting love of Jesus toward His bride, the Church. When two people who are in Christ get married, the gospel is on display, like a portrait in an art gallery, for all who are present to see.
I couldn’t help but think of my wife, and all that marriage has taught me about the love of Jesus over the past 13 years. It’s also taught me a great deal about how much I need to grow in order to become more like Him. I’m so grateful for a bride who loves me so much, and a bridegroom, Christ, whose faithfulness to me knows no bounds.
JESUS NEVER STOPS
Loving me in my unworthiness.
Forgiving me in my failures.
Strengthening me in my weakness.
Covering me in my shame.
Carrying me in my frailty.
I think I can learn quite a bit about what it means to be a husband from Jesus.
Ephesians 5:25 – Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…