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Chaplain: Be a light this season

By Diane Gunsolley, Aberdeen Village chaplain

No other month of the year compares with December when it comes to music. Several radio stations even stop their regular programing to play non-stop Christmas music. Here at Aberdeen Village, multiple carolers from the Girl Scouts to the Dickens Carolers will croon through the halls. A hand-bell choir will ring out Christmas cheer, and members of the Grace Covenant Presbyterian choir will lead our All-Aberdeen Hymn Sing.  

Does your foot start to tap and your heart sing when you hear a beloved Christmas hymn? One of our former residents published a book about the gift of music titled “A Surprising Light -- The Christian Hymn in Contemporary Usage.” Enjoy this excerpt written by the Rev. Dr. Courtney A. Furman and be blessed by his insights into the pleasure of worship.

“Very early in my Christian experience I was encouraged by the late Ralph Willoughby, an Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship staff member in our region, to use a hymnbook regularly in my personal devotional or quiet time. I have done this, ‘singing through’ several hymnbooks over the years. The regular singing of hymns has proven to be a rich experience for me as it has nourished my soul, my inner man, and has been my instructor, teaching me solid biblical theology in the process. And of course, in those times when others have formulated, in beautiful language, the thoughts I yearned to express to God but could not, I have made use of their words, in praise and prayer.”

Look now at the lyrics to “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and read Courtney’s observations. I pray that his awareness of the wonder of the first Christmas will aid us in slowing down. May we, like Courtney, make use of the lyrics, “in praise and prayer” to the one true God.

O come, all ye faithful,

Joyful and triumphant,

O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;

Come and behold Him

Born the King of angels;

O come, let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord.  

“The author begins this hymn of exhortation with a call to the faithful who are both full of joy and victorious—presumably because they are overcomers—to come to Bethlehem, the ancient city in Judea where a miracle has occurred; that miracle, the miracle of all miracles, is the incarnation, God-become-human and dwelling among His people! Moreover, He is not only the sovereign over human life; He is even the King of the angelic host—an idea that does not occur very often in hymnody; and we are exhorted to adore Him, Christ (Messiah, Savior) and Lord!”

Sing, choirs of angels,

Sing in exultation,

Sing, all ye citizens

Of heaven above;

Glory to God, Glory in the highest;

O come, let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord.

“Here, added to the choirs of angels who are to sing His praises exultantly, are all the citizens of heaven—the human believers, including those martyred for their faith; giving thus glory to God, they join us in our adoration, which again focuses on Christ—the Messiah, our Lord.”

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee,

Born this happy morning,

Jesus, to Thee be All glory given;

Son of the Father,

Now in flesh appearing;

O come, let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord.

“Here the author exhorts all of us collectedly to address the Lord directly and to greet Him, ‘born this happy morning’—on Christmas “Day—as Jesus, Savior, the Incarnate Word of God, who has finally come to be among us. The phrase ‘late in flesh appearing’ is often translated ‘late in time appearing,’ which may reflect the fact that His people, Israel, anxiously awaited His coming for centuries; then, of course, even after He had come, most of them refused to recognize who He was! Again, we are to ascribe all glory, honor, and blessing to Him, adoring Him as Lord! Where else in a hymn of similar length, or even longer, could one find so many exalted titles, names and descriptions of that ‘Infant lowly,’ born that night in a Bethlehem cattle-shed? It is appropriate, indeed, that we come and adore Him! Albert E. Bailey’s comment is to the point: ‘This is all so simple, so vivid in imagery, so sincere in emotion that a child can understand it and enter sympathetically into the experience of worship and joy.’”

Excerpt fromA Surprising Light--The Christian Hymn in Contemporary Usage” by the Rev. Dr. Courtney A. Furman, used with permission of Jody Furman.

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