Karen's Devotions

This is a selected collection of my devotions e-published on Daily Devotions, Journey Christian Church, Irvine, California; George Bragg, Editor. To join the mailing list, email George, gbragg@cox.net.

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As a 25+ year homeschooling vet, post-cancer, math prof, mother of five, master's track and field athlete, and certificated private pilot, I have a lot to share about what God has done in my life. In 2000 I began writing devotions as something to try when it seemed like accoustic pianists were becoming an endangered species at church. I have since found great blessings from writing and sharing. God is good.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmastime 2006

December 18, 2006
Caroling, Caroling

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2:13-14

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One of the signs of the season is listening or singing Christmas carols. The CD player in my house is filled with selections from best loved carols to Alvin and the Chipmunks to Handel’s Messiah. And although malls and stores play holiday music constantly in hopes to increase sales, it is fun to join a shopper two aisles over in a chorus of “Angels We Have Heard On High!” Yes, carols help bring jubilancy and anticipation of the celebration of Christ’s birth.

“Carol” has its lineage beginning with the Greek word “khoraules.” The Latin derivative is “choraula” from which the Old French and Middle English have “carole,” a circle dance accompanied by singing. Note that the modern French carol is known as a “noel” meaning Christmas.

Outside the nativity, carols were popular songs among common people and were spread by traveling minstrels. They were adapted as religious music carol laudi (pious lyrics) by St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century; thus bringing peasant folk tradition into the church. The joyful nature of the carol made it appropriate for many celebrations.

1350-1550 is known as the golden age of English carols. “The Wexford Carol,” “The Boar’s Head Carol,” “Angels We Have Heard On High,” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” are among the oldest Christmas variety. During the sixteenth century, Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans use their power in the English government and banned the celebration of Christmas, making caroling a crime. The colonists continued this ban in the New World. During Victoria’s reign in England, after the publication of Charles Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” (1843), carols where once again popular and in greater abundance, giving way to a Victorian Era reminiscence of caroling.

Musicalogically, the carol form has a verse and a burden (or refrain) alternating. Major traditional American carols include “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear,” “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” There are more carols written about Christ’s birth than any one religious topic.

Today let’s pick a favorite carol, research its particular roots (perhaps via a web search engine) and realize the richness of singing over eight centuries the wondrous arrival of the Christ child.

Thank you dear Lord for the gift of your son, Jesus. Thank you for carols by which millions united their voices to sing praise and honor to the Christ child. Help me today to use carols to deepen my faith and make your word real in my life. In Christ’s name, amen.
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December 22, 2006
Christmas Bells

Proverbs 150

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!
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One of the highlights of a trip east with my husband was visiting the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Along with a wonderful tour, Jeff arranged for us to have high tea in one of the towers. While we were enjoying scones, crumpets, and tea the church bells rang. Their sound was strong, pure, and resonating; signaling the o’clock. It was beautiful and exhilarating. I was reminded of what it must have been like hundreds of years ago, when church bells were common. Not only did they signal parishioners that services would begin soon, but they also announced special celebrations, like Christ’s birthday.

An article by Rev. Lewis H. How says that large bells appeared in church towers in around A.D. 400. He further describes church bells as being an instrument of praise, dedicated to serving God and cites today’s text. While many bells now-a-days are rung electronically, most in England are rung by hand. The practice and art of hand bell-ringing is called campanology. “Change ringing” is a particular branch of campanology where the bells are run in a mathematical sequence.

“Carol of the Bells” (Ukrainian Carol) captures the essence of church bells on Christmas morn.

Hark, how the bells, sweet silver bells, all seem to say, throw cares away
Christmas is here, bringing good cheer, to young and old, meek and the bold,
Ding dong ding dong that is their song with joyful ring all caroling
One seems to hear words of good cheer from everywhere filling the air
Oh, how they pound, raising the sound, o'er hill and dale, telling their tale,
Gaily they ring while people sing songs of good cheer, Christmas is here,
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
On, on they send, on without end, their joyful tone to every home
Ding dong ding... dong!