been listening to Christmas music and anticipating the joyous holiday since July. I do understand, of course — I myself have been known to bang away on Christmas tunes on the piano with nostalgia long after our tree has been sent to the dump (or sitting in our burn pile waiting for the snow to melt).
There is something undeniably exciting and beautiful about the anticipation of Christmas. In the church, we know the four-week period before Christmas as the season of Advent. I think the anticipation and longing for the day of Christ’s birth is the best part of the year.
With Advent, a time of expectedness and haunting mystery, the music is particularly poignant and beautiful. It covers much of what we’re familiar with — the celebratory Joy to the World, Hark the Herald Angels Sing and, my personal favorite, O Come O Come Emmanuel. But there are newer songs bringing an additional perspective to this season we all love so much; Light of the World (We the Kingdom), Make Room (Casting Crowns; lyrics below) and Noel (Lauren Daigle) are just a few of the songs that come to mind.
While anticipation and excitement look forward, this season of Advent also provides a great opportunity for reflection and looking back on our past years. One of the biggest changes in my own life recently has certainly been my new role as Worship Director here at 1st Pres. It was a surprise to me in so many ways, not what I was expecting — but sometimes that’s how God works. I think God, in many ways, tries to teach us to always expect the unexpected.
One of the unexpected joys I am finding in this position is an opportunity to dive deeper into music I am already familiar with and to learn new music I may never have had a reason to learn or listen to before. Music has always been the primary story teller in my own life, and Advent has a pretty exciting story to tell.
While I may give my son a hard time for listening to Christmas music so early or the DJs a hard time for switching over before the carved pumpkins have hit the compost pile, the truth is that I myself have been listening to Christmas music for just as long. In some ways I have been anticipating Advent — the season of anticipation — for a while now. Learning and discovering this beautiful music, both old and new, has been a welcomed and unexpected addition to my life.
Expect the unexpected. That continues to be a phrase of joy in my life and this year is no different. Advent is a time to be surprised by the joy and mystery of the birth of Christ all over again, year after year.
In His Name, Jenny
I think this is a nice prayer that brings to mind having compassion for those who do not have the basic comforts we take for granted. When I read these words and try to apply it to my life, I find myself wondering how to go deeper than merely “remembering” all those listed in the prayer.
These are my thoughts that are modeled on a prayer written by Charles E. Moore:
Our church mission to LOVE FIRST demonstrates putting these ideas into action. The Neighborhood Clothing Closet provides for local families to dress their children nicely. Our Community Outreach Ministry has exposed us to new ideas through their Coffeehouse Conversations. Sermon-based Small Groups are enriching spiritual growth and growing friendships. Our Turkey Drive will be supporting hungry families with grocery gift cards. There are so many good things our church is doing for others. Through these programs, we are living out the words of Abigail Van Buren, “May these remembrances stir us to service that thy gifts to us may be used for others.”
In His Name, Heather
conductor and interact with students they have never met, but who enjoyed the same interest in playing music.
This special performance, which honors our veterans, can be found on the North Idaho College YouTube page (links below). I encourage you to see the results of the students’ hard work, watch some 1st Pres members perform in the Wind Symphony, and take part in the universal joy of music.
Gathering of the Bands: Day 1 (concert begins at 15:15)
Gathering of the Bands: Day 2 (concert begins at 14:16)
In His Name, Tyler
The Great War officially began on 28 July, 1914 and lasted until 11:00 am, Central European Time, 11 November, 1918. The total number of deaths, civilian and military, on both sides, is estimated between 15 and 22 million souls. Around 10 million of those were military personnel. The Armistice had been signed at 5:45 am, but the Allied Command chose to wait five hours and fifteen minutes to have the ceasefire order given, so that they could have the symmetry of 11/11 11:00 as the official end of the war. In that time there were 10,944 casualties, of which 2,738 were deaths.
This conflict had come to be known as The War That Will End War, because its like had never been seen. Humanist author H.G. Wells had coined the term in 1914 with the idealistic thought that, surely, mankind would learn their lesson and turn their swords into plough-shears. It quickly came to be used sardonically by the public, because surely this was the war that would end civilization.
A year after the war ended, on 11 November, 1919, the first celebration of Armistice Day was observed. Two years after that, 11 November, 1921, the Unknown Soldier was interred in the tomb at the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery.
But war had not ended. The Second World War saw 116,516 Americans killed. The total estimated dead in that war is 70-85 million.
In 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, and war continued. The Korean War saw 36,574 Americans dead, then 58,220 in Vietnam.
The spiritual war mankind has been experiencing since the world was created seemed to rage on as well, but in the Gospel of John 19:30, Jesus proclaims, “It is finished!”
His death on the cross was not an afterthought come up with after mankind’s fall into sin. No, it had been settled before Adam existed.
Nexus comes from a Latin word meaning “connection, usually where multiple elements meet.” Isaiah 46:10 says that it is God who, from the beginning, declared the end. Jesus, slain from the foundations of creation, hung upon the cross and declared “It is finished!” There, at the center of history, where the first event happened, the end was proclaimed. Like the well-known symbol of eternity, the beginning and end of Time met in the middle through Jesus. The life of our Lord is the nexus of history.
It may seem that we are forever at war, but He has declared that the war is over, if you want it. The ancient Hebrews looked forward to Messiah, we look backward, and we both see the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and ending.
So, as the Psalmist asked, “Why do the nations rage?” We hear of wars and the rumors of war. Nation rises against nation. But this is not the end. We serve our country when needed, and look forward to that moment when, at last, we see the end that Jesus announced, there at the beginning. And then, we shall study war no more.
In His Name, Mikal
Our staff is voluntold each week and with grace they share their thoughts.