O HOLY NIGHT: THRILL OF HOPE

One of the best-loved Christmas songs continues to be O HOLY NIGHT. It was written in 1843 by French poet, Placide Cappeau, and French composer, Adolphe Adam, and was translated into English in 1855 by John Sullivan Dwight, an English minister.

In the first verse the phrase, “A thrill of hope” is a fitting response to the first Christmas. It also justifies the song’s inclusion in this blog. Besides it’s one of my favorite Christmas songs!

Seriously ponder the words below, their meaning, and then listen open-hearted to this beautiful Christmas song that can be found online. It has been sung by many musical artists. Personally I’m awed by the matching of Andrea Bocelli’s superb voice with this glorious song.

O HOLY NIGHT

“O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from the Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weaknesses no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.”

( Cappeau, Adam, Dwight)

Jesus Christ’s incarnation that holy night brings to our world eternal hope! I believe “His law is love, and His gospel is peace,” so I have hope. May we know and live with “the thrill of hope” everyday. Then “Let all within us praise His holy name.”

“Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever.”

 

CHRISTMAS EVERYDAY: HOPE EVERYDAY

I remember first hearing Kenny Rogers sing “Christmas Everyday” approximately thirty years ago. I like the song, because it gives me hope to remember the Reason for the season. The Reason is NOT about shopping for Christmas gifts by the way.

The real Reason is the Christmas Gift that God gave the world, and He is JESUS. The first Christmas Gift was given to become Savior to those who believe. He’s our Hope, and we need His peace and good will. We need Christmas Hope every day of the year not just December 25th.

CHRISTMAS EVERYDAY

“He was born so far away,
So the story’s told.
We remember Christmas Day
When winter days grow cold.

With the time it passes by,
We put away the trim;
Then we live and wonder why
We can’t remember Him.

The Christmas star shines once a year,
And then it fades away.
Keep the Spirit in your heart;
It’s Christmas everyday.
(Christmas everyday)

It’s not the bells, and it’s not the snow,
And it’s not the gifts we get.
But He was born so long ago;
It’s easy to forget.

Peace on earth, goodwill to men,
But men can’t go alone.
We get lost along the way,
But He can bring us home.

Remember Him throughout the year
Without the star above.
He left us all a Christmas gift;
He left the Gift of love.

The Christmas star shines once a year,
And then it fades away.
Keep the Spirit in your heart,
And it’s Christmas everyday.”

(Peter McCann)

As McCann wrote and Rogers sang, “Remember Him throughout the year….” Let’s remember “He left us all a Christmas gift; He left the gift of love.” Even more importantly let’s remember He IS the Gift of Love. If we know Him then we have a reason for hope, so that it’s Christmas everyday.

 

“Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10, 11)

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

MY LITTLE WORLD: HOPE UNDER STARS

Recently one night (actually one morning before dawn) I happened to awaken. From my position I had a clear view of stars above that were quite vivid through a nearby window. The sight stirred emotions of gratitude to the Creator of those beautiful celestial balls of light.

A song that I first heard during the early 70’s instantly came to my mind. It struck me that I had not heard nor even thought of the song in a very long time, but I was aware that my thoughts matched its lyrics perfectly. It was an awesome moment in time — a personal moment with Creator God in the still and quietness of night that gave peace and ‎hope.

The song was “My Little World” by Ralph Carmichael, who brought us many beautiful and meaningful songs. In case you’re not familiar with this song that was brought to my conscious mind from somewhere deep in my brain, here it is. Read it to get a glimpse of my thoughts that night, then find an audio version to hear it in its beauty and truth.

MY LITTLE WORLD

“Oh, God of the stars, the sun and the moon,
Oh, God of the wind and the sea,
Though You’re everywhere
How amazing it is
That You can be here with me.

The uncharted craters of planets beyond
You know like the palm of Your hand,
And yet You’re concerned
With my little world.
Oh, help me to understand.

I know that miracles happen to people like me
The moment we dare to believe
For we are the objects of God’s mighty love
Far greater than our little minds can conceive.

The stars could collide,
The sun could grow dim,
The whole universe pass away.
Still nothing can change the promise He made,
And Christ in my heart will stay.”

(Ralph Carmichael)

The final sentence is important to me, because it’s a reminder that nothing — NOTHING — can change the promise He made! “And Christ in my heart will stay.” My heart!

I’m grateful for Carmichael’s song that expresses great hope that can come with a glimpse of stars on a dark night!

“Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth,’ and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.”
(Genesis 1:14-18)

“To Him who made the great lights
For His lovingkindness is everlasting:
The sun to rule by day
For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
The moon and stars to rule by night
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
(Psalm 136: 7-9)

“Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One Who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.” (Isaiah 40:26)

“Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for light by day
And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar,
“The Lord of hosts is His name.”
(Jeremiah 31:35)

“You alone are the Lord.
You have made the heavens,
The heaven of heavens with all their host,
The earth and all that is on it,
The seas and all that is in them.
You give life to all of them,
And the heavenly host bows down before You.” (Nehemiah 9:6)

“He Who made the Pleiades and Orion
And changes deep darkness into morning,
Who also darkens day into night,
Who calls for the waters of the sea
And pours them out on the surface of the earth, The Lord is His name.”
(Amos 5:8)

SUICIDE: HOPEFUL OR HOPELESS

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide then immediately call National Suicide Prevention LifeLine at 1.800.273.8255. Please call NOW!

It’s been said that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. There is help available no matter how dire one considers the circumstances. There is hope! Please reach out for help before reaching the point of no return!

Throughout my life I have personally known those who committed suicide. The list includes relatives, friends, former teacher, former classmate, friend’s parent, friend’s child, associates…. Sadly it’s way too long a list!

In every case the grief and pain of those left behind is excruciating, and the pain only deepens to think something could have been done to prevent it. Circumstances are not improved by death, and loved ones remaining fail to feel “better off.”

There’s no group that’s exempt from being touched by the agony and suffering related to suicide. Included are teens, veterans, native Americans, mentally ill, celebrities, substance abusers, privileged, even people with seemingly perfect lives, and on and on.

Thankfully there are many resou­rces to help prevent suicides and to help grieving loved ones after suicide as well. I think it is hopeful that many organizations and individuals choose to help others cope with real pain of living and sorrow of those surviving. Research… learn warning signs… get help for self and for others.

BOOKS (a few of many):

Grieving a Suicide: A Loved One’s Search for Comfort, Answers and Hope by Albert Y. Hsu

No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One by Carla Fine

When the Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper

Finding Your Way after the Suicide of Someone You Love by David Biebel and Suzanne Foster

IMPORTANT PHONE NUMBERS:

800.273.8255 / 800.273.TALK (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, trained counselors 24 hours/day, 7 days/week)

911 (for immediate suicide danger or any emergency 24/7)

988 (new national suicide prevention or mental health crisis number 24/7)

741-741 (crisis text line with trained counselors)

Also there are many international numbers to call if outside the US.

WEB ARTICLES (including authors with meaningful personal experiences regarding suicide):

Cru.org/us/en/train-and-grow/life-and-relationships/hardships/suicide-prevention-resources.html

Desiringgod.org/topics (click on “life issues” then “suicide”)

If you feel overwhelmed, know you are not alone. Your crisis is temporary. There is help to end your pain without ending your life. With help comes hope. Please reach out.

Know you are loved by your Creator. He has a wonderful plan for your life. Seek Him. He wants a relationship with you. He wants to give you abundant life. He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Ultimately God is the only One Who can make you a new creation. Trust Him to do what He said He will do according to the Bible.

If on the verge of suicide please commit to delaying this action. Instead seriously seek a relationship (or closer one) with your Creator God through the Way, the Truth, the Life — Jesus Christ. God alone has the right of life or death. Choose Him… choose hope… choose Life.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

JOE GEORGE: HOPE AND A HERO AT PEARL HARBOR

Few may know about one certain WWII hero who was just “an ordinary Joe.” It is unlikely this humble and ordinary Joe ever dreamed his own courageous deeds would result in his becoming an American hero, but it happened.

On December 7, 1941, a date destined to “live in infamy,” Japanese military forces attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, leading America into WWII. During this attack Joe George, Petty Officer Second Class (to become Chief Boatswain’s Mate) in the US Navy saved the lives of six fellow sailors.

Decades later when two of the surviving sailors attended a White House ceremony the President said, “They are here because one man, Joe George, stopped at nothing to save them. Joe George rescued six men that day. He is no longer with us, but [we will] always honor and remember a man… whose courage knew no limits.” The President called him “a true patriot… and a total hero.” I believe those words offered an accurate description of “ordinary” Joe George.

One rescued sailor, Donald Stratton, declared, “Had Joe George not stood up for us — had he not been a rebel and refused to cut the line connecting the Vestal to the Arizona — we would have cooked to death on that platform. If anyone deserved a Medal of Honor that day, in my opinion, it was him. And I know at least five others that would second that.”

Ready to follow a direct order to sever the tether between the repair ship USS Vestal and the burning USS Arizona, he saw sailors on the tower of the Arizona. Postponing that direct order he chose instead a chance at saving those six who had no other hope.

Stratton described their desperate situation, “Up where we were there was no one directing us, no way of escape, and no hope. I looked at myself, surveying the damage the blast had inflicted. My T-shirt had caught fire burning my arms and my back. My legs were burned from my ankles to my thighs. My face was seared. The hair on my head had been singed off, and part of my ear was gone.”

“I stood in a stupor and would have continued to stand there were it not for a breeze that parted the smoke revealing a sailor from the Vestal. It was Joe George.

“We called to Joe through a seam in the smoke, motioning for him to throw us a monkey’s fist, a lightweight heaving line knotted around a metal ball and attached to a thicker rope,” Stratton wrote.

I believe it is no coincidence that George was “perhaps the strongest man in the harbor, an All-Navy boxer,” and he was successful in his third throw, according to Stratton, who explained, “… we tied it off to a bigger line and proceeded to go hand-over-hand to the Vestal after we suffered burns. The Japanese were firing at us as well as the oil in the water under us was burning.”

The six sailors were already badly burned but now moved hand-over-hand on the rope to the Vestal and toward survival.

Of George’s reluctance to follow his order, Stratton wrote, “Had he been a more compliant person, more respectful of authority, I wouldn’t have lived to tell the story. None of us who climbed across that line to the Vestal would have.”

For those men that were saved Joe George was a hero, their only hope, and the difference between living and dying. Approximately 20 years after his death Joe finally was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor on December 7, 1941.

I write today on December 7 to honor the memory, valor, and heroism of Joe George. I remember being at his gravesite at the national cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas, with my grandchild in 2017. It was a visit with personal purpose… to strengthen patriotism in a future generation and to teach a lesson from the Greatest Generation. That thought gives me hope.

 

For more about this experience read Donald Stratton’s memoir, ALL THE GALLANT MEN: AN AMERICAN SAILOR’S FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT.

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing in selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 2:1-5)