Our service opened with “Christmas leftovers.” Our church’s special Christmas service is early in the season so that our college students attending International Baptist College & Seminary can be a part of it before heading home for Christmas. So we began the service by singing the closing medley from last week’s Christmas “cantata.” It was a blend of several favorite Christmas hymns: “Good Christian Men, Rejoice,” “Joy to the World,” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” Then we sang the Christmas song “The Birthday of a King.” The congregation didn’t seem as familiar with this song. But it is a Christmas classic that some folks love.
Pastor Mike surprised me after his prayer by reading a letter from a persecuted pastor in China. It took a little while to read. But it was important for us to know that Christians around the world are truly suffering for the cause of Christ.
Kara Fosnot’s piano solo of “Joy to the World” fit in beautifully after that, reminding us that Christ fulfilled the promise of His first coming. And He will fulfill the promise of His Second Coming. Most people don’t know that “Joy to the World” isn’t really a Christmas song. The first stanza works fine for Christmas. But the other stanzas make sense only when you think of the Second Coming of Christ!
We love for the congregation to join the choir in singing God’s praise. And this week the choir assisted the congregation in singing Charles Wesley’s Christmas hymn “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” Dr. Fred Coleman designed these arrangements so that the congregation can easily sing enthusiastically familiar Christmas carols. The piano and organ accompaniments, key changes, and special choir parts make the hymn exciting and fun to sing!
Next, we sang a Christmas hymn that Pastor Mike wants us to know. It expresses the theological truth of why Christ was born. And it encourages us to live the Christian life as Christ did: submitting to the will of the Father. “Born to Die” is one of those songs that is unique to our church. Not many churches in the country even know that song! But it is spiritually significant. And so we exert the extra effort to learn a spiritual song that you will never hear on “99.9 FM: All Christmas All the Time”!
We are singing the chorus “Fear Not” this season because so many times in the Christmas story, God’s people have to be reminded not to let fear overwhelm them. It is a good reminder for us, too, that God is in control even when things are changing or upsetting in our lives.
Pastor Mike’s sermon included a touching story. You can find the article he referenced here. And during the sermon, Pastor went quickly through some sub-points. He sent those out first thing this morning in an e-mail. There are always folks whose lives will never be complete if they don’t get all the blanks in the bulletin filled in! You can hear Pastor’s full sermon here.
Daniel Molina played us out with his rousing piano offertory of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” Did you know the comma in the title is correct? The song is not about “merry gentlemen.” Rather, “God rest ye merry” was a traditional English greeting. It meant, “God bless you” or “May God keep you happy.” Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know that. Even Charles Dickens messed up the first line of that song in his book A Christmas Carol!
Though the schools in our ministry are on break, the work of the ministry goes on. Last night about 30 choir and orchestra members went to Crossroad Baptist Church in Buckeye to help them present their Christmas “cantata.” Tomorrow our music ministry folks will do some caroling at Atria Senior Living in Chandler. And today I sent my first e-mails trying to track down an out-of-print song for next year’s Christmas program!