Monday, December 20, 2010

"Dreaming of a Red Christmas" (by Warren McPherson)

[The following article was published in the December, 1954, edition of a denominational youth ministry magazine]

DAVE ELLIOTT is dreaming of a red Christmas just like the one he had last year. . . .
    It was in the American sector of Berlin and a group of servicemen sat talking together. Christmas was only a few days off—and that can be about the loneliest time of the year when you are a long way from home. They reminisced of how it would be in Nashville, Wichita, Dayton, and Houston. They talked of what they would do if they were "back home."
    The conversation struck a definite note of homesickness as they recalled past thrills of caroling with the "gang." Someone asked if it were possible for them to go caroling right there in Berlin. The atmosphere became electric and the conversation was alive with expectation. The question was answered in the affirmative. They could go, and they would go Christmas caroling "just like back home." It would also give the German people a demonstration of how Christmas was observed in the United States.
    When the great day arrived, Dave joined the other servicemen in a full schedule of activity. First there was a party for a group of orphans and underprivileged children from both the western and eastern sectors of Berlin. The children were especially thrilled to be the honored guests of the American soldiers. American customs were followed to the letter. There was fruit, candy, and toys for all the children, with plenty of fun and excitement.
    An added thrill of the occasion was the distribution of good, warm, used clothing which several American organizations had sent. The servicemen saw to it that each child received clothing that would fit him. Dave was carried away with excitement. He said, "I found myself in the middle of about seven or eight little boys—all trying to get fixed up at the same time. We had a wonderful time, and I'm sure that it will become an annual affair!"
    The next stop was a crippled children's home. The children could not understand the carols as they were sung in English. However, they could understand from the warmth of the singing and from the treats they received that this was part of the American way of celebrating the birth of the Saviour. Dave was solemnly reminded that he was seeing boys and girls who would be crippled the rest of their lives. "Seeing this," he recalls, "just made me more thankful that I have good health and a good homeland."
    Another stop was at an old folks home. Here, coffee and cookies were served and carols were sung. "I guess that was what really made Christmas complete for those old folks," Dave recalls. "They seemed so happy that we came. They even joined in with us." The elderly people detained them as long as they could, because the visit of these young "ambassadors of goodwill" had meant so much to them. Time was fleeting and there was one more stop on their itinerary so they hurried on their way.
    In a few moments they arrived at their destination—the joining point of American, British, and Russian sectors of Berlin. There was no mistaking the Russian sector from the others. It was characterized by dark, quiet, empty, and lonely streets. People are not allowed on the streets at night and very few lights are visible. It was like a ghost city.
    The group went as close to the boundary as the Red-Border guards would allow. Quickly they gathered and very soon the peaceful melody of "Silent Night," followed by the joyful and hopeful refrain of "Joy to the World," was wafting its way down the dark and gloomy streets of Red Berlin.  "I can't remember all the carols we sang, but we must have sung them all," says Dave.
    Among the first to stop were an elderly man and woman from the Russian sector. They paused and listened attentively to the carolers. The group sang loudly and joyfully, and the crowd of listeners seemed to grow with the volume. As the elderly couple stood listening, no doubt their memories returned to better, more peaceful and joyful days. Tears filled their eyes and without shame, they let them course down their cheeks.
    Those servicemen sang with all the enthusiasm of their souls. For twenty minutes or more they sent the message of a loving Redeemer into the sector of darkness and heartache. Here, too, within hearing of Eastern Berlin and within sight of the Communist-Borderguard, there were coffee, cookies, and carols for all.
    When the singing finally ceased, the elderly couple lingered momentarily and then once again turned their tread toward the east and disappeared into the ominous darkness of the streets of the Russian sector.
    Dave Elliott is still in Berlin.  His thoughts are again turning to Christmas—but this time to the caroling which they are planning. He feels certain there will be a much larger group of servicemen taking part and they anticipate even greater response.  Dave will be a long way from home again this year and Christmas won't be like it is back there. But he remembers the tears in the tired eyes of that elderly couple who lingered to hear the carols a year ago—and he is convinced that there could be no more blessed way of spending Christmas than by singing the good news and glad tidings on the Red Border.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Hymn: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

Words: Translated from the Greek by Gerard Moultrie
Music: Set to the tune "Picardy"

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday Hymn: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Words: Translated from Latin by John Mason Neale

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Hymn: Hallelujah Chorus

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, forever and ever,

King of kings, and Lord of lords,
King of kings, and Lord of lords,
And Lord of lords,
And He shall reign,
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings, forever and ever,
And Lord of lords,
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Words and Music: Handel

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Hymn: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

The Battle Hymn of the Reformation

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Hymn: My Hope is Built

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest upon unchanging grace;
In ev'ry rough and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, his covenant, his blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When I shall launch in worlds unseen,
O may I then be found in him;
Dressed in his righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

Words: Edward Mote, Music: William B. Bradbury

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Hymn: Holy, Holy, Holy

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Words: Reginald Heber, Music: John B. Dykes

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Hymn: Rejoice, The Lord is King!

Rejoice, the Lord is King!
Your Lord and King adore;
Rejoice, give thanks and sing,
And triumph evermore:

Life up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Jesus, the Saviour reigns,
The God of truth and love;
When he had purged our stains
He took his seat above:


His kingdom cannot fail,
He rules o'er earth and heav'n;
The keys of death and hell
Are to our Jesus giv'n:


He sits at God's right hand
Till all his foes submit,
And bow to his command
And fall beneath his feet.


Words: Charles Wesley, Music: John Darwall

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Hymn: Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God’s own field, fruit unto His praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take His harvest home;
From His field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
Giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store in His garner evermore.

Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified, in Thy garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come, raise the glorious harvest home.

Words: Henry Alford, Music: George J Elvey

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Hymn: Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
But of all Thy rich graces this grace, Lord, impart
Take the veil from our faces, the vile from our heart.

All laud we would render; O help us to see
’Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee,
And so let Thy glory, Almighty, impart,
Through Christ in His story, Thy Christ to the heart.

Walter C. Smith and John Roberts

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Hymn: Come, Thou Almighty King

Come, Thou almighty King,
Help us Thy Name to sing, help us to praise!
Father all glorious, o’er all victorious,
Come and reign over us, Ancient of Days!

Jesus, our Lord, arise,
Scatter our enemies, and make them fall;
Let Thine almighty aid our sure defense be made,
Our souls on Thee be stayed; Lord, hear our call.

Come, Thou incarnate Word,
Gird on Thy mighty sword, our prayer attend!
Come, and Thy people bless, and give Thy Word success,
Spirit of holiness, on us descend!

Come, holy Comforter,
Thy sacred witness bear in this glad hour.
Thou Who almighty art, now rule in every heart,
And ne’er from us depart, Spirit of power!

To Thee, great One in Three,
Eternal praises be, hence, evermore.
Thy sovereign majesty may we in glory see,
And to eternity love and adore!

Music by Felice di Giardini (more information here)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Hymn: How Deep the Father's Love

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Stuart Townend

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Hymn: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who hath fearfully, wondrously, made thee;
Health hath vouchsafed and, when heedlessly falling, hath stayed thee.
What need or grief ever hath failed of relief?
Wings of His mercy did shade thee.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
Sheddeth His light, chaseth the horrors of night,
Saints with His mercy surrounding.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.

Joachim Neander, 1680

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Hymn: Great is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.


Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.


Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!


Thomas Chisholm and William Runyan, 1923

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Hymn: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

[His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.] §

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts, 1707 (written for a communion service; originally titled
Crucifixion to the World by the Cross of Christ)

§ this stanza commonly omitted in modern printings