It is a real pleasure to have Jo Ann Whitaker join our writing team. This week features a submission from her that is timely for the season from our ongoing Study of Ephesians. Please see the links below for information on finding a Life Group and the sermon from this past Sunday. As always, please like, share, and follow our posts so that those you know and love can have another opportunity to receive the gospel. This time of year is especially hard for those in need of hope.
Comfort and Joy! by Jo Ann Whitaker
As we continue to walk through the book of Ephesians, we’re learning that true comfort and joy comes through receiving the gift of Christ, knowing the Savior, embracing His ways, living it out in our worship of Him, submitting to Him and others in reverence and in how we love and treat believers and unbelievers. The gospel is not only GOOD NEWS, it’s the BEST NEWS!
Sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest places. As Earl and I drove across SC backroads due to Thanksgiving traffic detours, we took advantage of the seek button on the radio and listened to all kinds of music. One Christmas song in particular caught my attention and I had to look it up to see who was singing it. If you haven’t heard the creative version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by the band Bare Naked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan, I recommend it as both refreshing and inspiring. Honestly, I’ve never really paid any attention to the lyrics. The chorus line, “tidings of comfort and joy” is stuck in my head and I’ve returned to it several times this week, listening to different versions, reading all the stanzas and researching the history of the song.
The author is unknown, but it seems apparent that they were acquainted with the book of Ephesians and the truth of the Gospel. The lyrics not only tell the Christmas story, but give us hope and encouragement to rest in the comfort and joy of our Savior. It further directs us to the Gospel of Christ, to turn from dismay and fright, to give thanks for the Messiah, to sing praise to the Lord and to embrace our brothers and sisters in love and brotherhood. That pretty much sums up the theme of Ephesians!
It dates back to the 16th Century which was a time of great change, defining movements and reformation across Europe and the church at large. Many revered men of God were paving the way for modern Protestantism during that time and under severe persecution, incarceration, and even death for it. In my Ancestry research, I found Great Grandfathers dating back to the 16th and 17th Century in both mine and Earl’s families who literally lost their lives at the stake or were forced to flee their countries for their faith. We like to think we’re under persecution here in the United States, but none of us have been burned at the stake for our theology. Many of our most precious hymns were written as a result of suffering and show the author’s heart for Christ and the joy of His comfort in the midst of struggle.
Take a moment to soak in the words:
God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy
In Bethlehem, in Israel
This blessed Babe was born
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn
The which His Mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn
From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name
“Fear not then”, said the Angel
“Let nothing you affright
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan’s power and might”
The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind
And went to Bethlehem straightway
The Son of God to find
And when they came to Bethlehem
Where our dear Saviour lay
They found Him in a manger
Where oxen feed on hay
His Mother Mary kneeling down
Unto the Lord did pray
Now to the Lord sing praises
All you within this place
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface
Now slowly read them again and relish the powerful truth of the gospel!
As we head into what is generally a hectic, fast-paced season of dramatic levels of activity, may we slow down and take time to remember the real reason for the season and take comfort and joy in the gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ that fills our hearts and lives! May we also remember and pray for those that are under serious persecution around the world!
Here are simple tips that may help us navigate the season with our joy intact:
Reflect on the Christmas Story and the gift of Christ – read the Christmas story from scripture. Protect your quiet time. Watch a Christmas movie that includes the truth. Listen to Christmas songs and hymns. Take active part in praise and worship opportunities that abound this time of year.
Do a word search of the Bible on the words “Comfort” and “Joy”. Write down or highlight a few that speak to you.
Isaiah 40:1 Comfort, comfort my people says your God. This chapter proclaims the coming Good News!
Psalm 32:11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.
Reflect on people who have had an impactful influence on you. Follow the Apostle Paul’s lead and write a letter/card to someone who could use encouragement in life or their walk. Is there someone in your family, church, neighborhood or workplace that you can encourage or thank? Just do it!
Several friends have lost loved ones this year. Tell them one of your favorite stories about their loved one. I know it can be awkward, but believe me when I say that we love to hear the stories. My Mom’s brother regularly shares memories of my Dad with me and I dearly cherish those reflections! Have old pictures? Make a copy and share them. It means a lot.
Be kind to strangers; let someone with fewer items go in front of you at the grocery store; smile when traffic is brutal (or turn up the music); over tip your server, stack up your dirty dishes and pick up after your kids at the diner; buy coffee or a meal for a homeless person; read a book to a child, donate to your favorite charity or a million other little things that make life better for those around us!
Look for the forgotten, sad, and lonely this season and bring them into your circle or to your dinner table.
Go Simple: protect your family time, cut back on gifts, set a budget, bake a gift, and share photographs. Learn that the word No is actually a complete sentence and it’s ok to say it. It’s ok to excuse yourself from stressful situations.
Decorating/Cooking – if that’s your thing, go for it and we’ll all enjoy it. If it’s not, don’t sweat it! There are plenty of store bought items that will suffice and we always need someone who’ll bring the paper products, soft drinks and ice! It’s not about the presents, but His presence and our presence in the lives of others.
So, let’s get busy sharing good tidings of comfort and joy and shine the light of the Good News everywhere we go!
Things to Know: