It Was a Night Like This

[ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eric Bailey lives in Prince Albert, greatly enjoys his wife and two sons, and is woven into the fabric of the Glen Elm Church of Christ in more than a couple ways.]

I grew up listening to Irish music. Mostly just the Irish Rovers and the Clancy Brothers. The Irish Rovers sang the silly songs and the funny songs while the Clancy’s sang about war and pride in their homeland. Even now the Irish Rovers are often remembered at Christmas for their great Christmas song, “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” a moving song about the loss of a loved one and the dangers of letting just anyone drive a vehicle (or something like that).

A few years ago I was gathering some of the Christmas songs from my youth and on the same album by the Irish Rovers was this little song that captured my thoughts for Christmas time, “It Was A Night Like This.” I have not been able to find the song online by them but there is a Tom Paxton rendition of the song here:

As a Bible student I learned many of the problems with the different Christmas songs. Talking about snow, talking about Christmas Trees, the little Lord Jesus no crying he made and all those inaccuracies. This song has its problems with describing the Christmas scene but as it hits the chorus something happens and I find myself moved with the story of the birth of Jesus. This song describes it so clearly so succinctly “Nothing’s going to be the same in this whole world, everything changes tonight.”

Advent is when we are looking forward to Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the beginning of the earthly life for God in the flesh. Christmas is marking when history, when the fate of the world took a turn for the better. God entered the world in the form of a baby. I remember feeling like my parents did not understand as if they had never been my age. Our God, our creator changed history, experiencing life as we do before he sacrificed himself for us.

As we focus our minds on through the themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love leading us to Christ my mind marks this with the lines from that song “Nothing’s going to be the same in this whole world, everything changes tonight.”

Luke 2:4-20 (NIV)

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

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After the Last Tear Falls

[ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jill Slywka lives and works as an optometrist in Merritt, BC. She loves the mountains of BC, but always loves being able to come home to the prairies and to her family here.]

merritt bcI’ve lived in Merritt, BC for over 6 years now, and for most of those 6 years, I’ve spent my Tuesday evenings with a fun and quirky group of teenagers.  Spending time with them is often the highlight of my week, and I know I’ve gained more from them over these years, than anything that I’ve given to them.  We try to give them many things on Tuesday evenings – a safe place to come and ask questions about life and faith, a fun place where they can come and hang out with friends, and if nothing else, a place where they can come and have a snack.  But as I look around at these kids week after week, I can see that so many of them know brokenness, hurt and pain intimately.  I don’t know all their stories, and if I did, I’m sure my heart would break to know what some of them have gone through in their short lives.  I wish I could wipe away all their tears, and get rid of all of the pain that has been a part of their lives, but it’s precisely because of the hurt that I see in them that I know in my heart that one of the most important things we can ever give to them is HOPE.  They may not even realize that we’re trying to give it to them – but through our actions and our words, we’re trying to show them there is HOPE in this world.  HOPE, through Jesus, that the brokenness you feel in your life doesn’t have to be the end of the story.  HOPE for healing, for justice, for belonging.

So how can I show them this hope that we have, that we as Christians have access to?  Especially at the end of a long year, and I’m weary and tired, and find it hard to even see much hope myself.  How can my heart even dare to feel hopeful when we’re bombarded by brokenness on every side?  Does hope even matter in these days?

While sometimes my head tries to tell me that it doesn’t, that hope is just ‘wishful thinking’, my heart knows otherwise.  My heart knows that it does absolutely matter, and that we would be lost without it.  The other day, I was reading a blog by one of my favourite writers, Sarah Bessey, on why Advent matters.  I often find in reading other people’s words that they say something exactly the way that I wish I could, so rather then stumbling through and trying to find those words myself, it’s easier to just share what they have said.  You can read the whole blog HERE (and you should!), but the words that particularly struck me on that day were these:

But how could we possibly celebrate Advent if we are paying attention to this world?

How do we make merry when our hearts are broken by Paris, by Syria, by Kenya, by Beirut, by Japan, by Burundi? When, in response to every crisis, our communities seem splintered and divided in how to respond, and careless words are flung like rocks at our own glass houses? When, closer to home, perhaps we are lonely or bored or tired or sick or broke?

In these days, celebration can seem callous and uncaring, if not outright impossible.

But here’s the thing about Advent: we celebrate precisely because we are paying attention.

It’s precisely because everything hurts that we prepare for Advent now.

We don’t get to have hope without having grief. Hope dares to admit that not everything is as it should be, and so if we want to be hopeful, first we have to grieve. First we have to see that something is broken and there is a reason for why we need hope to begin with.

Advent matters because it’s our way of keeping our eyes and our hearts and our arms all wide open.

‘We don’t get to have hope without having grief’.  It’s in times when we feel like hope is impossible, that we need it the most, and somehow through all sorts of chaos and brokenness, hope is able to spring forth.

Andrew Peterson has been a favourite musician of mine for several years.  I often find his music strikes a chord within my heart, and while I can’t even always put into words what it is that touches me about his songs, I think that part of the reason is that so many of his songs have an underlying message of hope.  A couple months ago, I stumbled upon this performance of one of his older songs, ‘After the Last Tear Falls’, and I knew immediately that I needed to share this as a part of this blog focused on hope this year.  His words at the beginning, while somewhat specific to a particular event from a couple years ago, could just as easily be applied to us today, and the events that we’ve witnessed over the last couple months.  The song just gives me hope that yes, this world is broken, and yes, hard, hard things will happen in this life, but we know that this brokenness is not the end, that one day all things will be made right.  And if that doesn’t give me hope, then I’m not sure anything else can.

Monday Music: “Baby Son”

[ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stewart McMillan gets to live his dream life (making a living helping people feel better as a chiropractor, and leading worship twice a month or so) all with the girl it took him five years to convince to marry him. They have three beautiful and passionate daughters.]

This morning, a line like this is lodged in my mind: “I do not think he is what you thought he was.”

There is that famous line (among so many others) in The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Jesus’ coming was a little like that, and this song ponders that a bit. Everyone was expecting royalty, with all its pomp and circumstance, but the mystery of Jesus is that it was all about humility.

I think we do this with God and Jesus in our day and age, too. We want him to be and act in certain ways that align with our convenience, experience, and political beliefs, so we ignore the passages and stories that don’t match up. But Jesus is usually this strange and wonderful, and even mysterious dichotomy of things that don’t fit into any of our boxes.

Have a listen to one of my favorite songwriters, John Mark McMillan (writer of the song How He Loves made famous by the David Crowder Band) sing a song called Baby Son. It’s full of cello, acoustic guitar, and piano, so what’s not to like?!

Monday Music: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”

[ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stewart McMillan gets to live his dream life (making a living helping people feel better as a chiropractor, and leading worship twice a month or so) all with the girl it took him five years to convince to marry him. They have three beautiful and passionate daughters.]

A guitar, a harmonica, and a rotary phone??

How is that sound possible with just an acoustic guitar and a harmonica? Well, when you play the harmonica into an old rotary phone headset mic, and run it through a whole bunch of effects pedals and two different guitar amps, you get this other-worldly and haunting sound out of a harmonica that maybe helps you identify with the cries of the people of Israel: “O Come to Us, Emmanuel.” Listen to Matthew Perryman Jones sing it here:

There is another version of this song that really brings out a verse that is relevant to our times. Whether a lack of unity in a family, or friendship, or church, or organization, but especially in light of the Ferguson and Eric Garner stories, perhaps this verse could be our prayer this Christmas

O Come, Desire of Nations bind,
In one, the hearts of all mankind,
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself the King of peace

This version, by Sleeping at Last, really makes this verse pop:

(Also, download Sleeping at Last’s Christmas album for free HERE: If your tastes are anything like mine, you won’t be disappointed, and please leave him a generous tip.)