The Everlasting Word Band’s “Glory”

unnamedGlory, the new Christmas album by the Everlasting Word Band, will be released next week. You can begin your Christmas music binge on November 24th!

The EWB (almost named “Drink the Sweet”!) has come a long way since those first rehearsals in my garage almost ten years ago. Back then we barely knew how to hook our gear into the sound system, and we most certainly didn’t know how to get what we needed from stage monitors (I’m still repenting for some of those rehearsals…). If the quality of this album is any indication, those days are long gone. Now the EWB is putting out professional quality recordings and wonderfully creative songs, all for the sake of the church.

Speaking generally, Glory shows a commitment to the joy of Christmas. They’ve bypassed the angsty navel-gazing sort of Christmas music some bands produce. Instead, the mind goes outward to the glory of Jesus Christ and the wonder of His humble love for mankind. Thank you! This is worshipful music.

I’ve listened to their new songs twice and here are a few comments, song-by-song… Continue reading

On earth peace, good will toward men…

Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.

Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 191.1)

Good Christmas music: All the Bells Shall Ring…

We have a few policies in the Dionne household in regard to Christmas music: 1) we don’t listen to it before Thanksgiving (a rule I gladly break for the Good Shepherd Band), and 2) we purchase a new album each year to add to the collection. By this point, we’ve amassed an eclectic mix of music…bluegrass, folk, prog rock, country, Renaissance, jazz, Herb, and, of course, Nat and Vince. Some we’ve abandoned, and some we’ve worn out. Three years ago with the release of the Good Shepherd Band’s Repeat the Sounding Joy we had a new favorite, particularly the powerful “The Lord at First Did Adam Make”:

a0655437050_2Now this year—today—the Good Shepherd Band has pulled out the orchestral and sleigh bells (and, apparently, a newly acquired electronic keyboard) for their second Christmas album. They found some old, familiar but broken-down songs and brought them into the shop for a change of tires, a new paint job, and quite a few additional horses under the hood. You won’t have to sift through the album to weed out dumb songs about Jack and Nick and Rudy. These songs are about the Lord Jesus Christ and His birth as the Savior of man. I have only listened through the whole of the album once, but as was the case with their last offering, I expect this music will make a lasting imprint on my family’s celebration of our Lord’s incarnation.

I’ll call out a few of my favorites, quick impressions after one listen: the drum-heavy and guitar-gnarly “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” is excellent (it takes second place to Jethro Tull’s instrumental version). “Fullness of Time” is musically and textually beautiful, wonderfully singable. Banjo in “I Saw Three Ships” made me smile and then the full Sufjan-ish orchestration had me dancing. I’m especially happy the album closes with some Scripture songs—the Magnificat, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Song of Simeon (Nunc Dimittis). Give us more!

Here’s a sample…have a listen and please consider purchasing the album so that the men who have set about this work of reforming the worship of the Church might be encouraged to keep going…

…that Life might die…

Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.

Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 191.1)

Nothing impossible…

“For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37)

The message Mary received from the angel Gabriel must have boggled her mind. Her thoughts run wild: an angel visits and speaks; she soon will be with child though a virgin; her son will be His Son; the consummation of the ages begins with her womb.

Many ages before Sarah laughed when presented with a single portion of the blessings Mary was to receive…

Gen. 18:9   Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10 He said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. 12 Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” 13 And the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ 14 “Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” 15 Sarah denied it however, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

After her doubtful laughter, Sarah is reminded of the obvious: “Is anything too difficult for the LORD?” Mary also is reminded of the power of the Creator: “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Mary has questions, as did Sarah, but a sober confession of faith in God replaces the laughter of doubt: “‘Behold, the slave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word'” (Luke 1:38).

As Christians we receive these words as history. Thousands of years ago on a particular day at a particular time, God opened Sarah’s womb and she gave birth to a son when she was 90 years old. Two thousand years ago, God opened Mary’s womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. She gave birth to a son though she was a virgin.

Will we be taught by these passages that nothing is impossible for God? It may be that we accept these passages as some sort of history, but our daily thoughts–that there are indeed many things impossible for God–won’t allow us to accept these passages as our history. We don’t believe God can grant us victory over certain sins; we doubt whether God can change the heart of our unbelieving children; we think it impossible for God to restore our marriage to its former peace and joy; we suspend our faith when it comes to disease and the ways of our nation.

Let the history of these passages sink into your bones and the truths they teach about God’s power will pour into your blood. A ninety year-old gave birth. A virgin conceived and carried the Creator of the womb. The Ruler of the stars nursed at his mother’s breast.

Everything else–your relationships, your loneliness, your children, your finances, your nation, your sins–is small potatoes.

Wifely Wednesday: Remembering the Purpose of Christ's Birth…

photoAll of our children have names taken from Bible characters. It is our family tradition on birthdays to read the Scripture passage from which we chose the birthday child’s name. One unexpected blessing in this is that we have a birthday during the Christmas season, and the passage we read is from Christ’s resurrection. I love the reminder during Advent that Christ did not come to stay a little baby, but to grow up, live a perfect life, and die for us.

John 20:1   Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene *came early to the tomb, while it *was still dark, and *saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. 2 So she *ran and *came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and *said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” 3 So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. 4 The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; 5 and stooping and looking in, he *saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. 6 And so Simon Peter also *came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he *saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes.

11   But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she *saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She *said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and *saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she *said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus *said to her, “Mary!” She turned and *said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus *said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene *came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.

Wifely Wednesday: To Santa or Not To Santa?

A few days ago a young college friend of mine (who is full of great questions and posessing a very teachable heart) sent me the following question on Facebook: “What do you and Andrew do about Santa and the Tooth Fairy?” It was a fun question to answer, and I thought I’d share my slightly edited answer here.

Hi, Gurtrude! (Ok, so that’s totally not her name, but as long as I’m making up a name for her I thought I’d make it an interesting one.) That’s a fun question. The Tooth Fairy we definitely do, but the kids know right away that it’s us and we are just pretending something fun. With a big house full of kids, it’s important to find every possible time to celebrate the children as individuals, and losing a tooth is a great time to make one kid feel special. But, as I said, they know it’s their mom, and that’s just part of the fun. I will add that we only give them a dollar, so they aren’t exactly getting rich off of us.

Santa is another issue, though, because that coincides with the incarnation of our Savior. Our thought is, why on earth would we want to add something fake to a holiday that is already so amazing and TRUE? As I said to the kids just yesterday when they asked why we didn’t do Santa, “It would be like choosing to eat an old hot dog from the floor when someone is offering you a gourmet meal.” In other words, Christmas is so wonderful and so absolutely true that it doesn’t need anything extra. Scripture calls it “the fullness of time,” after all. At best including Santa can confuse a vitally important moment in redemption history, and at worst it could take glory away from our Savior and give it to a fairy tale.

We do have a family tradition that is similar to Santa, but happens earlier in December and is rooted in Church history as well as my Dutch heritage. On December 5 we put out our wooden shoes and on December 6 they are filled with candy and a simple gift from St. Nicholas on St. Nicholas’ Day. As with the Tooth Fairy, the kids know it’s their parents, but it’s still a lot of fun to pretend. We don’t have a problem with this little celebration because it’s not confused with any Biblical observance. And the real St. Nicholas (from whom the Santa figure evolved) was a very interesting and godly character from early Church history. From what we know of him, he was persecuted for his faith and did much good to help the poor. So on top of a little fun celebration we get to give them a dose of education, too.

Whew! That was a long answer to your question. Probably more than you wanted. These are not issues that we would necessarily condemn other parents for making different decisions about, if they made those decisions prayerfully and wisely. However this is what we have come up with for our family, and by God’s grace we hope it is honoring to Him.

Keep those good questions coming!

Sarah

Odd Christmas truths…

God has limited what He has told us. There are “secret things” and “revealed things,” as Deuteronomy 29:29 teaches us. At points that resist being fully reasoned out, that appear impossible or contradictory, Christians safely, happily, comfortably, and faithfully embrace a paradox. G. K. Chesterton, the English author and Christian apologist, wrote about that embrace in his book Orthodoxy:

THE real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait. I give one coarse instance of what I mean. Suppose some mathematical creature from the moon were to reckon up the human body; he would at once see that the essential thing about it was that it was duplicate. A man is two men, he on the right exactly resembling him on the left. Having noted that there was an arm on the right and one on the left, a leg on the right and one on the left, he might go further and still find on each side the same number of fingers, the same number of toes, twin eyes, twin ears, twin nostrils, and even twin lobes of the brain. At last he would take it as a law; and then, where he found a heart on one side, would deduce that there was another heart on the other. And just then, where he most felt he was right, he would be wrong.

It is this silent swerving from accuracy by an inch that is the uncanny element in everything. It seems a sort of secret treason in the universe. An apple or an orange is round enough to get itself called round, and yet is not round after all. The earth itself is shaped like an orange in order to lure some simple astronomer into calling it a globe. A blade of grass is called after the blade of a sword, because it comes to a point; but it doesn’t. Everywhere in things there is this element of the quiet and incalculable. It escapes the rationalists, but it never escapes till the last moment. From the grand curve of our earth it could easily be inferred that every inch of it was thus curved. It would seem rational that as a man has a brain on both sides, he should have a heart on both sides. Yet scientific men are still organizing expeditions to find the North Pole, because they are so fond of flat country. Scientific men are also still organizing expeditions to find a man’s heart; and when they try to find it, they generally get on the wrong side of him.

Now, actual insight or inspiration is best tested by whether it guesses these hidden malformations or surprises. If our mathematician from the moon saw the two arms and the two ears, he might deduce the two shoulder-blades and the two halves of the brain. But if he guessed that the man’s heart was in the right place, then I should call him something more than a mathematician. Now, this is exactly the claim which I have since come to propound for Christianity. Not merely that it deduces logical truths, but that when it suddenly becomes illogical, it has found, so to speak, an illogical truth. It not only goes right about things, but it goes wrong (if one may say so) exactly where the things go wrong. Its plan suits the secret irregularities, and expects the unexpected. It is simple about the simple truth; but it is stubborn about the subtle truth. It will admit that a man has two hands, it will not admit (though all the Modernists wail to it) the obvious deduction that he has two hearts. It is my only purpose in this chapter to point this out; to show that whenever we feel there is something odd in Christian theology, we shall generally find that there is something odd in the truth.

We are told some stark truths about Jesus in Scripture. They are simple on the surface but require faith: Jesus said, “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30) and in Colossians 2:9 we learn that in Jesus “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” These truths are odd in Chesterton’s sense; odd in that they are difficult alone and paradoxical when combined. And we hold tenaciously to that odd turn. To abandon that odd turn is to be a heretic, to be damned. It would be, as Chesterton put it, to argue for a two-hearted man.

There is a necessary place to theorize and systematize the deep theology of the Trinity and Christ’s hypostatic union. But the heretic hates the paradox and is compelled to systematize a mystery. If we don’t revel in these truths—God with us; the fullness of Deity in bodily form; fully God, fully Man; Three in One—our adult-faith will refuse anything which must be received like a child (Mark 10:15).

Remember how Scripture describes Mary after the angel tells her what is going to happen to her. Yes, she wants some tangibles. It seems she wants some information on the mechanics of what is going to happen to her, so she asks for some explanation of how she is going to get pregnant, seeing that she is a virgin. The angel doesn’t give her much of an explanation, only enough. He says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). At the end of it all, what does it say that Mary did? It says, “Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

May we, like Jesus’ mother, treasure what we don’t fully comprehend, ponder truth with a childlike faith, and ecstatically enjoy these odd turns.

One of my favorites: Augustine on the Incarnation…

Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.

Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 191.1)