1. ‘The Christmas Message’ is an appealing, highly unusual and very creative anthology. After an introduction about the Queen’s public expression of faith, Geoff Waugh provides a selection of noteworthy passages about Christmas from the Queen’s Christmas messages from 1952 to 2017. He sets them into context by brief historical references, photos, and Christmas stamps. Finally there is an epilogue of famous Christmas hymns and carols including those used in the Christmas Broadcasts. This book would be the perfect Christmas present. – Alison Sherrington (Author)
2. I haven’t seen anyone else draw the events of the last 66 years together in this way before. Using the Queen’s speeches not only ties in the unfolding events of our time but reveals a deep spiritual glue that provides a fascinating and intimate insight into the personal life of our Queen. A fascinating read. 5 Stars. – Rev Philip Waugh (Minister)
3. The core of the book is the excerpts from The Queen’s messages. Geoff introduces each broadcast with a short commentary on the events of that year and highlights The Queen’s words in the context of each year, accompanied with appropriate photographs and commemorative stamps. The appendix is a fitting conclusion to this new and innovative approach to the Christmas Story and its clear message of peace and goodwill to all. It is a rewarding experience to read it from cover to cover. – Don Hill (Consultant)
4. The Queen Would Be Proud – 5 stars
What an amazing collection! This has so many wonderful Christmas messages and is a great addition to any family during the holiday season. – Jenny & Benny (Amazon)
Some quotes from The Queen:
God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general … but a Saviour, with the power to forgive. Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. … It is my prayer that … we all might find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord. (2011)
This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son ‘to serve, not to be served’. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ. (2012)
For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people. The Christmas message shows us that this love is for everyone. There is no one beyond its reach. (2013)
For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people, of whatever faith or none. (2014)
Despite being displaced and persecuted throughout his short life, Christ’s unchanging message was not one of revenge or violence but simply that we should love one another. (2015)
Jesus Christ lived obscurely for most of his life, and never travelled far. He was maligned and rejected by many, though he had done no wrong. And yet, billions of people now follow his teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe. (2016)
We remember the birth of Jesus Christ, whose only sanctuary was a stable in Bethlehem. He knew rejection, hardship and persecution. And, yet, it is Jesus Christ’s generous love and example which has inspired me through good times and bad. (2017)
The Christmas story retains its appeal since it doesn’t provide theoretical explanations for the puzzles of life. Instead, it’s about the birth of a child, and the hope that birth 2,000 years ago brought to the world. Only a few people acknowledged Jesus when he was born; now billions follow him. I believe his message of peace on earth and goodwill to all is never out of date. It can be heeded by everyone. It’s needed as much as ever. (2018)
Printed books have a double page for each of the 65 annual Christmas Broadcasts.
Queen Elizabeth II has spoken about the significance of Christmas to more people than anyone else in history, including 28 million in the UK and many millions more worldwide in just one of her Christmas Broadcasts.
We have 65 annual Christmas Broadcasts from Queen Elizabeth II, freely available on the internet. Her Majesty refers to the meaning and significance of Christmas in them all. I have included 25 of my favourite selections in this Blog.
Jon Kuhrt wrote a blog about The Queen’s Christmas messages. While working with people affected by homelessness, offending and addictions at the West London Mission, he was impressed by comments in the 2014 broadcast. Jon wrote: “I have not been a committed viewer (apart from when I am at my Mum’s when it is compulsory viewing). So I went back and read her previous Christmas messages over the last 5 years.”
Here, I have adapted Jon’s Resistance & Renewalblog in which he describes how The Queen’s Christmas messages are a model of how to talk about faith in the public sphere.
1) The Queen speaks personally
“It is my prayer this Christmas Day that Jesus’ example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others.” (2012)
“For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life.” (2014)
Personal testimony is significant and convincing, causing respect in those listening. The Queen is personal in the way she speaks, using words like ‘for me’; ‘my life’ and ‘my prayer’.
2) The Queens speaks compassionately
“Despite being displaced and persecuted throughout his short life, Christ’s unchanging message was not one of revenge or violence but simply that we should love one another.” (2015)
“Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe.” (2016)
Consistently, The Queen and the Royal Family show deep concern for the bereaved and suffering, both in personal contact and in correspondence. The heart of Christmas is about God’s love for everyone, especially the hurting and fallen.
3) The Queen speaks inclusively
“The Christmas message shows us that this love is for everyone. There is no one beyond its reach.” (2013)
“Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people, of whatever faith or none.” (2014)
God’s love is for all people and believing in this love leads us to respect and value everyone. Jon adds, “It resonated with my own experience of meeting The Queen in 1997, when she came to open a new hostel for young homeless people that I was managing. I showed her round and introduced her to all the residents. I had expected it to be quite formal and awkward but I remember how adept she was at talking to such a diverse range of people.”
4) The Queen speaks about Jesus
“This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son ‘to serve, not to be served’. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ.” (2012)
“God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general … but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.” (2011)
The Queen talks directly about the person at the heart of Christmas, the reason for celebrating. That includes both the example and achievement of Jesus and makes orthodox theology accessible to the widest possible audience.
5) The Queen speaks about faith in action
“Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.” (2011)
“For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people.” (2013)
Reconciliation, service and love flow from Christian commitment. The Queen talks about what faith does. It makes a difference to how we live and helps us to be ‘better people’.
God really did love the world so much (all races and all religions or none) that he gave us his Son, our Saviour. We celebrate that gift at Christmas.
Here are 25 excerpts from The Queen’s 65 Christmas Broadcasts with links to each Speech.
[Christmas] has, before all, its origin in the homage we pay to a very special Family, who lived long ago in a very ordinary home, in a very unimportant village in the uplands of a small Roman province.
Life in such a place might have been uneventful. But the Light, kindled in Bethlehem and then streaming from the cottage window in Nazareth, has illumined the world for two thousand years. It is in the glow of that bright beam that I wish you all a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year.
I would like to read you a few lines from ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’, because I am sure we can say with Mr Valiant for Truth, these words:
“Though with great difficulty I am got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the trouble I have been at to arrive where I am. My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought his battles who now will be my rewarder.”
I hope that 1958 may bring you God’s blessing and all the things you long for. And so I wish you all, young and old, wherever you may be, all the fun and enjoyment, and the peace of a very happy Christmas.
Every year at this time the whole Christian world celebrates the birth of the founder of our faith. It is traditionally the time for family reunions, present-giving and children’s parties.
A welcome escape, in fact, from the harsh realities of this troubled world and it is just in times like these, times of tension and anxieties, that the simple story and message of Christmas is most relevant.
The story is of a poor man and his wife who took refuge at night in a stable, where a child was born and laid in the manger. Nothing very spectacular, and yet the event was greeted with that triumphant song: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.”
For that child was to show that there is nothing in heaven and earth that cannot be achieved by faith and by love and service to one’s neighbour. Christmas may be a Christian festival, but its message goes out to all men and it is echoed by all men of understanding and goodwill everywhere. …
“Oh hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing.” The words of this old carol mean even more today than when they were first written.
The first Royal Christmas Message televised in colour, 1967
Modern communications make it possible for me to talk to you in your homes and to wish you a merry Christmas and a very happy New Year. These techniques of radio and television are modern, but the Christmas message is timeless.
You may have heard it very often but in the end, no matter what scientific progress we make, the message will count for nothing unless we can achieve real peace and encourage genuine goodwill between individual people and the nations of the world.
Every Christmas I am sustained and encouraged by the happiness and sense of unity which comes from seeing all the members of my family together.
I hope and pray that, with God’s help, this Christmas spirit of family unity will spread and grow among our Commonwealth family of nations.
We are celebrating a birthday – the birthday of a child born nearly 2,000 years ago, who grew up and lived for only about 30 years.
That one person, by his example and by his revelation of the good which is in us all, has made an enormous difference to the lives of people who have come to understand his teaching. His simple message of love has been turning the world upside down ever since. He showed that what people are and what they do, does matter and does make all the difference.
He commanded us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves, but what exactly is meant by ‘loving ourselves’? I believe it means trying to make the most of the abilities we have been given, it means caring for our talents.
It is a matter of making the best of ourselves, not just doing the best for ourselves.
I was glad that the celebrations of my mother’s 80th birthday last summer gave so much pleasure. I wonder whether you remember, during the Thanksgiving Service in St. Paul’s, the congregation singing that wonderful hymn “Immortal, Invisible, God only wise”.
“Now give us we pray thee the Spirit of love,
The gift of true wisdom that comes from above,
The spirit of service that has naught of pride,
The gift of true courage, and thee as our guide.” …
In difficult times we may be tempted to find excuses for self-indulgence and to wash our hands of responsibility. Christmas stands for the opposite. The Wise Men and the Shepherds remind us that it is not enough simply to do our jobs; we need to go out and look for opportunities to help those less fortunate than ourselves, even if that service demands sacrifice.
It was their belief and confidence in God which inspired them to visit the stable and it is this unselfish will to serve that will see us through the difficulties we face.
Christ not only revealed to us the truth in his teachings. He lived by what he believed and gave us the strength to try to do the same – and, finally, on the cross, he showed the supreme example of physical and moral courage.
That sacrifice was the dawn of Christianity and this is why at Christmas time we are inspired by the example of Christ as we celebrate his birth.
It is no easy task to care for and bring up children, whatever your circumstances – whether you are famous or quite unknown. But we could all help by letting the spirit of Christmas fill our homes with love and care and by heeding Our Lord’s injunction to treat others as you would like them to treat you.
When, as the Bible says, Christ grew in wisdom and understanding, he began his task of explaining and teaching just what it is that God wants from us.
The two lessons that he had for us, which he underlined in everything he said and did, are the messages of God’s love and how essential it is that we, too, should love other people. …
The message which God sent us by Christ’s life and example is a very simple one, even though it seems so difficult to put into practice.
I am always moved by those words in St. John’s Gospel which we hear on Christmas Day – “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not”.
We have only to listen to the news to know the truth of that. But the Gospel goes on – “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God”.
For all the inhumanity around us, let us be grateful for those who have received him and who go about quietly doing their work and His will without thought of reward or recognition.
They know that there is an eternal truth of much greater significance than our own triumphs and tragedies, and it is embodied by the Child in the Manger. That is their message of hope.
We can all try to reflect that message of hope in our own lives, in our actions and in our prayers. If we do, the reflection may light the way for others and help them to read the message too. We live in the global village, but villages are made up of families. …
I hope you all enjoy your Christmas. I pray, with you, for a happy and peaceful New Year.
“Blessed be the peacemakers,” Christ said, “for they shall be called the children of God.” It is especially to those of you, often peacemakers without knowing it, who are fearful of a troubled and uncertain future, that I bid a Happy Christmas.
It is your good sense and good will which have achieved so much. It must not and will not go to waste. May there be still happier Christmases to come, for you and your children. You deserve the best of them.
At Christmas I enjoy looking back on some of the events of the year. Many have their roots in history but still have a real point for us today. I recall, especially, a dazzling spring day in Norwich when I attended the Maundy Service, the Cathedral providing a spectacular setting.
The lovely service is always a reminder of Christ’s words to his disciples: “Love one another; as I have loved you”. It sounds so simple yet it proves so hard to obey. …
If only we can live up to the example of the child who was born at Christmas with a love that came to embrace the whole world. If only we can let him recapture for us that time when we faced the future with childhood’s unbounded faith.
Armed with that faith, the New Year, with all its challenges and chances, should hold no terrors for us, and we should be able to embark upon it undaunted.
St Paul spoke of the first Christmas as the kindness of God dawning upon the world. The world needs that kindness now more than ever – the kindness and consideration for others that disarms malice and allows us to get on with one another with respect and affection.
Christmas reassures us that God is with us today. But, as I have discovered afresh for myself this year, he is always present in the kindness shown by our neighbours and the love of our friends and family.
Christmas is the traditional, if not the actual, birthday of a man who was destined to change the course of our history. And today we are celebrating the fact that Jesus Christ was born two thousand years ago; this is the true Millennium anniversary.
The simple facts of Jesus’ life give us little clue as to the influence he was to have on the world. As a boy he learnt his father’s trade as a carpenter. He then became a preacher, recruiting twelve supporters to help him.
But his ministry only lasted a few years and he himself never wrote anything down. In his early thirties he was arrested, tortured and crucified with two criminals. His death might have been the end of the story, but then came the resurrection and with it the foundation of the Christian faith.
Even in our very material age the impact of Christ’s life is all around us. If you want to see an expression of Christian faith you have only to look at our awe-inspiring cathedrals and abbeys, listen to their music, or look at their stained glass windows, their books and their pictures.
But the true measure of Christ’s influence is not only in the lives of the saints but also in the good works quietly done by millions of men and women day in and day out throughout the centuries.
Many will have been inspired by Jesus’ simple but powerful teaching: love God and love thy neighbour as thyself – in other words, treat others as you would like them to treat you. His great emphasis was to give spirituality a practical purpose. …
To many of us our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.
I believe that the Christian message, in the words of a familiar blessing, remains profoundly important to us all:
“Go forth into the world in peace,
be of good courage,
hold fast that which is good,
render to no man evil for evil,
strengthen the faint-hearted,
support the weak,
help the afflicted,
honour all men.”
It is a simple message of compassion… and yet as powerful as ever today, two thousand years after Christ’s birth.
Anniversaries are important events in all our lives. Christmas is the anniversary of the birth of Christ over two thousand years ago, but it is much more than that. It is the celebration of the birth of an idea and an ideal. …
I know just how much I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning, I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God.
Like others of you who draw inspiration from your own faith, I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel.
The Founder of the Christian Faith himself chose twelve disciples to help him in his ministry.
In this country and throughout the Commonwealth there are groups of people who are giving their time generously to make a difference to the lives of others.
As we think of them, and of our Servicemen and women far from home at this Christmas time, I hope we all, whatever our faith, can draw inspiration from the words of the familiar prayer:
“Teach us good Lord
To serve thee as thou deservest;
To give, and not to count the cost;
To fight, and not to heed the wounds;
To toil, and not to seek for rest;
To labour, and not to ask for any reward;
Save that of knowing that we do thy will.”
It is this knowledge which will help us all to enjoy the Festival of Christmas.
Religion and culture are much in the news these days, usually as sources of difference and conflict, rather than for bringing people together. But the irony is that every religion has something to say about tolerance and respecting others.
For me as a Christian one of the most important of these teachings is contained in the parable of the Good Samaritan, when Jesus answers the question “who is my neighbour?”
It is a timeless story of a victim of a mugging who was ignored by his own countrymen but helped by a foreigner – and a despised foreigner at that.
The implication drawn by Jesus is clear. Everyone is our neighbour, no matter what race, creed or colour. The need to look after a fellow human being is far more important than any cultural or religious differences.
Now today, of course, marks the birth of Jesus Christ. Among other things, it is a reminder that it is the story of a family; but of a family in very distressed circumstances. Mary and Joseph found no room at the inn; they had to make do in a stable, and the new-born Jesus had to be laid in a manger. This was a family which had been shut out.
Perhaps it was because of this early experience that, throughout his ministry, Jesus of Nazareth reached out and made friends with people whom others ignored or despised. It was in this way that he proclaimed his belief that, in the end, we are all brothers and sisters in one human family. …
It is all too easy to ‘turn a blind eye’, ‘to pass by on the other side’, and leave it to experts and professionals. All the great religious teachings of the world press home the message that everyone has a responsibility to care for the vulnerable.
Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas. Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: ‘Fear not’, they urged, ‘we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.’
Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed.
God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive. Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.
In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, there’s a prayer: O Holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us we pray. Cast out our sin And enter in. Be born in us today.
It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.
At Christmas I am always struck by how the spirit of togetherness lies also at the heart of the Christmas story. A young mother and a dutiful father with their baby were joined by poor shepherds and visitors from afar. They came with their gifts to worship the Christ child. From that day on he has inspired people to commit themselves to the best interests of others.
This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son ‘to serve, not to be served’. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ.
It is my prayer this Christmas Day that his example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others.
The carol, In The Bleak Midwinter, ends by asking a question of all of us who know the Christmas story, of how God gave himself to us in humble service: ‘What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a wise man, I would do my part’. The carol gives the answer ‘Yet what I can I give him – give my heart’.
For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people. The Christmas message shows us that this love is for everyone. There is no one beyond its reach.
On the first Christmas, in the fields above Bethlehem, as they sat in the cold of night watching their resting sheep, the local shepherds must have had no shortage of time for reflection. Suddenly all this was to change. These humble shepherds were the first to hear and ponder the wondrous news of the birth of Christ – the first noel – the joy of which we celebrate today.
[Centenary of the start of World War I, 1914-1918]
‘Reconciliation’ by Josefina de Vasconcellos at Coventry Cathedral
In the ruins of the old Coventry Cathedral is a sculpture of a man and a woman reaching out to embrace each other … inspired by the story of a woman who crossed Europe on foot after the war to find her husband.
In 1914, many people thought the war would be over by Christmas, but sadly by then the trenches were dug and the future shape of the war in Europe was set.
But, as we know, something remarkable did happen that Christmas, exactly a hundred years ago today.
Without any instruction or command, the shooting stopped and German and British soldiers met in No Man’s Land. Photographs were taken and gifts exchanged. It was a Christmas truce. …
For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life.
A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people, of whatever faith or none.
Sometimes it seems that reconciliation stands little chance in the face of war and discord. But, as the Christmas truce a century ago reminds us, peace and goodwill have lasting power in the hearts of men and women.
On that chilly Christmas Eve in 1914 many of the German forces sang Silent Night, its haunting melody inching across the line.
That carol is still much-loved today, a legacy of the Christmas truce, and a reminder to us all that even in the unlikeliest of places hope can still be found.
Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning British monarch on 9 September, 2015
It is true that the world has had to confront moments of darkness this year, but the Gospel of John contains a verse of great hope, often read at Christmas carol services: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”.
One cause for thankfulness this summer was marking 70 years since the end of the Second World War. …
At the end of that war, the people of Oslo began sending an annual gift of a Christmas tree for Trafalgar Square.
It has 500 light bulbs and is enjoyed not just by Christians but by people of all faiths, and of none. At the very top sits a bright star, to represent the Star of Bethlehem.
The custom of topping a tree also goes back to Prince Albert’s time. For his family’s tree, he chose an angel, helping to remind us that the focus of the Christmas story is on one particular family.
For Joseph and Mary, the circumstances of Jesus’s birth – in a stable – were far from ideal, but worse was to come as the family was forced to flee the country.
It’s no surprise that such a human story still captures our imagination and continues to inspire all of us who are Christians, the world over.
Despite being displaced and persecuted throughout his short life, Christ’s unchanging message was not one of revenge or violence but simply that we should love one another.
Although it is not an easy message to follow, we shouldn’t be discouraged; rather, it inspires us to try harder: to be thankful for the people who bring love and happiness into our own lives, and to look for ways of spreading that love to others, whenever and wherever we can.
At Christmas our attention is drawn to the birth of a baby some two thousand years ago. It was the humblest of beginnings, and his parents, Joseph and Mary, did not think they were important.
Jesus Christ lived obscurely for most of his life, and never travelled far. He was maligned and rejected by many, though he had done no wrong. And yet, billions of people now follow his teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe.
The message of Christmas reminds us that inspiration is a gift to be given as well as received, and that love begins small but always grows.
Today, we celebrate Christmas, which, itself, is sometimes described as a festival of the home. Families travel long distances to be together.
Volunteers and charities, as well as many churches, arrange meals for the homeless and those who would otherwise be alone on Christmas Day. We remember the birth of Jesus Christ, whose only sanctuary was a stable in Bethlehem. He knew rejection, hardship and persecution.
And, yet, it is Jesus Christ’s generous love and example which has inspired me through good times and bad. Whatever your own experience is this year, wherever and however you are watching, I wish you a peaceful and very happy Christmas.
The Christmas story retains its appeal since it doesn’t provide theoreticalexplanations for the puzzles of life. Instead, it’s about the birth of a child, and the hope that birth 2,000 years ago brought to the world.
Only a few people acknowledged Jesus when he was born; now billions follow him. I believe his message of peace on earth and goodwill to all is never out of date. It can be heeded by everyone. It’s needed as much as ever.
Messiah is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Friedrich Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible, and from the version of the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer.
In Part I the text begins with prophecies by Isaiah and others, and moves to the annunciation to the shepherds, the only “scene” taken from the Gospels. In Part II, Handel concentrates on the Passion and ends with the “Hallelujah” chorus. In Part III he covers the resurrection of the dead and Christ’s glorification in heaven. When King George II attended a royal performance of Messiah he stood up for the Hallelujah Chorus in honour of the King of kings. When the king stood everyone in his presence had to stand. So it became the tradition for the audience to stand up when the Hallelujah Chorus is sung, as millions of us have done in honour of the King of kings.
Chorus — Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Pifa (Pastoral Symphony)
Soprano Recitative — Luke 2:8-11, 13 There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo! the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Chorus — Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will toward men.
Chorus — Revelation 19:6, 11:15, 19:16 Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever. King of kings, and Lord of lords. Hallelujah!
Lyrics: Holy Bible, Authorised Version, 1611, arranged by Charles Jennens, 1741 Music: George Friedrich Handel, 1741
In the Foreword to this book Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II wrote:
As I embark on my 91st year, I invite you to join me in reflecting on the words of a poem quoted by my father, King George VI, in his Christmas Day broadcast in 1939, the year that this country went to war for the second time in a quarter of a century.
I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied, “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.”
‘I Have Decided to Follow Jesus’ is a Christian hymn originating from India. The lyrics are based on the last words of a man in Garo, Assam.
About 150 years ago, there was a great revival in Wales. As a result of this, many missionaries came to north-east India to spread the Gospel. The region known as Assam was comprised of hundreds of tribes who were primitive and aggressive head-hunters
Into these hostile and aggressive communities, came a group of missionaries from the American Baptist Missions spreading the message of love, peace and hope in Jesus Christ. Naturally, they were not welcomed. One missionary succeeded in converting a man, his wife, and two children. This man’s faith proved contagious and many villagers began to accept Christianity.
Angry, the village chief summoned all the villagers. He then called the family who had first converted to renounce their faith in public or face execution. Moved by the Holy Spirit, the man instantly composed a song which became famous down the years. He sang:
“I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back.”
Enraged at the refusal of the man, the chief ordered his archers to arrow down the two children. As both boys lay twitching on the floor, the chief asked, “Will you deny your faith? You have lost both your children. You will lose your wife too.”
But the man sang these words in reply:
“Though no one joins me, still I will follow. Though no one joins me, still I will follow. Though no one joins me, still I will follow. No turning back, no turning back.”
The chief was beside himself with fury and ordered his wife to be arrowed down. In a moment she joined her two children in death. Now he asked for the last time, “I will give you one more opportunity to deny your faith and live.”In the face of death the man sang the final memorable lines:
“The cross before me, the world behind me. The cross before me, the world behind me. The cross before me, the world behind me. No turning back, no turning back.”
He was shot dead like the rest of his family. But with their deaths, a miracle took place. The chief who had ordered the killings was moved by the faith of the man. He wondered, “Why should this man, his wife and two children die for a Man who lived in a far-away land on another continent some 2,000 years ago? There must be some remarkable power behind the family’s faith, and I too want to taste that faith.”
In a spontaneous confession of faith, he declared, “I too belong to Jesus Christ!” When the crowd heard this from the mouth of their chief, the whole village accepted Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
The song is based on the last words of Nokseng, a man from Garo tribe of Assam (now Meghalaya and some in Assam), India. It is today the song of the Garo people.
Source: Dr. P.P. Job in ‘Why God Why’
In this video the hymn “I have decided to follow Jesus” is sung in English and Tamil as a tribute to the many men and women, particularly in the Middle East, who did not flinch in the face of death but counted all things loss for Christ’s sake, who fought the good fight and kept the faith.
Kenya: Millionaire gives up fortune to care for street children
Charles Mully has lived a real-life rags-to-riches story. But at the height of his success, he sold it all to become a father to children living on the streets of Kenya. His children call him ‘Daddy Mully’. Like many of those children, Mully once lived on the streets. His parents abandoned him when he was just six years old. Recalling that time, Mully says: “As a young child I woke up one day to find that I was alone, at the age of five or six years, and that was my life. No food, nothing that I could lean on… I became a street boy, a beggar.”
His amazing climb from Kenya’s slums is the focus of the new feature film ‘Mully’. Mully began his business career by using his personal car as a taxi cab. From there, he purchased a fleet of cars and then buses. He added oil and real estate to his portfolio and quickly became a celebrated millionaire.
“Sometimes it is so hard for me to measure at the level, but I can acknowledge and say, yes the Lord really lifted me so high through his favor, through the small business that I started.” Mully says. “When I look back, I see God’s grace and a plan – a good plan. He was planning for me to become an instrument for the future. When God really wants to make use of you, there is no way you can escape, even when you try to run away.”
‘God wanted me to become an instrument for the future.’
Happily married with eight children, Mully felt God calling them to sell everything. That call came in 1986 after a face-to-face encounter with children begging on the street. “God was speaking to me this way. I saw myself in their faces because I was trying to hide myself. I had never shared it with anybody. I don’t remember even one day sharing a testimony about my past. I wanted people to see me as a great man, with money, with everything.”
The Mully family started Mully Children’s Family. It has now grown to become the largest children’s rehabilitation organization in Africa. But it hasn’t been any easy process. “All this journey, together with my wife, has never been easy. Especially the rejection from our friends, the churches, they never wanted to hear about anything, they thought I was crazy.”
Despite the early criticism from those around him, more than 13,000 of Daddy Mully’s children have gone on to become doctors, engineers, scientists, teachers, and lawyers. “I see the world, I see Kenya, I see the continent of Africa being transformed through them and through Christ, who strengthens us,” Mully says.
Philippines: How a tribe changed from fear to faith
The Higaunon people used to live in fear. They lived in bondage, worshiping their ancestors and sacrificing pigs and chickens to appease the spirits. And then the gospel message changed all that. Fear turned to faith.
After hearing the gospel message, the newly saved Higaunons said, “All we could talk about was what Jesus had done for us and how we could now see the truth so clearly. We were amazed at the darkness and depth of sin that we were in before. To think that we actually worshiped God’s enemy, thinking that we were on the right track! It was such a joyful time in our lives to be set free from the terrible bondage that the spirits had held us under through fear.”
The infant Higaunon church became burdened for their fellow Higaunons in other villages. They wondered why it took so long for the gospel to reach them. “It seemed to us that 2,000 years was a really long time to bring the message to our place, and we didn’t want it to be a long time before it reached other Higaunon villages,” the Higaunon believers said. They didn’t just talk about it. They did something about it. And as a result, there are now churches in over 20 other Higaunon villages.
But the work is not done. Other villages are asking, “What about us? We want someone to come and teach us.” And the Higaunon church takes this responsibility seriously. They pray that God will raise up more laborers in their midst.
Source: Lance and Laura Ostman, Ethnos360
Syria: A growing demand for Bibles in Aleppo
The Syrian Bible Society, working from Aleppo, continues its work despite the destruction and turmoil of the war. In the relatively safe western part of the city the Bible Society’s bookshop is open every day.
“The demand for Bibles is huge,” says George Andrea, head of the Bible Society. “Children’s Bibles are very popular. Christians and Muslims come to us with questions what the Bible says about suffering and handling the difficult circumstances they’re in.”
In 2014 the Bible Society distributed 159,000 Bibles, ten times more than in 2010 before the war started. The Bibles are imported from Lebanon.
Then he noticed that he was covered by a blanket—the same one Jesus had put on him in his dream. It startled Hamid. There certainly hadn’t been a blanket in the cell when he had fallen asleep.
“Hamid has since started seven new Bible study groups,” Dennis says. “Nearly forty men and women have become followers of Christ in the past year.”
It wasn’t until Hamid found himself sitting in a prison cell that he realized that he had nothing to lose.
His younger brother Aziz was a new follower of Jesus. Aziz introduced Hamid to God’s Word, and they started studying the Bible together. After several months, Hamid began meeting regularly with Dennis, a Frontiers worker who was helping Aziz grow as a disciple. Not long after, Hamid professed faith in Christ.
But even though Hamid had intellectually accepted the Gospel message, his heart hadn’t truly encountered the love of Jesus. Nor did he have any desire to share the hope of Christ with others.
Hamid was like many other new Muslim-background believers. He needed help learning to foster intimacy with the Lord. So, Dennis invited several of the new believers, including Hamid and Aziz, to study the Bible with him.
“Let’s get together regularly so we can read the Word, practice listening to God, and obey what He tells us,” Dennis suggested.
For almost six months, the men sought to put John 10:27 into practice: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Dennis challenged each of the men to spend quiet time with the Lord and to listen to what He might say to them through the Word.
Listening in this way was a new discipline for the believers. They had never learned anything like this in Islam, and they were slow to warm up to the spiritual practice. For many months, Hamid and the others felt they were hearing nothing from God.
But God was about to reveal Himself in a dramatic way.
One day, Hamid sat in a park reading the Word. Police officers took notice and harassed him for reading a Bible. They arrested him and threw him in jail. He wasn’t charged with any crime, but the police still made Hamid spend the night in a cell, just to intimidate him.
Hamid was afraid. He felt miserable as he lay shivering on the cold, bare floor of the cell. Throughout the night, he slept fitfully.
At some point in the night, Hamid had a dream. Jesus approached him, embraced him, and placed a blanket over him.
Hamid woke the next morning full of peace. For the first time in his life, he had a clear sense that no matter what might happen, Christ loved him and was with him. The dream assured him of that.
Then he noticed that he was covered by a blanket—the same one Jesus had put on him in his dream. It startled Hamid. There certainly hadn’t been a blanket in the cell when he had fallen asleep.
The guards came and saw the blanket. They were so startled and frightened that they immediately let Hamid go, shoving him quickly out the door.
Back at home the next night, Hamid had another dream. This time, the Lord told him to share the Gospel with the first two people he saw at work the next morning.
In the past, this would have filled Hamid with fear. He had never shared Jesus’ message with anyone before. But that morning he woke up feeling confident that he could do it. He knew he had nothing to lose. His night in prison had shown him that Christ is always with him and His perfect love casts out fear. Even if sharing the Good News landed him back in jail, Jesus would be enough for him.
Hamid obeyed. He shared the Gospel and his testimony with two co-workers, and they immediately believed the message. In the following weeks, Hamid began studying the Bible with them and teaching them how to be disciples of Jesus.
The experience encouraged Hamid and the other believers. They’ve begun sharing the Gospel more boldly.
“Hamid has since started seven new Bible study groups,” Dennis says. “Nearly forty men and women have become followers of Christ in the past year.”
Through persecution and a miracle, the Lord transformed Hamid’s fear and turned him into a bold disciple who is helping catalyze a movement to Jesus Christ among his people.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. – 1 John 4:18
This account comes from a long-term field worker. Names have been changed for security.