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Monday, December 29, 2008

Twelve Days


It bothers me that the world has highjacked Christmas. The celebration begins earlier and earlier each year. When I was younger, the lights did not come on and the Christmas music didn't start until after Thanksgiving. This year, I think I heard some in the stores before Halloween.

Before Christmas is Advent, and it is NOT a time of celebration. Advent is a time for contemplation; a time to prepare our hearts; a time to look forward to the blessings that God offers through His Son.

Then on Christmas there is the announcement that Christ has been born - we have a Savior, Emmanuel, God with us, and the celebration begins. And...there are set aside twelve days of celebration. Unfortunately again, the world has pooped us out on celebration. We are ready to pull down the decorations as soon as the presents are open. We are ready for the music that we have heard everywhere to be gone as we rush back to our everyday lives.

We have celebrated during the time of preparation, and now the only contemplation we have is how to lose the weight we've gained from the partying and how to pay the bills from the presents.

Would that the people of God could take back this celebration of ours from a world that has abused it so.

So, with that, I wish you a very Merry 5th Day of Christmas (did you get your golden rings). May your celebration continue! Remember Epiphany is coming - and for that event, we who are gentile believers have a lot to celebrate - God's light is revealed to us, bringing salvation, not to the Jews only, but to all the world! Hallelujah!

Richard

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sharing the Light


"Joy to the world, the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King!"

So begin the Christmas Eve service at First Baptist Church of Jefferson, Georgia after a 30 minute prelude time and some brief housekeeping items (how to hold candles, etc.).

Then the reading of John 1:1-5 by the McNally family: the Word became flesh...He is the Light. The lighting of the "Christ" candle - the white candle - representing His coming in purity, love, and light.

"Away in a Manger" - that's where the Light of the world lay that first Christmas night.

Luke 2:1-20 gave us the story of that evening.

Thank you Steven Hix and Renee Ansley for sharing the message that God became man, sacred became secular, God's love is revealed in our love, incarnation, the Light entering our darkness to shine in our hearts: "Lo, how a rose e'er blooming" with "The Rose."

Communion/the Lord's Supper/even Eucharist (a term very unfamiliar to most Baptists, but it is a great thanksgiving). The Light became flesh and dwelt among us. He grew and lived and loved and shared and taught and died for our sins. Thanks be to God!

Then the invitation to those baptized in the past year to come forward and lead in the candle lighting portion of the service - lighting their candles from the Christ candle - light received. Then they went to light the candles of others...sharing the Light of Christ in representative fashion. Then those who received shared. May we share not only the candle light but the Light of Christ in the coming year with those who do not know, who have not heard.

"Silent Night! Holy Night!"

Amen!

May your day of nativity celebration have been blessed and may your coming year find you in the midst of God's love and light!

Blessings,
Richard

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pageant of the Holy Nativity


First Baptist Church of Jefferson, Georgia presented The Pageant of the Holy Nativity this past Sunday evening, December 14 at 6:00 p.m. This tradition began in 1946 and is under the leadership of a very capable Pageant Committee.

This year is my second year to attend, however, as the choral director (also for the second year), I have to honestly say that I have never seen the pageant. The reason, of course, is that the choir is positioned in the baptistry, which in our church is off to the side, behind a stand of trees that grows miraculously the week before the pageant and disappear the following week.

However, judging from the responses of the people, this year was a highlight and a blessing to many. I am especially grateful to those who gave of their time and effort to stand in the baptistry for almost an hour and do an outstanding job of presenting the music for the pageant.

The following musicians were a part of this year's wonderful choir: Renee Ansley*, Charlene Barber, Darryl Bradley, Gwen Brooks, Gerald Clark, Allie DeNovo, Mary Donahue*, Claire Guined, Jim Hix*, Steven Hix*, Steve Kinney*, Bonnie Meaders, Scott Piotrowski*, Penny Waters, and John White. As always it would be impossible to make this presentation without the leadership and musical skills of the choir organizer and organist, Glenda Tolbert. Thanks so much to all!

May your Christ birth season be highly blessed,
Richard

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fantastic!


Fantastic Music

Just a brief note to say what a fantastic job the Adult Choir of First Baptist Church of Jefferson, Georgia did with their Christmas music this year.

The program started with a great presentation by our preschool Tiny Tunes Choir led by Mrs. Claire Guined and Miss Marie Barnwell. This was followed by a wonderful presentation by the Children's Choir. Both groups had a great attendance and sang with strong voices very well.

Then the Adult Choir presented a variety of styles highlighting the truths of the Christmas season and their director was/is very proud of them.

Fantastic Food and Fellowship

Tonight, the First Baptist Church of Jefferson held their annual Christmas Banquet. This year it was located in the Jefferson High School Cafeteria.

The food was top-notch and prepared and catered by Mrs. L'Resu Thompson, one of our own who also did a fantastic job with the Thanksgiving meal. (If your church or group is in need of a caterer, I highly recommend L'Resu, and if you contact me, I will try to get you in touch with her.)

The entertainment for this year's festivities was provided by our Music Department. The Tiny Tunes (see above) gave a good showing and sang well and this Children's Choir Director is so very proud of the 3 members of the Children's Choir who were present for the banquet and bravely got up and did an outstanding job on one of their Christmas songs. An adult ensemble followed this with Chuck Bridwell's humorous adaptation of Jingle Bells and the Nutcracker Suite entitled "The Nutcracker Jingles."

So far, the Christmas season at First Baptist has gotten off to a fantastic start. Next in our seasonal line-up is the traditional, historical, annual presentation of the Christmas story in The Pageant of the Holy Nativity which will be this coming Sunday evening in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church at 7:00 p.m.

May God bless as we recall the truth of the season that God became man so that through His death we could have eternal life. Now that really is...

FANTASTIC!!

Blessings,
Richard

Monday, December 1, 2008

An FBCJ Christmas

Today is the first day of December and already Christmas is in the air.

Yesterday, November 30, began our traditional observance of Advent. The theme of the day was "Hope."

This coming Sunday, December 7, in addition to being the 2nd Sunday of Advent, we will offer our Christmas music ministry presentation. This is "new" (how can I say that as this is only my 2nd Advent/Christmas season at First Baptist?). Instead of a morning presentation on different Sundays for the children and the adults, we will be offering one early evening of Christmas music involving 3 of our choirs.

The program, which we have entitled, "The Carol...For God So Loved," will begin at 5 p.m. It will feature a few songs from our preschool choir, The Tiny Tunes, and a couple of songs from our Children's Choir. Then our Adult Choir will make their annual presentation - see the details below on this program presentation. Please note that the 5 o'clock hour will allow everyone to invite guests even from other church fellowships in our area who will begin their services at a later time.

The following Sunday, December 14, will feature the annual presentation of The Pageant of the Holy Nativity at 7 p.m. This is a special tradition for the people of Jefferson, Jackson County, and the surrounding area.

In between these 2 events will be the Christmas banquest on Wednesday, December 10. I mention this meal in this post because the program will feature tidbits from the Music Ministry. Besides a couple of familiar Christmas carols, there will be brief presentations by the Tiny Tunes, the Children's Choir, and an adult ensemble.

Besides the weekly observance of Advent, the church will host it's annual Christmas Eve service - a brief but highly meaningful service (I'm told as I have not had opportunity yet to attend one) to bring a focus to the true meaning of the holiday with a Communion service being the focal point of the event.

I hope that the reader will avail himself/herself of the opportunities of the season to be involved in the music and messages as we share the good news that Christ was born to save sinners such as you and I.

Notes on the Adult Christmas Music Presentation


Adoration - a beautiful a cappella call to worship our Savior.

He Is Born - based on the traditional Il Est Ne this lively arrangement by Barry Talley will set a tone of celebration.

Let Carols Ring - a Swedish Christmas Carol setting by Charles Black calls for singing and caroling to celebrate Christ's birth.

In the Bleak Midwinter - the Christina Rossetti/Gustav Holst piece arranged by Jerry DePuit, reminds us that Christ comes to save us in the midst of our winter of sin, and that the gift He requires of us is our heart.

Angels' Carol - by John Rutter, reminds us that Christ came to bring peace, joy, love, light, and hope. We join the angels in singing, "Gloria in excelsis Deo!"

God So Loved - Claire Cloninger and Robert Sterling call to mind the text of John 3:16 as they state God's great love that caused Him to dwell among us.

Just Beyond the Manger - Joseph Martin carries the theme further by reminding us that as we look just beyond the manger, we will see the cross - the tree that is not decorated with red and gold, but upon which He hung the Brightest Star of all.

Some Children See Him - this Wihla Hutson/Alfred Burt song arranged by Jay Rouse reminds us that the Christ child is not for me and mine, but has come to all the peoples of the world (our mission responsibility comes to mind) and that each of us regardless of color or race must lay aside eartly things and bring to Him the offering of our heart as a true act of worship.

For Unto Us a Child is Born and Hallelujah - these choruses from Messiah by G.F. Handel will not only bring a focus to the close of our presentation, but will also bring forth celebration in our hearts as we go forth from worship to proclaim to our world that the Christ child has been born. Hallelujah!

Blessings,
Richard