Monday, December 31, 2012

On Being An Effective Messenger

© Algimantas Balezentis | Dreamstime Stock Photos

In the Bible, although angels were used by God for a variety of purposes, the primary use was to deliver a message. In fact, the very word "angel" means "messenger." Webster's 1828 Dictionary further defines an angel as "one employed to communicate news or information from one person to another at a distance." Angels played a huge role in the story of Christ's birth, delivering messages from God to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and likely to the wise men. But it is the angel's message to the shepherds that has struck me as being very similar to the part that we believers have been asked to play in God's master plan of redemption. Just as God dispatched an angel with a specific message for a specific group of people on a Bethlehem hillside, God has dispatched us with a specific message for a specific group of people. We have been commissioned to bear the Gospel to a lost and dying world.

The problem is, some messengers, while their heart may be in the right place, are extremely ineffective. A few days ago one of the men in our church told me about a "messenger" he saw walking the streets near a busy market. The man, a foreigner, was carrying a megaphone, and his message consisted of two words and one dramatic hand motion.  First he would say (into the megaphone) "Jesus." Then he would slowly extend his arm and point up to the sky. Then he would speak another word into the megaphone, "Heaven." He walked all around the market repeating this phrase and hand motion again and again, and saying nothing else. According to my friend, half the people were amused and the other half of the people were confused. And no wonder! Regardless of the sincerity of the man, he was an ineffective messenger.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Stories Behind The Songs

© Joellen Armstrong | Dreamstime Stock Photos

This morning I finished reading "Stories Behind The Best-Loved Songs Of Christmas" by Ace Collins. Many Christmas songs have a way of evoking emotion and deep feeling in our hearts, and it was interesting to learn how they came to be. There are many good stories in this book that are quite detailed and lengthy, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in this type of thing. I thought it would be fun to share a few brief stories that I found to be either particularly intriguing or humorous. 

"O Holy Night"
The words to "O Holy Night" were written by a French Catholic poet who later left Catholicism and joined the socialist movement. The music was written by a man who didn't even believe in Christ...a Jew. When the political and religious "persuasions" of the two writers came to light, the song was officially denounced by the Catholic church, but it was so well-loved by that time that many continued to sing it. About 50 years later in 1906, Reginald Fessenden, former chief chemist for Thomas Edison, broadcast the human voice over radio airwaves for the very first time in history. His first words were the reading of the Christmas story from Luke 2. Then he played a song on his violin. The first song ever broadcast over the airwaves - "O Holy Night!" 

"Silver Bells" 
Jay Livington and Ray Evans were tasked with writing the music for "The Lemon Drop Kid" starring Bob Hope. They discussed how most Christmas songs were about scenes of tranquility, but for this song, they needed something that captured the hustle and bustle of Christmas in a big city. While having a brainstorming session about the music, one of them was playing with a little bell, which eventually inspired the song. Before sharing it with Bob Hope, they sang it for Evan's wife, who giggled and laughed throughout the whole song. She said she liked it except for one word...they had begun the song "Tinker bell, tinker bell, it's Christmas time in the city." They changed "tinker" to "silver" and had an instant classic. Interestingly, this same writing team wrote many other classics like  "Mona Lisa" and "Que Sera Sera" and...are you ready for this? The theme song from Mr. Ed.