O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Today's WORSHIP QUOTE is an amazing insight into a familiar advent text.

I suppose that many of you are in churches that sang (or will sing) the great Advent hymn "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." There are seven stanzas to the full text, but in the original version (12th century Latin), the seven verses were meant to be sung at different services on the seven days prior to Christmas Eve, and "our" first verse (O come. O come Emmanuel) was the last one. In Latin, these are known as the GREAT ANTIPHONS or "O" ANTIPHONS, because each one started with the word "O." 

But wait there's more. 

The poet (or poets) who put this together, did an amazing job of weaving in the most delightful hidden message (sort of like playing the record backwards to get hidden meanings).

Here are the beginnings of the verses:

1. O Sapientia (Wisdom from on high) - December 17
2. O Adonai (Lord) - December 18
3. O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse) - December 19
4. O Clavis David (Key of David) - December 20
5. O Oriens (Dayspring, Light from the East) - December 21
6. O Rex Gentium (King of the Nations) - December 22
7. O Emmanuel (Emmanuel, God with Us) - December 23

What's so special about that?

We'll, there is a wonderful acrostic message build into the structure of the verses. If you take just the first letter of the words that follow the "O" of each verse, you get SARCORE, which means nothing. But if you turn the letters around, you get,

"ERO CRAS," which means "I am tomorrow."

In other words, on December 23, the long-expected Jesus is saying "Tomorrow's my birthday." The various prophetic names used in the text (Key of David, Wisdom from on High, etc.) were selected and ordered in such a way that they pointed to the coming of Messiah. WOW!

Have a great day!

"All Bless the God of Israel" by Jaroslav Vajda c1989

For the upcoming first Sunday of ADVENT, the WQOTW is an advent poem.

ALL BLESS THE GOD OF ISRAEL by Jaroslav Vajda c1989
from *SO MUCH TO SING ABOUT* (Morningstar Publishers 1991)

All bless the God of Israel
for promising Immanuel:
from Abraham, a man like us,
from God, divine and glorious:
someone to share our every woe,
someone to conquer every foe.

All praise the God of Israel
for sending us Immanuel,
to do what God had sworn He would,
what only the Messiah could:
live, die, and rise, and clear the path
to life from certain, endless wrath.

All thank the God of Israel
for being our Immanuel,
whose Spirit opens eyes to see
the Word, the Truth, that makes us free
to live unfettered by our fears, 
to serve our Savior all our years.

All bless the Lord, the God of all,
for Christ, our great Immanuel!
Come, welcome David's greater Son
with Zechariah and with John,
and, living, prove our gratitude
to be the Israel of God.

Based on Luke 1:67-79, the Song of Zechariah.
Can be sung to "Veni, Immanuel" ("O Come, O Come, Immanuel").

Have a great week,

Thanksgiving Quotes

Today’s WORSHIP QUOTE is a collection of short Thanksgiving thoughts. 

"A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues." 
— Cicero, c. 106-43 B.C.

"Pride slays thanksgiving, but an humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves."
—Henry Ward Beecher

"The worship most acceptable to God comes from a thankful and cheerful heart."
—Plutarch, c. 100 A.D.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
—Philippians 4:6

"Some people complain that God put thorns on roses, while others praise Him for putting roses on thorns."

"Were there no God, we would be in this glorious world with grateful hearts: and no one to thank."
—Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations." 
—Psalm 100

"O Lord, that lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness." 
—William Shakespeare in HENRY VI, PART II

"Gratitude is the heart’s memory."

"Thou hast given to me so much . . . Give one thing more—a grateful heart." 
—George Herbert, 1593-1633

"In everything give thanks."
—I Thessalonians 5:18

"Be thankful for the smallest blessing, and you will deserve to receive greater. Value the least gifts no less than the greatest, and simple graces as especial favors. If you remember the dignity of the Giver, no gift will seem small or mean, for nothing can be valueless that is given by the most 
high God."
—Thomas à Kempis, 1380-1471

"Count your blessings,
Name them one by one;
Count your blessings,
See what God has done."  
—Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856-1922

"God gives and forgives. 
Man gets and forgets." 
—bumper sticker

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. AND BE THANKFUL. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom and as you sing psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs WITH GRATITUDE IN YOUR HEARTS TO GOD. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, GIVING THANKS to God the Father through him."
— Colossians 3:15-17

[How easy it is to use our Thanksgiving gatherings and even our Thanksgiving worship to celebrate the glory of our own comforts and accomplishments. Lord, redirect our thanks and our lives. Amen!]

Happy Thanksgiving!

Chip Stam

Peterson on Acceptable Worship

Today's WORSHIP QUOTE sends us back to the basics. The author is David Peterson.

Throughout the Bible, acceptable worship means approaching or engaging with God on the terms that he proposes and in the manner that he makes possible. It involves honouring, serving and respecting him, abandoning any loyalty or devotion that hinders an exclusive relationship with him. Although some of Scripture's terms for worship may refer to specific gestures of homage, 
rituals or priestly ministrations, worship is more fundamentally faith expressing itself in obedience and adoration. Consequently, in both Testaments it is often shown to be a personal and moral fellowship with God relevant to every sphere of life.

Apollos, 1992 (1999 reprint), p. 283. David Peterson lectures in New Testament at Moore College, Sydney, Australia. He is the author of HEBREWS AND PERFECTION (Cambridge University Press).

[Take a look at Romans 12:1-2 and see what the Apostle Paul says about 
acceptable worship.]

Have a great week,
Chip Stam

Directions for Singing

This WORSHIP QUOTE OF THE WEEK comes from John Wesley, the father of Methodism. (His brother Charles wrote some 6,500 hymns). In the preface to a collection of hymns, John wrote the following instructions:

[pay special attention to #7]

1. Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.

2. Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.

3. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.

4. Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, no more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

5. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

6. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to
drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

7. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

--John Wesley, SELECTED HYMNS, 1761, as found in THE UNITED METHODIST HYMNAL, United Methodist Publishing House, 1989.

Have a great week,
Chip Stam

Take My Life

This week, two stanzas from a familiar hymn.

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days;
Let them flow in endless praise.

[It's pretty abstract to think of turning over our lives to God, but far more specific to think about "my moments" and "today" (Tuesday) being lived in such a way that they bring endless praise to God.]

Take my will and make it thine;
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is thine own;
It shall be thy royal throne.
Frances Havergal, 1836-1879

This would be a good morning prayer. Does anyone need to look up

Have a great day,


This week's worship quote is another from the pen of author John Stott, rector emeritus of London's All Souls Church.


”It is of course a fact that people like to worship with their own kith and kin, and with their own kind, as experts in church growth remind us; and it may be necessary to acquiesce in different congregations according to language, which is the most formidable barrier of all. But heterogeneity is of the essence of the church, since it is the one and only community in the world in which Christ has broken down all dividing walls. The vision we have been given of the church triumphant is of a company drawn from "every nation, tribe, people and language," who are all singing God's praises in unison (Rev. 7:19). So we must declare that a homogeneous church is a defective church, which must work penitently and perseveringly towards heterogeneity."

--John Stott, ROMANS: GOD'S GOOD NEWS FOR THE WORLD (InterVarsity Press, 1994)

[Does that hit close to home for you? It does for me.] 
Have a great week! Chip

Theology and Worship

Theology and Worship

Today's WQOTW deals with that delicate balance (or combination) of "head and heart" that is needed as we come to worship God. The author is John Stott.

It is important to note from Romans 1-11 that theology (our belief about God) and doxology (our worship of God) should never be separated.

On the one hand, there can be no doxology without theology. It is not possible to worship an unknown god. All true worship is a response to the self-revelation of God in Christ and Scripture, and arises from our reflection on who he is and what he has done. It was the tremendous truths of Romans 1-11 which provoked Paul's outburst of praise in verses 33-36 of chapter 11. The worship of God is evoked, informed and inspired by the vision of God. Worship without theology is bound to degenerate into idolatry. Hence the indispensable place of Scripture in both public and private devotion. It is the Word of God which calls forth the worship of God.

On the other hand, there should be no theology without doxology. There is something fundamentally flawed about a purely academic interest in God. God is not an appropriate object for cool, critical, detached, scientific observation and evaluation. No, the true knowledge of God will always lead us to worship, as it did Paul. Our place is on our faces before him in adoration. 

As I believe Bishop Handley Moule said at the end of the last century, we must "beware equally of an undevotional theology and of an untheological devotion."

-- John Stott, ROMANS: GOD'S GOOD NEWS FOR THE WORLD, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, 1994

Have a great week,
Chip Stam

To learn more about Chip Stam and his Worship Quote of the Week, click below.

Empty Religion

This week the WQOTW comes from John Stott. 

We need to listen again to the biblical criticism of religion. No book, even by Marx and his followers, is more scathing of empty religion than the Bible. The prophets of the eighth and seventh centuries BC were outspoken in their denunciation of the formalism and hypocrisy of Israelite worship. Jesus then applied their critique to the Pharisees of his day: "These people . . . . honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me" (Is. 29:13; Mk. 7:6). And this indictment of religion by the Old Testament prophets and by Jesus is uncomfortably applicable to us and our churches today. Too much of our worship is ritual without reality, form without power, fun without fear, religion without God.

--John Stott, in THE CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN (InterVarsity Press, 1992)

Have a great week,

Chip Stam

To learn more about Chip Stam and his Worship Quote of the Week, click below.

John 1

The WQOTW is one of those passages that helps us see the Bethlehem event in its place in the bigger picture. It's from the first chapter of THE GOSPEL OF JOHN (The Message, NAVPRESS, 1993). Open to a big screen for easier reading.

The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
in readiness for God from day one.

Everything was created through him;
nothing - not one thing! -
came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn't put it out. . . . 

The Life-Light was the real thing;
Every person entering Life
he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
the world was there through him,
and yet the world didn't even notice.
He came to his own people,
but they didn't want him.
But whoever did want him,
who believed he was who he claimed
and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
not blood-begotten,
not flesh-begotten,
not sex-begotten.

The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.

Do we still see that glory? Personally? Corporately?

Have a great day!

Chip Stam

To learn more about Chip Stam and his Worship Quote of the Week, click below.