In Earnest Praise of the Multitalented Knife

This February, I am bringing to you the next installment in my hotly anticipated kitchen utensil series. This year I introduce to you—drum roll, please…and Triangle, if you don’t mind—well the title already spoiled the surprise so never mind. Anyway, “multitalented” is just one of the many attributes that describe this little sharp slice of silver. It is in equal parts wise, knowledgeable, sober-minded, and lethal when needed. Here are the top five awesomenesses of the kitchen knife:


The Knife has More Use Than You Can Shake A Stick or Knife At.

Like the fork, there are quite a few different kinds of knives. And that’s all I’m saying about that. I am not learned in the many intricacies and various genres of the kitchen knife. There may be a dozen different varieties in our utensil drawer at home. I don’t know. They are all butter knives to me. And then there is the sharp knife holder thingy. As long as I can butter a piece of bread or cut a slab of meat. I’m good, I’m good.


The Knife and Fork are Soul Mates; They is BFFs, Yo!

Last year I named a few of the greatnesses of the royal fork. The fork and spoon are sort of friends, but more like frenemies. The knife and fork, now there is a pair that has chemistry. There is a pair I call true BFFs. The two don’t always work in conjunction with other utensils. However, when there is a silverwarey team-up to be had, its most often betwixt the fork and the knife. Say you have a steak or something that you need to cut. Admittedly, sometimes a piece of meat can be cut with a firm fork push, but sometimes that doesn’t work. In such times, the first utensil the fork calls for help is not the spoon or tongs. No, nor chopsticks or skewers. No, its first call is the knife. It is perfect for the job. Stick that fork in your steak and the knife glides perfectly through those slender prongs and gets the job done. Some are naturally gifted, others were trained by the Central Utensil Agency.


The Knife is the Perfect weapon for the Utensil-Based Superhero.

It has always astounded the utensil superhero world that the Blue Raja[1. The Blue Raja is a hero in the criminally underrated film, Mystery Men. He fights crime by using forks and spoons.] adamantly refuses to wield the greatest of all utensil weapons, but after all, as he clarified for The Shoveler he’s not Knifey Boy or Stab Man. While that does make some sense, the cardinal rule that the CUA teaches all of their superhero students is that the kitchen knife should always be their primary weapon. While it is true that not all kitchen knives are as lethal as a gleaming steak or butcher knife, the serrated butter and table knives can also be worthy servants in daring do.


It is a wonderful bridge for the Tiny Crackeletti.

Not long ago I briefly referred to the relatively unknown sidewalk crack dwelling Tiny Crackeletti Tribe. I mentioned that today they most frequently employ themselves by manning rarely seen sidewalk crack bridges all over the world. One of the of the most famous of these bridges is The Great Butter Knife Bridge, which can be found in a dark alley in New York City. (It’s exact location is a closely guarded secret known only to the Crackeletti world.) Crackeletti from all over the world take a yearly pilgrimage to this gleaming silver structure. It is widely considered to be one of the five Crackeletti-wonders of the sidewalk world.


Certain Knives Are the Most Intelligent Knives in the Kitchen Knifey Kingdom. Nay, of the Entire Utensil World!

You have probably heard the saying in reference to a dim-witted individual, “he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” These days just about everyone takes this as a clever turn of phrase likening ones mental sharpness to the knife’s literal blade sharpness. Oh no, no, no. The knowledge has been lost in the deeps of time that this particular idiom is actually referring to the great intelligence that exists in some knives in the kitchen knife culture. Some are pretty dull, hence “not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” Truly, some butter knives are so intelligent that they (and some butter and toast) were instrumental in the many visionary innovations of Leonardo da Vinci.





The Curiousest Seesaw of them All

Ah, the illustrious lights of our ever-illustrious times;
Ah, the busy little bees whispering in our elephantine ears
here and there and everywhere:
the songs of power, the rising towers,
the chiefest outrages of our times.

Yea, Verily, yea, they sing our
rising songs and stats,
our stately diplomats
and eternal plaintive ditties:
“ah, but this and that.”
“Ah, but also that and this.”

Such it is; such it is;
tis the curiousest seesaw of them all.

Today an unforgivable smirk says
(It says everything in the world, it does)
“I shall sit idly by and
Tempt and tease, tease
and tempt and tempt.”

We sayest in return:

He and she: “No, nay, and nevermore,
Say it isn’t so, say it ain’t so!”

She and he: “By electronic uvulas,
by giga-belly buttons incongruous,
what an unmitigated outrage, that.”

The boggled of us,
the curiousest seasaw of them all.

Truly, these are the giga-bellies;
they glorify the seesaw,
upside, downside.

The boggled of them.

For
no it ain’t so,
No, nay, nevermore for
the whole tip-to-tip
atom-meet-atom
thing of us is all upside, downside
with all philosiphication
and useless contemplation with our ears like elephants
and the love of popularization and fickle sycophants,
and piles of other things sitting idly
on this tip-to-tip seesaw
stretching its long beam
across this all blue-green strip that is.

Tis the curiousiousest seesaw of them all.




500 Words or Less Review: Winchester ’73

While growing up the Jimmy Stewart Western, Winchester ’73, was a much-loved family treasure. Through the years this movie has been quoted by our clan hundreds, perhaps thousands of times. While it has long remained close to my heart, I long considered I loved it so much because I had grown up loving it along with my kin.

Nay, my friends. Nay, I say. For after much time of having not watched it (A couple of years), I viewed it again this past weekend. It earns all the praise it gets and well deserves to be considered a great Western classic.

Released in 1950, Winchester ’73 was not Stewart’s first foray into the Western genre. He had dabbled in it years before. His most recent prior to Winchester ’73 was Destry Rides Again in 1939. However, this was his first entry in a string of Westerns throughout most of the rest of his career. It was also his first time working with director Anthony Mann, with whom he would go on to do four more Westerns by 1955.

As the title suggests, the movie is partially about a prized gun and how it is stolen from the man who won it legitimately (Stewart) and thereafter passes from one ill-fated possessor to another. However, it is also about a long-standing feud between two childhood friends, both crack shots.

The story commences in Dodge City with a shooting competition to win the legendary gun. The deadly feud began many years before, but both are there for the much-heralded prize. After a phenomenal competition, our hero Lin McAdam wins by successfully shooting through a stamp midair. However, his sworn enemy (“Dutch” Henry Brown) steals the gun from him immediately following the competition. And so, the movie follows two storylines, the line of the Winchester as it is passed from one person to another and another line following McAdam and his friend and partner High Spade as they continue the pursuit of Henry Brown.

To give any further details would be to ruin it for those who have yet to see this gem. The two story-lines run close together, sometimes even crossing paths until they are finally united. Along the way, you will meet a battle-scarred Indian chief, an Indian trader, a beleaguered cavalry unit, and a “crazy yellow” coward. While most of these guys are bad to some degree, the main baddies are two bank robber gang leaders (a very memorable “Waco” Johnny Dean and the aforementioned “Dutch” Henry Brown.)

The movie stars some heavy hitters of the silver screen of yesteryear including Stewart, Shelley Winters, Dan Duryea, Milliard Mitchell, Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, and Jay Flippen. Out of context, the dialogue isn’t that extraordinary, but these actors (and probably their director) made it eternally quotable.

Suggestion: Don’t watch this movie expecting the best Western you have ever seen. If you do, you will be disappointed. While Winchester ’73 is a superb example of the classic Western, it is not in the very top tier of all time.




Lucy Hosts a Dinner Party

Lucy Hosts a Dinner Party

The setting is Ricky Ricardo’s Club Babalu. Lucy has invited three book club friends and one guest of these friends to join her, Ricky, and their besties the Mertzes for dinner. The nine gathered dinner guests include Lucy, Ethel and Fred Mertz; Jerry Seinfeld and Elaine Benes; Lucille and Gob Bluth; Kate Austin and Jack Shephard. Prior to their arrival Ricky has just finished performing his favorite song. All except his wife, Lucy, silently rejoice at this since they all unanimously hate it with every fiber of their being. Gob is sure that act can be vastly improved with a bit of magic…and candy. Now they impatiently and hungrily await Ricky while he changes backstage. (The waiters have been instructed not to begin dinner until he arrives.) Like a gracious host, Lucy breaks the ice.

Lucy: Early this afternoon Ethel and I were really bored and I just looked at Ethel and said, “You know what we ought to do? You know what we ought to do?! You want to go downtown and have dinner with the boys tonight?” And she said…tell them what you said, Ethel.



Ethel
: I said, “yes!…What boys?”


Lucy: And I said, “Fred and Ricky, silly.” And then she said, “Oh yeah.” Just like that “Oh yeah,” and she obviously wasn’t at all excited about it. So I suggested we invite some of our book club friends and their significant other.


Ethel: Or a friend.



Jerry
: Or mortal enemies (He looks meaningfully at Elaine).


Lucy: Good times! Now, all we need is Ricky.



Jack Shepherd:
 Shouldn’t he already be here?


Lucy: Hold your horses. And, say, won’t he be delighted to see you all.


Ethel: You mean he doesn’t even know yet?


Lucy: Well, he knows the three of us are.



Mrs. Bluth
: GAAAH! Why am I even here? Gob!…


Jerry: And why haven’t we given our orders yet?


Lucy: We’re waiting for Ricky. He has to tell the waiters when we’re ready.



Elaine
: I’m ready.


Jerry: I thought we had reservations.


Lucy: We did. I made them. 


Jerry: Did you? Do you even know how reservations work?


Lucy: Yes, I know how reservations work, Jerry, thank you very much.


Jerry: I don’t think you do. If you did, we’d be eating.

(He looks at Fred). Am I wrong?



Fred
: Don’t look at me, I’m just here to for the chow.



Elaine
: (scoffs) Lucy.


Lucy: Excuse me…Have we met?


Elaine: No, but I’ve heard of your show. “Murphy Brown”, right? I’m writing a script for it.


Lucy: What? I’m on “I Love Lucy.”



Elaine: Yeah, whatever, I don’t care.


Jerry: Let me get this straight, you haven’t even seen the show and your writing a script for it?


Elaine: (Ignores Jerry and looks at the food on the other tables). GAAAH, I am so hungry!


Lucy: Now listen, Ethel, when Ricky gets here and sees everyone you distract him with something that will make him forget about being mad at me.


Ethel: Huh? How?


Lucy: Dance with him, talk, sing…That’s it! Ask Ricky to sing.



Ethel
: Sing?! You know he won’t!


Lucy: Oh, WON’T he! There is nothing he would rather do, ever!


Jerry: My but isn’t it great to see such familial love and trust in action.


Elaine: What’s the point of waiting for this guy. Let’s eat!


Lucy: “This guy”? I’ll have you know—


Kate: Just a little plate of chocolates. Is that too much to ask? Just one plate. 



Gob
: Oh come on! She just wants some chocolate. Garkon! Garkon! A plato ofo chocolatos for the senioraitos and the seniorettees.


Lucy: No! No, never mind, Sam. No chocolates.


Fred: You just had to ask for chocolates. Ethel and Lucy have had it with chocolate since that time they scarfed down all those chocolates at the chocolate factory.


Lucy: Well…that was all your fault.


Fred: My fault?


Lucy: Yes. Yelling all those crazy things.


Fred: That was dinner talk.


Lucy: Yeah well…you scared me!


Ethel: My sentiments exactly, Lucy. (scowls at Fred)


Lucy: Thank you, Ethel.


Jack: I got to tell you ladies, if you don’t learn to get along with your husbands…you’re going to eat alone.



Kate
: (turns to Gob) He always says stuff like that.


Jack: Yeah, well. I love you.



Kate
: I love you more.


Jack: No, I love you more.


Kate: Okay.


Gob: That’s the Christmas Spirit.


Jack: Back on the island we didn’t celebrate Christmas at all and liked it.


Kate: (To Gob) He loves talking about the island.


Jack: The island told me to.


Gob: (Pulls out a deck of cards and shows the top card) Hey Kate, see this King of Diamonds?


Kate: Sure.


Gob: That’s me. You’re the queen who the king of diamonds showers with diamonds. (pulls a queen of clubs from the deck)…I mean Clubs…Club sauce! He showers her with club sauce!!!



Mrs. Bluth
: Ugh, I hate club sauce. If I wanted my sauces touched, I’d eat the inside of your ear!


Gob: What does that even mean?!


Lucy: Okay, okay, okay, everyone. While we wait for Ricky, let’s play “Going On a Picnic.”


Jerry: Yeah, cause we really need to work up an appetite right now.


Ethel: Really?


Jerry: No.



Mrs. Bluth:
Lucy, dear, I don’t like these games and I won’t respond to them.


Lucy: I’m sorry you don’t enjoy these games more. I guess you are just a heathen who doesn’t “get” what fun is all about.


(Lucy and Ethel enthusiastically begin the game but Fred refuses to continue and everyone else is good with that. Except for Gob)

Gob: I’m going on a picnic and I’m taking an artichoke, a bacon sandwich, and….a Chimpanzee with a cup of cold coffee…and an illlluuuusion.


Elaine: (Says quietly to Jerry) Ya know, we shouldn’t have to wait for her husband to eat. I feel like just going over there and taking some food off somebody’s plate.


Jerry: I’ll tell you what, there’s 50 bucks in it for you if you do it.


Elaine: What do you mean?


Jerry: You walk over that table, you pick up an empanada, you don’t say anything, you eat it, say ‘thank you very much’, wipe your mouth, walk away. I give you 50 bucks.


Elaine: 50 bucks, you’ll give me 50 bucks?


Jerry: 50 bucks. That table over there, the three couples.


Elaine: OK, I don’t wanna go over there and do it, and then come back here and find out there was some little loophole like I didn’t put mustard on it or something…


Jerry: No, no tricks.


Elaine: Should I do it, Lucy?


Mrs. Bluth: (applying lipstick) Its Lucille. Don’t mistake me for that red-headed bimbo over there.


Lucy: I’m right here.


Mrs. Bluth: (Ignores Lucy) Sure, why not. It’s your grave. Frankly, I don’t trust anything served in this place.


Jerry: True. You also notice most of the waitresses are really ugly. Totally undateable!


Elaine: Just when I think you’re the shallowest man I’ve ever met, you somehow manage to drain a little more out of the pool.


Mrs. Bluth: (ignoring Elaine) I noticed that. The male waiters are pretty hideous as well….That settles it. (She gets up and leaves without telling Gob who just said he is taking a lovely lava-lamp on a picnic).


Elaine: (Leans over to Gob). Hey buddy, your ride’s leaving.


Gob: What?…come on! (He gets on his Segway which is beside his chair and quickly exits).


Lucy: Oh, don’t leave you two! Ooooh!


Jerry: (He turns to Elaine) So?


Elaine: So, what?


Jerry: The bet?


Elaine: On one condition. That you follow me and that having completed the task, we immediately leave and go get something to eat.


Jerry: Yeah, whatever. (Leans across the table) Hey Lu, we got to go.


Lucy: Oh no. Not you two too.


Jerry: Yeah, we gotta go.


Lucy: Ohhh, why?


Jerry: Yeah, its Elaine, uhhh…she’s like really frightened and has to go home.


Jack: Frightened?


Jerry: Yeah, she has what the doctors call a condition, it comes and goes and if she doesn’t go home soon she could die. DIE!



Jack
: Let me tell you something about being frightened. On the island–


Kate: Comes and goes?


Jerry: Mm…it comes…and it goes, it comes and goes.


(Elaine takes a bite of an empenada from another table after which she and Jerry leave. At the same time Gob reenters on his Segway and approaches Kate)



Gob
: So mon senioritaria, can I get a ride home. I have candyyyyyy…in a piniata.


Kate: Why don’t you just go on that thing?


Gob: Are you insane?! That’s like an hour on this baby. An hour!


Narrator: 15 minutes.

Kate: (Thinks) And you say you have candy.


Gob: And an Xbox. And more…oh, so much more.


Kate: I’m sold, let’s go. Later Jack.


Jack: What? Kate, we go home together, or you’re going to die alone.


Kate: (smiles) Oh honey. I love you, but seriously, I’m with Gob now. He has candy! (exits with Gob on his Segway).


Ethel: I wonder why he didn’t offer us any candy.


Jack: I have to go back!


Lucy: No, oh, don’t go!


Jack: I have to go back! (Exits)


Fred: We might as well go to, Ethel.


Ethel: Fred!


Fred: Well I’ve had it. I’m hungry. (Exits)


Ethel: (Turns to an increasingly distressed Lucy.) Oh!


Lucy: Just go ahead, Ethel. I’ll be okay here all alone.


Ethel: Oh! Say, now you and Ricky can have a real nice romantic dinner. See you later, dear. Love you. Ooooh! (Exits)


(Lucy sobs)

(Ricky enters. Kisses Lucy)

Ricky: Hello honey. What’s the matter?


Lucy: Don’t you honey me!


Ricky: What happened!


(Lucy gives him the evil eye)

Narrator: It was then that Ricky discovered he’d made a huge mistake.

Ricky: Cometí un gran error.





REO Presents: New Year’s Recommendations

We write reviews often. We’ve also had a semi-consistent book review/recommendation series. (We really need to update that…) This will be a little different. Instead of focusing on one thing: movies, books, music, etc… we are going to try to paint a broad view of things we love that we think you should check out. These blurbs are going to be fast and furious – all around 200 words and all about things we think are pretty great. Consider them our New Year’s gift to you.


Gowdy Cannon

TV Show – Chuck

This is not a popular show but my wife and I watched it this year on Amazon Prime Video. I was blown away. It’s not like any other TV show I’ve watched. It defies any genre box. It may be a comedy at its heart but it has extremely well-executed action scenes and its most important story arc is romance. In a world full of Ross and Rachels it dared to give us Bartwoski and Walker. This show reached deep and pulled wonderful emotion from me often.

Levi, Stahovski, Gomez, and Baldwin are unforgettable as the main players and like any TV show worth watching the role players are dynamite, highlighted by Jeffster! and their hijinks and musical concerts (which were basically the same thing). It is also replete with unforgettable guest stars and if you loved the 80s as much as I did, you will probably get giddy with their choices.

It can be a tad campy and goofy at times, but that never bothered me. It is exceptional at its strengths and it was fantastic entertainment for five seasons.

Food – Bojangles

It’s a shame that so often in America if you claim you like something, people sometimes interpret that to mean you do not like other similar things. I love Chick-Fil-A and think it is blessed by God, but I also eat and thoroughly enjoy KFC and Popeye’s. And to me, the second best chicken place I’ve had in my life is Bojangles, which seems to be less known than these other three. Probably because it is so regional (though its regional fans are pretty passionate from what I can tell).

Whether sandwiches, strips, sides, or those glorious biscuits, Bojangles has excellent quality in taste. There used to be one in Turbeville, SC and any time I was down there visiting family and someone said, “Let’s just pick up some Bojangles for lunch” I would get quite excited. No place has equaled CFA to me but this place is close. And it deserves a huge fanbase.


Ben Plunkett

Book – Strange Stories, Amazing Facts of America’s Past

Throughout most of the second decade of my childhood (about 11-18) I was obsessed with what I called fact books (Most people know them as books of trivia, but I prefer fact books. I suppose they might not be useful for a person’s day to day life, but is any information actually useless? I think not.)

Anyway, when I was 16 my parents got me this particular quality hardback fact book for Christmas. While I am no longer consumed with fact books and have sold most of them, I still have this one and still read portions of it now and then. This book does not attempt to cover all the important basics of American history. What it does do is to highlight fascinating stories about its history that are not discussed much or at all in history class. My edition was published by Reader’s Digest in 1989. They published a new edition in 2007. I cannot comment on that edition since I have not read it yet.

TV Show – Better Call Saul

I realize this show is fairly popular but I don’t understand why this show isn’t more popular than it is. My guess is that people were disappointed that Better Call Saul, which serves as a prequel to Breaking Bad, wasn’t a clone of its predecessor regarding its how the story plays out. It is true that the two shows have the same basic outer feel and framework. It is also abundantly clear that the two are part of the same universe (if you are familiar with both, that is). But the individual stories themselves are very different. Better Call Saul is less dark, intense than Breaking Bad. It is also basically an extremely well fleshed out legal story with multiple intriguing plotlines and angles. The show stars Bob Odenkirk who plays Jimmy McGill AKA Saul Goodman but also stars an amazing ensemble cast. Odenkirk and every one of his co-stars bring it every episode. Forgive the hyperbole but most of them deserve every acting award in the history of mankind.

I will probably be destroyed for saying this, but I believe Better Call Saul is better than Break. In fact, it is in the running for my favorite show of all time. It had an extremely good first season and has been greater every season (It recently finished its fourth).


D.A. Speer

Board Game: Dropmix

One of the most off-the-radar board games right now sounds like something right out of the future. DropMix (created by Harmonix studios…you know, the same team that created Rock Band) has players placing cards onto an electronic, Bluetooth-powered board with six spaces for cards. Each card in the deck has a chip inside of it, and each card space is equipped with a wireless chip reader. When you place a card on the board, the game (which runs on a tablet or phone that sits at the front of the board) reads it, syncs it to BPM and the set key, and then incorporates the loop into the mix. There are cards that have drum loops, vocal tracks, instrument tracks, or even custom-designed effects.

You can DJ your own set in “Freestyle” mode, go head to head in a VS mode, or even play a new Puzzle game based on a surprisingly interesting card game that is incorporated. The music source material is all over the place (electronic, rock, country, pop), and more expansion packs are coming out all the time. You can find the base set on sale frequently…I bought a new one for $30! At the very least, check it out on YouTube and marvel at the technical genius:


Phill Lytle

Food – Aldi “Journey to India” Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce

In the past few years, my wife and I have fallen in love with Indian food. Unfortunately, it’s cost-prohibitive to get it as often as we would like. Enter: Aldi and their amazing sauce in a jar. I was skeptical it would taste anywhere close to restaurant quality, but I was wrong. We keep things simple with some seasoned chicken we sauté in olive oil and some steamed veggies added to the sauce to make it a bit more “healthy.” We serve it over white Basmati rice and we are good to go. It’s moderately spicy so if that’s not your thing, you shouldn’t be eating Indian food anyway.

Comedian – Nate Bargatze

Maybe you’ve seen him on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Maybe you’ve seen his special on Netflix. Perhaps you’ve just seen clips on YouTube. Or maybe, sadly, you’ve never heard of Nate Bargatze. Well, be sad no more! If you like your comedy clean (yet not lame), dry, and just a little bit odd, then Nate is the man for the job. He holds a special place in my heart because he graduated from the school where my wife teaches and my children attend (Donelson Christian Academy). If Nate came from DCA, then there is hope for my family as well.




The 5 Most Theologically Rich Christmas Songs

Thousands of Christmas songs and hymns have been written these past 2000 years. While many songs discuss sights of Santa and Rudolph, there have been others written to express the significance of God coming to earth and being born into a sinful world. These songs hold theological richness and can edify a group of believers during the Christmas season or any time of year.

Rather than reviewing every Christmas song that has been written since the time of Christ’s birth, this list was limited to those Christmas songs that are familiar to most modern Christians. In assessing the most theologically rich Christmas songs, it was considered: 1) Whether the song does more than cover the basics of the biblical story, digging into the deeper theological implications behind the story and; 2) Whether the song reveals these truths in a beautiful way that sincerely indicates the living presence of the Holy Spirit. Here are the five most theologically rich Christmas songs:

5. “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

Phillips Brooks penned the words to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” in 1868. The words came to him one night as he rode from Jerusalem to Bethlehem by horseback to deliver a Christmas Eve message.

Many people are very familiar with the first two verses of the song. However, the last two verses are exceptional and should not be forgotten. The third verse in this classic hymn is particularly noteworthy. It speaks of “the wondrous gift” that was given. The thing about a gift is that it is not something we earn; a gift is freely bestowed. This “wondrous gift” is Jesus, who God the Father gave as a living sacrifice for humanity (John 3:16). He came to be our living sacrifice and to give man spiritual knowledge (John 10). In this fallen world we all must humbly accept our fallenness and our need for divine help. Only then can we rightly choose His hand of salvation (James 1:21). When our “meek souls” receive Him, “Christ enters in.” He has called us to eternal salvation through Himself. Will we listen?

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel.

4. “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne”

Emily Elliot wrote “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne” in 1864. The primary point of this song is the tremendous humility God expressed by lowering Himself for our benefit. He left His heavenly throne to come as a man to save us.

Echoing Philippians 2:7, the first two verses convey the awesome magnitude of His humiliation in becoming a lowly man. Jesus was born of a “lowly birth” and came in “great humility.” He did this for us—people who don’t deserve it.

The third verse alludes to Matthew 8:20, where Jesus stated that all earthly creatures had a place to rest—all except for Himself. He was saying His life was a difficult one and those who followed Him could expect the same.

The first four verses end with a refrain that declares we can now freely choose to make room for Jesus in our hearts forever. With our entire being, we fully trust Him as our eternal Savior (Romans 10:9). The fifth verse concludes with a declaration of victory, rejoicing that God has made room for us in His heavenly home!

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn, and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

When the heavens shall ring, and the angels sing,
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me home, saying “Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee.”
My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
When Thou comest and callest for me.

3. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” was originally written in Latin, and many believe it dates back to the twelfth century. In 1851, John Mason Neale translated it into English. The English translation of the song contains several variations, and some versions include up to eight different verses.
It is easy to notice all the names and descriptions of Jesus presented in the song: Emmanuel (Immanuel), Dayspring, Wisdom from on High, Desire of Nations. These are all tremendous names and titles that describe the Messiah.

Each verse highlights one of them. What is traditionally viewed as the first verse highlights the name Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” In Scripture, the name first occurs in Isaiah 7:14. This passage is quoted in Matthew 1:22 in specific reference to the infant Jesus who was God.
Another verse highlights the name Dayspring, which indicates how the Light of Heaven has delivered us from spiritual darkness. This was a name proclaimed by Zechariah in Luke 1:78 under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
This song also gives Jesus the title Wisdom from on High. This may be a reference to Isaiah 11:2. The entire book of Isaiah is full of prophecies of the coming Savior. Only through this wisdom from Heaven (Jesus) may we may exit our fallen life and enter a new life with God.

The writer of this song also described Jesus as the Desire of Nations, a reference to Haggai 2:7. This is another prophecy of Jesus in which God foretold that great glory would one day once again fill the temple. Because He has finally come in His glory, we are freed from living lives of isolation and discord.

There are even amazing additional/optional verses of the song that refer to names like “Lord of might,” “Rod of Jesse’s stem,” and “Key of David.”. As this incredible song mentions, Jesus Christ has opened wide our heavenly home and therefore we can rejoice.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come Thou Dayspring come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Oh, come, our Wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Additional/Optional verses:
Oh, come, oh, come, our Lord of might,
Who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times gave holy law,
In cloud and majesty and awe.

Oh, come O Rod of Jesse’s stem,
From every foe deliver them
That trust your mighty pow’r to save;
Bring them in victory through the grave.

Oh, come, O Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

2. “O Holy Night”

The French poet Placide Cappeau wrote the words to “O Holy Night” in 1847. In 1855 John Sullivan Dwight, a Unitarian minister, translated it into English. It is considered one of the greatest and most popular Christmas songs of all time, and for good reason. Its theological greatness cannot be denied.

The first verse describes our plight. Original sin introduced mankind to death (1 Corinthians 15:21-23). All of humanity inwardly longed for a deliverer who would set us free from this plight. So long did humanity toil under this that our individual souls got used to being away from God and we “lay in sin and error pining.” But then Jesus came with a message of hope and the “weary world” rejoiced. He did all of His saving work to retrieve each individual person (Luke 15:1-7).

The second verse makes us firsthand witnesses of the holy child. We are one with the wise men who, like us, followed a light by faith to find Jesus. Jesus would not be a mere prophet of God or just a good man. The baby in the manger was the “King of Kings.” He was and is the Son of God who is one with God the Father (John 5:16-18).

The third verse exalts in the implications of Jesus’ earthly ministry leading up to His death. He taught mankind “to love one another” (cf. John 13:34-35) and broke the chains of oppression. Like the first two verses, the third verses finalize the song with an exuberant call to praise God the Son for His wonderful salvific work. This time the call is for everyone to unite in a magnificent song of praise lauding the holy birth.

It is rare to find a song whose melody actually works with and bolsters its message quite this well. In my opinion, “O Holy Night” does that better than any other song under Heaven. The last refrain of each stanza is full of genuine passion, exalting in the beauty that is the incarnation of Jesus.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

1. “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

Charles Wesley wrote the words to “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” in 1739. This song is absolutely loaded to the brim with incredible theological meat!

The first verse reveals why the baby in the manger is so special. This is not just any king who has been born. Through this baby “God and sinners [are] reconciled” after a long separation (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18). This makes very valid the call for “all ye nations rise” and joyfully rejoice!
The second verse explains how this “offspring of a virgin’s womb” was qualified to do any divine reconciling. He was able to do this because He was the “Christ,” which means, “anointed.” In other words, He was the Messiah and king of mankind (Luke 23:2-3). But He was more than a mere human king. He was God in human form—“veiled in flesh” and the “incarnate Deity.” Jesus lowered Himself by taking on the complete form of a man (Philippians 2:5-7). Our God could have remained in His comfortable position in Heaven but He was “pleased as man with man to dwell.” He was literally our Emmanuel—our God with us.

As a result of the work of Christ, the third verse calls us to praise Him for His infinitely gracious act. He is our “Prince of Peace” and our “Sun of Righteousness.” God’s Son came to give all men the truth of God’s redeeming and life-giving grace. How did He do this? By being born. He did this so we could experience a second birth and be born again into a new life in Him, living forever in His kingdom.

The fourth verse in some of today’s hymnals is a fusion of the original fourth and fifth verses. Since the fused version is the one many are most familiar with, that is what I am including here. It tells us that as a man, Jesus was physically born into a very humble home. Now that He has died for all mankind, we should invite Him to reside within us by confessing full belief in Him (Romans 10:9). Its last few lines hearken both to Genesis 3 and 1 Corinthians. In Genesis 3 we find the world-changing act of original sin. In this same chapter, God placed a distinct curse on each of the two human wrongdoers and all of their descendants. He also cursed the snake (Satan). His curse to the snake included a prophecy of Jesus’ final victory over Satan (Genesis 3:15). This is a prophecy of the Son of God who would one day come to earth to die. In so doing He would finally “bruise . . . the serpent’s head.” Wesley lauded the beauty of this story. Jesus’ work of atonement successfully displayed His saving power. It is in 1 Corinthians 15 that the first man and Jesus are famously referred to as the first and second Adam. Jesus, the second Adam from above, sacrificed Himself for all mankind, reuniting us with God.

Charles Wesley’s beautifully penned words not only bring about a feeling of the Christmas spirit, but beautifully explain the gospel message and give us reason to proclaim “glory to the newborn king!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild;
God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic hosts proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”

Christ, by highest heav’n adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail th’ incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus our Immanuel.

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings:
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth;
Born to give them second birth.

Come, Desire of nations, come!
Fix in us Thy humble home:
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head;
Adam’s likeness now efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Final Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.

This article first appeared in The Brink magazine




Five Ways to Be More Annoying than the Unregenerate Grinch this Christmas

So you want to be the most annoying person possible on Christmas Day, do you? Understandable, understandable. You should understand, however, that there are good and bad ways to go about such a time-honored task. For those who aspire to such a lofty goal, here are five proven techniques to become more annoying than the unregenerate Grinch this Christmas.


Every time someone makes a statement of fact respond with, “You serious, Clark?”

Everyone loves a good National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation quote. Everyone. Even people who’ve never seen it or heard of it. People especially love it when you repeat the same gag over and over and over. This quote is tailor-made for the Christmas Annoyer because it shows your unity with the most iconic Christmas Annoyer/Idiot in all cinema history.

Example of how you should respond to a statement in this scenario:

Person 1: “I take my fruitcakes very seriously.”

You: ”You serious, Clark?”


Do sound effects while opening your presents.

When you’re in the process of opening it there is a lot you can do. For example make radio calls to the mothership describing the mysterious package you are about to open, chew into it like a zombie eating human flesh, shriek like Godzilla as you ravage a building, the list goes on. Be creative. But don’t stop there. If it’s a good one sing a rousing rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus. If it’s a stinkeroonie, blow a raspberry followed by mimicking an airplane crashing and exploding.


Talk for as long as possible as often as possible about a super complicated Christmas-themed board game you invented called “The Abominable Christmas Elfquatch vs Santa’s Robo-Reindeer Super Squad.”

Be sure to throw in required training/certification courses that, you promise, will only take two hours—three max. This option, of course, will take some preparatory thought on your part, thinking up endless rules on such. There is no need to actually make a board for the game. If in the unlikely event that someone actually accepts your challenge, run away quickly and hide in your room to play with your toys.


Keep addressing a relative in a rotating cycle of several things that may rhyme with but are definitely not his or her actual name.

Also in all cases Egg is required. So for instance, you can address poor Uncle Ned as Uncle Sled, Uncle Bed, Uncle Red, and Egg on a rotating cycle. Feel free to throw other names in there once in a while like Doohickey or Fruitcake.


Celebrate the big day in red lederhosen, a cotton swab Santa beard, and a green Christmas elf hat.

Don’t be fooled by the laughter at your first appearance. It’s a hollow laugh which will disappear as the day progresses. After an hour or so people will get tired of the hideous get-up. By lunchtime, they will be sickened at the sight of you trying to eat with your cotton beard on. Yeah, by the time the feast is over you will have gravy, mashed potatoes, bits of turkey, and basically representatives of the entire meal inhabiting your be-cottoned face. By the end of the day, you will be stripped of your costume and it burned at the stake.




The Sea of Light

To the left drifts the glowing star
promoting the night with its oblong light
caressing the dark with a deep, deep rite.

We see the star, the star, the oblong star,
the longish memoir from beyond time’s time,

beyond the cosmic jar
of the speckled, swirling galaxies of light.

We see the glowing star,
here and here, there and there;
we stare there and here,
within the blowing seas of sand

at
the unseen devil in the constellations,
the gelatinous dragon with his hideous secretions,
the struggle with our Sea
stamped on our stars.

Of the star we watch,
we magi of the light,
classified before time’s time,
yes, our sights are on the light.

Beyond the glow, we watched with all of the
night’s inanimate riders of the oblong winds;

As such here and here, right and left,
we see the star in a sea, a sea of light,
classified beyond the first watches

of the time in time we watch,
our sights on the light to the left;
yes, our sights are on the Light.




Five of Our Favorite Christmas Movies

Watching Christmas movies during the Christmas season is one of our favorite traditions. We have a number of articles dedicated to Christmas movies on REO – some good and some bad. We’ve argued that some popular movies are not actually Christmas movies and have received a good amount of pushback. We’ve even given a primer on how to put together your very own Christmas Movie watch list. Yet in all of our Christmas movie writing, we have never done a collaborative article about some of our favorite Christmas movies. Today is the day we fix that glaring oversight. These are not necessarily the movies we consider the BEST Christmas movies. They are simply movies we each love to watch and share with our own family and friends. We hope you enjoy our list.


How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Gowdy Cannon – I get this movie is somewhat polarizing, at least in my circles. Most seem hate it or dislike it while folks like me love it enough to watch it every single year in December.

I confess that when it came out, I didn’t go to the theater to watch it. And when I did see it I was very “Meh” about it. Like millions of other people, I adore the book and the original cartoon version. It’s a perfect half hour of Christmas entertainment for ages 2 to 102. Simple and poignant and with no fat. And not to be insane but the Grinch is kind of like a kids version of DC’s Joker: he doesn’t need a backstory and trying to explain him actually detracts from him. That was my biggest negative about this live action version.

But then one year I showed it to my ESL class for our Christmas party and they laughed all the way through it and even clapped boisterously at the end. And [Narrator voice] I thought of something I hadn’t before: Maybe this movie can’t be bought in a store! No, seriously, what I learned was that I was clearly over-thinking it.

Honestly, if you get past the unnecessary Grinch childhood history, it’s a fun and funny ride with plenty of holiday cheer and the kind of sentimental moments we have come to associate with Christmas in America. I laugh out loud multiple times at it every year (“Even if we’re HORRIBLY MANGLED…there’ll be no sad faces at Christmas,” “Aardvarkian Abakanezer Who..I HATE you!) as Jim Carrey was definitely in his comedic prime at this point in his career. And while it adds, it doesn’t subtract and nails the right touches of the original story. The Grinch’s character transformation at the end is heartwarming be it cartoon or Carrey in a ridiculous amount of makeup. And I cannot lie: I’m a huge fan of the meta, self-aware trope that TV shows like Scrubs, Community and Arrested Development use and Ron Howard brought it to the big screen years before any of these shows were made, including his very own AD. When the Grinch says “I’m speaking in rhyme!” and when he mocks Howard’s directing I smile every time.

So this movie definitely earns some criticism but at the end of the day, entertainment goes beyond reason and critique to me and if all you want is a joyful and triumphant 100-minutes of Christmas spirit, this is a good choice.


It’s a Wonderful Life

Mark Sass – It’s a Wonderful Life is the only Christmas movie that I watch every year. During the holiday season, I intentionally set aside time for this film. And as the appointed date (usually Christmas Eve) nears I often wonder if this will be the year when the movie loses its charm or magic. You should know that generally speaking, I do not enjoy older movies. They feel dated to me and show their age in almost every scene. Furthermore, I am not someone who watches their favorite movies every week, month, or even year. I can get too much of most films to a degree that I don’t enjoy them as much as I once did. But that has yet to happen with It’s a Wonderful Life! After 20+ viewings I still thoroughly enjoy the film. The movie never seems old or dated. The story, characters, themes, and even the humor (which is something that frequently doesn’t translate well from one generation to those that follow) are all superb! The best films transcend time and hold up after numerous viewings. It’s a Wonderful Life is certainly among the best and greatest films of all-time.


The Santa Clause

Phill Lytle – I love this movie. I have since the first time I saw it. I realize it’s not a great film by any objective standards, but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying it every time I watch it.

It’s a great concept – turning Tim Allen into a reluctant Santa. Allen does a wonderful job of bringing his style of humor to a family movie, with some of the edge taken off, and his gradual transformation into jolly Saint Nick provides plenty of visual gags. It has good laughs, plenty of heart, and enough Christmasy moments to make it a perfect family film for the Holidays. The supporting cast is great, with Judge Reinhold adding his perfectly delivered condescension and David Krumholtz bringing sarcasm and wit to what could have been a bland character. The music feels familiar in a way that actually works – it feels like “Christmas movie music” and that makes me feel all warm and snugly on the inside.

There is nothing groundbreaking about The Santa Clause but that doesn’t seem to diminish it for me at all. I will gladly watch this one every single Christmas.


Jingle All the Way

“Put that cookie down! NOW!”

D. A. Speer – Much to the chagrin of my wife, it’s a yearly tradition in our house to watch Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “smash holiday classic” Jingle All the Way. I love so much about this movie. First, the comedic talent. You have two top-notch comedians featured prominently throughout the film: Sinbad (playing disgruntled mailman Myron) and Phil Hartman (playing creeptastic neighbor Ted). Both of them were at their peak and gave top-notch performances in the movie. Secondly, there are just tons of memorable scenes in the film. From the all-out brawl of fake Santas at the knock-off toy factory (“I’m gonna deck your halls, bub!”), to the frenzy at the shopping mall that ends with Arnold trying to take a ball away from a kid in a ball pit (I’m not a pervert!!!”), to the grand finale at the holiday parade (“Out of my way, box!”), the greatness just keeps coming.

No, the movie isn’t perfect. It’s full of cheese, and even contains an over-the-top, yet charming performance from internet favorite Jake Lloyd (pre-Phantom Menace). But that’s just part of the whole picture of what makes this a classic movie for me. This was still in the age when movies could be made just for the sake of telling a whimsical, goofball story. There wasn’t anywhere near the amount of pressure to have to include some kind of important agenda. It seems like the kind of movie that just wouldn’t fly today in a pitch meeting, or if it were to be made, I doubt that it would go to theaters. Probably straight to Netflix at best.

I’m glad that this movie exists, and it’s worth viewing at least once in your life. Not sold on it yet? Let “Arnold” himself try to convince you:


Christmas in Connecticut

Ben Plunkett – Growing up, my family was hugely into the classics. We discovered another old classic we hadn’t watched yet–boom!–we were there. (Incidentally, we’ve discovered many a time through the years that just because a movie is old, doesn’t mean it’s a classic. Some need to be forgotten, locked away never to be seen or heard from again.)

Anyway, when Christmas rolled around we watched many of the great Christmas classics of yore like A Christmas Carol, The Little Shop Around the Corner, The Bishop’s Wife, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Lemon Drop Kid, and many others. It was not until around the mid to late 1990s that I became aware of an old Christmas classic known as Christmas in Connecticut. Since those days it has become one of my favorites (I can’t say it’s my top favorite since I have so many way up there.) Christmas in Connecticut is actually a pretty basic romance, but it is so much more than that and done in a very entertaining, witty way. It is also chock full of heart, an ingenious central plot, outstanding writing, and excellent and unforgettable characters (the side characters are particularly good here).

Barbara Stanwyck plays Elizabeth Lane, a very city-loving journalist, writing for a popular magazine, pretending to be a wife and mother who lives and thrives on a farm in Connecticut. Her immediate supervisor is in on the act. The lead publisher, Alexander Yardley, not so much. One fine Christmas time he suggests that war hero, Jefferson Jones, come join her family on their farm for the holidays. Fortunately for Lane, her architect fiancé just happens to own an actual farmhouse in Connecticut and agrees to go along with the ruse. She also happens to be the favorite niece of Felix, a master chef, (my favorite character) who comes along on the holiday escapade.

Except for the set up first few minutes, the entirety of the movie takes place on this beautiful farmhouse, one that exudes cozy, homey Christmas. I think it’s safe to say this is the sort of place Santa takes his holidays.


Those are Five of our favorites. What are yours? Let us know in the comment section below. And be sure to like and share this article (and all of our articles) on Facebook and Twitter. You are our hands and feet, people! Each one reach one and all that. Thanks for reading.




Corporate Worship Throughout Bible Times

The Word of God in the read and spoken word is the epicenter of worship. From this lifegiving epicenter flows elements of worship of God with such things as thanksgiving, repentance, adoration, supplication and praise. Corporate worship, the gathering of worshippers to worship God as a unity, is something we should do every week. It takes many different forms throughout the long story of Scripture. This not meant to be a thorough look at all the intricacies of corporate worship in Scripture, but rather a broad look at its changing faces throughout.

The Birth of Worship

In the very beginning, Adam and Eve had full and personal communication with God, but this ended after they disobey God and broke off that close communion. The hearts of all humanity was separated from God by a deep gulf of sin. Yet via personal and corporate worship, we have long been able to maintain some semblance of communication with and focus on God. From this focus flowed such crucial aspects of worship as prayer, personal sacrifice, beauty, unity, divine adoration, and love.

With all corporate worship, God has also been clear that order is necessary. To this end, throughout Scripture, he has always ordained leaders to guide the people in worship. This individual or individuals was to lead worship entirely based on the word of God.

And then there is music. Music has so often been the vehicle of adoration, praise, thanksgiving, and supplication. We see its human development first mentioned in Gen. 4:20-21. In the centuries afterward to the present time, it has played a crucial role in corporate worship. God showed that He loved music, especially when its emotional power and beauty were used in the worship of Himself. He engrained worship music into the very fabric of His rules concerning the worship practices of His chosen people, the Israelites. It became part of who they were. Just a few of the many examples: Exodus 15:1 and 20-21 record how Moses and his sister Mariam led the newly freed Israelites in worship songs of praise and thanksgiving to God after they were freed from slavery in Egypt. When God would set up the order of the priesthood, he would dedicate a sizeable branch of them just to song and the playing of instruments. The entire book of Psalms is composed of worship songs.

The Continuing Need of Renewal Through Corporate Worship

Authentic worship of God has so often resulted in heart revival, both personally and corporately. In Genesis 35:1 Jacob and his sons experienced history’s first recorded revival after returning to Bethel where Jacob had earlier had a strong spiritual experience.

But the Bible made it clear early on that one revival does not necessarily mean there will never be a need for another one. Many years after Jacob and his sons had died, the freed Israelites, the direct descendants of Jacob, were discontent despite their newfound freedom and almost continually in need of renewal.

Shortly after being freed from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites came to Mt. Sinai where God gave His human leader, Moses, the Ten Commandments, which Moses in turn presented to God’s unruly people Israel.

Not coincidentally it was also at Mt. Sinai that God led the people into another revival. Moses spoke the Words of the Lord, and the people responded positively. This is important because by doing so, the Israelite nation was giving their agreement that these words and commands were authoritative and binding.

When we hear the Word preached, we also ought to respond positively, acknowledging that what we hear is the authoritative, binding Word of God. By hearing the Word and truly acknowledging our accordance and agreement with the beauty of God’s Words, the Holy Spirit helps instigate the worship that can result in heart revival. This is still needed, by the way. The revival at Mt. Sinai, nor many after it, did not fix everything for all of eternity. We are still afflicted by the curse of Sin and are in constant need of fixing our wayward hearts through worship of God.

The Transitions from Tabernacle Worship to Temple Worship to Synagogue Worship

Not long after they left Egypt, God instituted tabernacle worship for the wandering children of Israel. Even after they were settled in the Promised Land of Israel, this would remain the case for many years. It would not be until the time of King Solomon that a temple would be authorized by God to be a permanent place of worship.

In the years afterward, temple worship became a deeply ingrained part of Israel’s cultural identity. This ended after they were exiled in captivity. Beginning in the 6th century the dispersed Jews began the practice of synagogue worship in an attempt to regain and save some of their Israelite identity lost to them in the absence of the temple. From the very beginning, synagogue worship emphasized reading and discussing Scripture, praying, and singing. All three of these primary characteristics of Synagogue worship would be imitated in early Christian church worship.

The Transition to Jesus

The Jews were eventually able to return to their homeland, resuming temple worship but still keeping synagogue worship as well. And then Jesus stepped onto the scene and changed everything. Luke 1 and 2 tells us how God the father introduced His Son Jesus as a man-child into this world in part by way of song. His birth was lauded in this way by several sources: Angels, Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon.

Jesus grew to remold man into a new creature and to, therefore, remold worship into a new creature as well. He had come to die for the sins of all men on earth. On the night before His death, Jesus gave some last warnings and words of instructions to his fearful disciples. In John 16:7 he tells them that although He will soon be going back to heaven, He will be sending down a Comforter in His place to help the believers. This Advocate was the Holy Spirit who among many other things has always been instrumental in Christian worship.

The Transition to Church Worship

It was on the Pentecost of around A.D. 30 that the Holy Spirit first came upon the followers of Jesus in a definite and dramatic way. About 10 days prior to this annual Jewish celebration around 120 of Jesus’ most devoted followers united in fervent prayer. The Holy Spirit came upon the group so powerfully that His presence filled the whole house. The spirit was so full in these believers that day that the revival spilled out into the community with the results that 3,000 more people were added to the church.

While not all worship services have as vibrant a Holy Spirit revival as was seen on this particular Day of Pentecost, we should always pray that the Holy Spirit have a very real presence in our gathered assemblies. In addition, while it is excellent whenever such a dynamic revival does occur, we should never assume our worship service has failed and that the Holy Spirit has not worked in magnificent ways if there are no dramatic, visible movings and emotion.

It has been mentioned that the church worship borrowed several key features of synagogue worship. However, these were not the only things Christianity borrowed from Judaism. In fact, for a long time, most of the secular world at that time thought it was just one of its branches.

Many of Paul’s divinely inspired epistles lay out various regulations about how we are to conduct worship in church services. The books make it abundantly clear that church worship is always to be centered on God’s Word, Jesus Christ, unity with other Christians, and the joy in Christ through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

Here through Paul God gives crucial commands concerning how to carry out worship in general:

“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with
the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual
songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving
thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of
our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the
fear of Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-21)

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom;
teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and
spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16)

What is interesting about both of these key worship passages is that in both of them Paul stresses the importance of music in worship.

The early church would live during some interesting times in its first century of existence. Israel’s second temple would be destroyed in A.D. 70. After Rome destroyed the temple the close connection between Christianity and Judaism was forever severed.

Perhaps the best non-canonical description comes to us via Justin Martyr. These were both written sometime around A.D. 100. While the Bible should clearly be taken much more seriously as the inspired Word of God, many non-inspired ancient Christian documents do present some good doctrinal points to consider and interesting historical insights. This is such an example.

In his “First Apology,” Justin wrote how most of the worship service was designed to show their unification and adoration of Jesus. But he describes how the early church worshippers not only practiced unity with Jesus but with one another:

“Now we always thereafter remind one another of these things
And those that have the means assist them that are in need;
And we visit one another continually.”

Justin relates that the early Christians worshipped on Sunday (instead of Saturday) for the following reason:

“We hold our common assembly on the day of the sun, because
It is the first day, on which God put to flight the darkness and
Chaos and made the world, and on the same day Jesus Christ
Our savior rose from the dead…”

Today, while Sunday remains the primary day most Christians continue to meet together for corporate worship, it is not the only day. Corporate worship, whenever it takes place during the week, is a holy and magnificent moment of worship ordained by God. It has had many faces in Scripture, but all of this has made it abundantly clear that God values prayer, personal sacrifice, song, heart revival, order, beauty, unity, divine adoration, and love in everything that goes on in such times. And it is also clear that all of this springs from a thorough focus on His Word and on Jesus Christ, God the Son. Indeed, the Lord God in all three persons, He who has created us all is more than worthy of all of this worship. Worthy is the Lamb!