When my daughter was a preschooler she was accustomed to having a nightlight burning in her room at night when she slept. There is a measure of comfort to know that the light is burning. Occasionally the bulb in the nightlight would burn out. For my daughter it was a frightening experience when this happened at night-time. If she awoke and the light was not there she called out to let me know that something was wrong. By replacing the bulb, fears are calmed and the whole household can return to sleep.

Jesus tells us that he himself is the light of the world. Without this light, we cannot see, we cannot find comfort. With the light of Christ we are comforted and we can enjoy life calmly. The light was first introduced into the world at the first Christmas. Today, Christ-followers carry the light of Jesus in their spirits. While the light will not burn out (like a nightlight’s bulb), we must let it shine out through the things that we do, and the way that we live.

This is the message of Christmas—Let your light shine!

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Translated from German (c. 1800) by Edward Caswall (1814-1878)

Also included in The Broadman Hymnal, 1940 edition, Broadman Press, Nashville, #7; Voice of Praise, Broadman Press, Nashville, 1947, #127; The Baptist Hymnal, 1975 edition, Convention Press, Nashville, #44; 1991 edition, Convention Press, Nashville, #221; 2008 edition, LifeWay, Nashville, #141; Inspiring Hymns, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1951, #1 (entitled “May Jesus Christ Be Praised”); Favorite Hymns of Praise, Tabernacle, Chicago, 1967, #1; The Hymnal for Worship & Praise, Word, Waco, 1986, #87; The Celebration Hymnal, Word, Waco, 1997, #215.

As you can tell by a simple glance, the poem which provides the words for this hymn is much lengthier than provided for in most hymnals. Some more recent hymnals credit a separate third verse (“Ye nations of mankind, In this your concord find:/May Jesus Christ be praised!/Let all the earth around Ring joyous with the sound:/May Jesus Christ be praised!”) to Robert Bridges when he included the hymn in an 1899 hymnal. Hymnal editors have included various stanzas from the original as well: Broadman and VoP – 1, 5, ll. 1&2 of 14 + ll. 3&4 of 10, & 15 (with minor changes to line 3); BH 1975, 1991, & 2008 – 1, 10, Bridges above, 14; Inspiring Hymns and Favorite Hymns – 1, 9, 5, ll. 1&2 of 14 + ll. 3&4 of 10, 15; The Hymnal – 1, 5, 10, Bridges above, 13, 15; Celebration – 1, 10, Bridges above, 15.

The Hymn

  1. When morning gilds the skies my heart awaking cries:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Alike at work and prayer, to Jesus I repair:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  2. When you begin the day, O never fail to say,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    And at your work rejoice, to sing with heart and voice,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  3. Whene’er the sweet church bell peals over hill and dell,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    O hark to what it sings, as joyously it rings,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  4. My tongue shall never tire of chanting with the choir,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    This song of sacred joy, it never seems to cloy,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  5. Does sadness fill my mind? A solace here I find,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Or fades my earthly bliss? My comfort still is this,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  6. To God, the Word, on high, the host of angels cry,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Let mortals, too, upraise their voice in hymns of praise,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  7. Be this at meals your grace, in every time and place;
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Be this, when day is past, of all your thoughts the last
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  8. When mirth for music longs, this is my song of songs:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    When evening shadows fall, this rings my curfew call,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  9. When sleep her balm denies, my silent spirit sighs,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    When evil thoughts molest, with this I shield my breast,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  10. The night becomes as day when from the heart we say:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    The powers of darkness fear when this sweet chant they hear:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  11. No lovelier antiphon in all high Heav’n is known
    Than, Jesus Christ be praised!
    There to the eternal Word the eternal psalm is heard:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  12. Let all the earth around ring joyous with the sound:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    In Heaven’s eternal bliss the loveliest strain is this:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  13. Sing, suns and stars of space, sing, ye that see His face,
    Sing, Jesus Christ be praised!
    God’s whole creation o’er, for aye and evermore
    Shall Jesus Christ be praised!
  14. In Heav’n’s eternal bliss the loveliest strain is this,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Let earth, and sea and sky from depth to height reply,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  15. Be this, while life is mine, my canticle divine:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Sing this eternal song through all the ages long:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!

(Hymn words accessed at CyberHymnal) Stanzas included in our study hymnal are indicated with bold print.

Scriptural Connection

There are a variety of Psalms offered as connections to the Scripture for this hymn. One hymnal suggests Revelation 5 as a connection because of the praise to Christ offered in both the Bible passage and the hymn. One expert also turned us to Romans 9:5 in that verse’s praise of Christ as God over all. Any of these would be appropriate. I would lean more toward the New Testament connections because of the refrain of the hymn: “May Jesus Christ be praised!”

What does it mean?

This particular hymn is directly a call to praise Christ. All of the stanzas include the refrain over and over to praise Jesus Christ. The interspersed lines give us the reasons and the timing to do such praise. At work, at prayer, in happy occasions and fearful ones. Always run to Jesus (“to Jesus I repair”) in all occasions and in every moment and as you do so give Him praise.

This hymn, while unfamiliar to me from my developmental years, has quite a respect among hymnists—and well it should. This is a hymn, regardless of the stanzas chosen to sing, which points all worshipers to the One who is worthy of our praise. We can praise Him no matter the time of day, the activity in which we are engaged, or the circumstances which touch our lives.

“May Jesus Christ be praised!”

*Hymn numbers for this series’ titles are from the Baptist Hymnal, 1956 edition, Nashville, Convention Press.

Words by Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

The Hymn

  1. Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
    Christ, the true, the only Light,
    Sun of Righteousness, arise,
    Triumph o’er the shades of night;
    Dayspring from on high, be near;
    Day-star, in my heart appear.
  2. Dark and cheerless is the morn
    Unaccompanied by Thee;
    Joyless is the day’s return
    Till Thy mercy’s beams I see;
    Till they inward light impart,
    Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.
  3. Visit then this soul of mine,
    Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
    Fill me, Radiancy divine,
    Scatter all my unbelief;
    More and more Thyself display,
    Shining to the perfect day.

(Hymn words accessed at Hymn Books .com)

Scriptural Connection

Since Wesley is pointing worshipers to contemplate the splendor of the Second Coming of Christ, one of the best connections to make with this hymn can be found in the final chapter of the Bible—Revelation 22. Particularly, I would focus on verses toward the latter part of the chapter (vv. 6-17). Here we see the announcement of the Second Coming, accompanied closely by the cry of the Church—“Come” and “Come quickly.” This passage is at the heart of this worship which focuses on the Christ.

What does it mean?

At this point in our hymnal we begin seeing a move from hymns that praise God the Father/Creator, to those which exalt the Son our Savior. Here is a prime example of such a hymn; and again it flows from the pen of the great hymn-writer Charles Wesley. This particular hymn brings to mind either the Ascension or the Second Coming. While the text of the hymn leads one to focus on the latter, the picture of the disciples standing awestruck at the moment when Christ was received into Heaven flashes to mind (see Acts 1:9-11).

There are a few terms that might visit the worshiper with difficulty in a modern day (the hymn is some 200 years old after all). Many will be names used to describe Jesus. He is named the “Sun of Righteousness,” “Dayspring,” and “Daystar” all in the first verse. Each of these descriptive titles remind us of Revelation descriptors that teach us that there is no need for sun, moon, or stars when the Son is present, for He is the eternal Light of Heavenly places. In the second stanza, the poet calls on the “Radiancy Divine” to fill him. This again points us to the “Radiant One,” who is Jesus Christ.

Another perhaps difficult portion of the hymn is the rather dismal approach in the second verse. Pointing out all of the shortcomings of the worshiper would seem counterproductive when one is trying to lift spirits up to the heavenlies, but this is Wesley’s point from the beginning. Our dire need to encounter the glory of Christ is off-set by Him. His splendor stands in drastic contrast to our sad existence. What better reason than our pitiful joylessness to allow the magnificence of Christ to enter in?

The final stanza of this little song is simply a prayer to request that Christ’s spectacular presence be the one influencing factor in the life of the Christian. Let Jesus be more evident in the life of the singer with each passing day until finally, in that day of His Second Coming, they are together forever.

*Hymn numbers for this series’ titles are from the Baptist Hymnal, 1956 edition, Nashville, Convention Press.

[Having taken a couple of weeks off for the holidays, we will take up where we left off, with number 19.]

Words by Isaac Watts (1674 -1748)

The Hymn

  1. Now to the Lord a noble song!
    Awake, my soul; awake, my tongue;
    Hosanna to th’eternal Name,
    And all His boundless love proclaim.
  2. See where it shines in Jesus’ face,
    The brightest image of His grace;
    God, in the person of His Son,
    Has all His mightiest works outdone.
  3. The spacious earth and spreading flood
    Proclaim the wise and powerful God;
    And thy rich glories from afar
    Sparkle in every rolling star.
  4. But in His looks a glory stands,
    The noblest labor of thine hands;
    The pleasing luster of His eyes
    Outshines the wonders of the skies.
  5. Grace! ‘tis a sweet, a charming theme;
    My thoughts rejoice at Jesus’ Name:
    Ye angels, dwell upon the sound!
    Ye heav’ns, reflect it to the ground!
  6. O may I live to reach the place [O may I reach the happy place]
    Where he unveils His lovely face!
    Where all His beauties you behold,
    And sing His Name to harps of gold!

(Hymn words accessed at CyberHymnal) Stanzas in bold are those used in our sample hymnal. [Bracketed words are from the 1956 Baptist Hymnal]

Scriptural Connection

An excellent connection to make for this hymn because of the desire to direct praise to God the Son is found in Philippians 4:4 – “Rejoice in the Lord always, I say again, ‘Rejoice!’”

What does it mean?

With yet another hymn calling worshipers to the act of praise is found here. This time we are called to awake from our sleepy state to offer praise to, specifically, God the Son. We are reminded that Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God’s love (see John 3:16), and the epitome of all that God has planned.

The love of God shines from Christ. The grace of God proceeds from Christ. The wealth of God is found in Christ. Therefore as we lift a noble song to the Lord, we discover that Christ is that noble song that we sing.

May we forever keep singing it.

*Hymn numbers for this series’ titles are from the Baptist Hymnal, 1956 edition, Nashville, Convention Press.

One of the most spectacular parts of the Christmas story is that it is not confined to one day out of the year. Yes, we take time to celebrate annually. This practice keeps us in mind of the most comforting of the names given to Christ by the prophet – Immanuel. Isaiah names Him, and Matthew explains the name – “God with us!”

I cannot think of a more powerfully comforting phrase than this. God, who is so far beyond us, has chosen to be one with us. He did it in the act of the first Christmas morning. And He continues to be with us in the moment of salvation and in the living of the Christian life.

As we look back over the year 2012, may we see moments where we actually lived like God is with us.  In looking forward to the New Year ahead of us, let us pray for those moments when we will again experience “God with us!”

Before you gather ‘round the Christmas tree and begin to plunder the greed hidden there, take a moment to reflect on Christmas. Shall I say CHRIST-mas. Today is the day that we celebrate the moment that the world welcomed its Maker. I like the fairly new Christmas song by Chris Rice (it’s been recorded not only by Rice, but also by the likes of Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant): “Welcome to our world.” This is the one thing that is all too often forgotten amidst the reckless abandon with which we practice our avarice on Christmas. We even encourage it with our children trying to bribe them into good behavior with a jolly old elf who will or will not give them all of their selfish desires depending on their behavior.

So this morning as you pour your Christmas morning coffee and settle onto the couch in front of your Yuletide evergreen, take a moment to read the Christmas story (most people choose Luke 2, but there are some other great passages in Matthew and Mark, and I really like John 1 for a thoughtful approach). Then take a moment to say to the Savior about whom we celebrate: “Welcome to our world; welcome to our home; welcome to my life.” And Merry Christmas to one and all.

Christmas is just around the corner, and so we have dusted off our growing stack of manger scenes. I think I’d leave them up all year long if I thought I’d get away with it. I started a collection years ago (when it was still just me and Jesus) with the Italian fabrication company that makes Fonatanini decorations. On most (with the exception of only a few) years I add another villager or shepherd or angel to gather ’round the manger. It’s a beautiful, growing Christmas decoration with a lot of sentimental and traditional value to me.

In addition, we have a variety of children’s nativities—including the VeggieTales® singing one (with parts missing and Family Life’s “What God Wantsfor Christmas” devotional nativity. We have a world of manger scenes (literally): one from Prague that has seen better days, one from Kyrgistan (Kyrgizia) made out of felt, one from Africa (a gift from my Mother-by-Law), one from Poland made out of corn husks and cloth, a martrushka (nesting doll) version we picked up in Ukraine, one carved into a tree ornament from Middle Eastern olive wood. But I must admit my favorite is the one my Blushing Bride purchased as a gift for me as she was leaving Egypt in order to become my Blushing Bride. I’ve posted pictures and commentary about this Egyptian Nativity previously here and here. (If you read the different posts you’ll see two different angles from which to view the ideas.) So, posting about my Nativity with the “extra Jesus” is becoming another tradition for me.

I love this manger scene best for a couple of reasons: (1) it is one of the first gifts I received from my Lovely Bride. She took time to know that I am a Christmas fanatic, that I love depictions of the Nativity, and she took time to find this in the marketplace of Egypt in the middle of August! (2) I also, love this manger scene because it helps me to focus on Jesus. After all, isn’t that what we should be focusing on during this special holiday celebration? Not just Jesus, but more Jesus. It isn’t “another” Jesus, but some “extra” Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I find that I can always use a little more Jesus. And not just at Christmastime.
Oh, and by the way—when you find that you have some extra Jesus, you can share Him with others. I’ve discovered that when I share a little Jesus with those around me, the little faith that I have in Jesus becomes a little more Jesus in me.

Have a Christmas that is filled with extra Jesus!