Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss helping us understand what was really happening during the first Christmas.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Darkness was being turned to light. Death was being turned to life. Despair was being turned to hope. After 400 years of silence, God spoke. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.” That’s something to leap for joy about.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, December 17, 2014.

A lot of Revive Our Hearts listeners have been enjoying Come Adore, Nancy’s new piano CD this Christmas season. 

Music is an important part of our celebration. And this isn’t a recent tradition. Songs were part of the very first Christmas, and those songs have a lot to teach us today. Here’s Nancy to tell us more as she begins a series called "Songs of the First Christmas."

Nancy: One of the great things about being a child of God is that you have something to sing about. Christians should love to sing. In the Gospel of Luke we find the very first New Testament songs and hymns. Now, there are many songs in the Old Testament, but as we come into the New Testament, there’s a different message or fulfillment of the Old Testament message that takes place as Christ comes into the world.

Actually, the first songs or hymns of the New Testament are Christmas songs. Now, they’re not songs that necessarily we hear sung at Christmas, but they really are the songs of the first Christmas. Unlike so many of our modern-day contemporary songs, these songs are not self-centered. They’re God-centered; they’re Christ-centered. They’re songs that talk not about “What does this do for me?” but “What does this reveal about the greatness, the glory, the goodness of God?” They’re songs about the redemptive plan and purposes of God.

It’s interesting that Luke’s gospel is the one that records these songs, these hymns, these poems. The other gospels don’t have any of them, but the gospel of Luke has six. If we thought about it, I bet you could remember what most of those are.

Remember, the first one was Elizabeth’s song in Luke chapter 1. We’re going to look at the first two in this series. Her song is called, the Latin title that’s been given to it is, The Beatitude, a word that means blessing. Then we have Mary’s Magnificat. You’ve heard that term also in Luke chapter 1.

Then in Luke chapter 2 we have Zechariah’s song. It’s called  the Benedictus. That’s the song that Zechariah sang after John the Baptist was born.

Then we have the angel who came to announce the good news of the birth of Christ to the shepherds who were abiding in the field on that night that Christ was born. That song, even though the Scripture doesn’t expressly say it was sung, is considered one of the hymns or poems of the first Christmas. That’s in Luke chapter 2.

That single angel’s announcement or pronouncement is followed by a host of angels, the heavenly hosts, the angelic hosts as they sang what is called the Gloria. "Gloria, in excelsis Deo," just worshiping and praising God for the birth of His Son Christ.

You can imagine as those angels had been in heaven for hundreds and hundreds and thousands of years, awaiting the time when God would come to earth through the birth of His Son and would reveal His redemptive plan. How excited they must have been to have the opportunity to announce that news to those shepherds on that night.

And then in chapter 2 of Luke, beginning in verse 29, we have a song that Simeon sang in the temple when the Lord Jesus was brought by Mary and Joseph into the temple and the sacrifice was made. His song, poem, or hymn is called, in the Latin, Nunc Dimittis. It’s a Latin phrase for, "now Thou let us depart."

Remember how Simeon said, “Now, God, You can let me, Your servant, depart because I’ve seen the birth of the Messiah”? (see Luke 2:29). Those are the first words of the poem or hymn in the Latin version of the Bible called the Vulgate. So we have those six songs or hymns or poems of Christmas recorded by Luke in his gospel.

Now, if you put this in context and step back a little bit, you’ll remember that for the previous 400 years, since the end of the Old Testament, there had been that 400-year period during which there had been no song. There had been no word from the Lord. There had been this deafening silence from heaven.

Now that doesn’t mean God wasn’t at work. It doesn’t mean God had fallen off His throne. But it did mean that people had not been hearing from God during that 400 year period. There had been a time of profound darkness, a time of longing, a time of waiting.

“Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel. We’ve been waiting for You. We’ve been longing for the coming of the Messiah.” There had been those unfulfilled hopes and dreams in the hearts of God’s covenant people, waiting for the Messiah who would come and set them free from their sins.

So when Christ finally came into the world, the angels had something to sing about; human beings had something to sing about. This coming of Christ, this incarnationChrist coming into the world, God becoming fleshbrought forth joy where for years there had been oppression and hardship.

Remember, the end of the Old Testament is about a curse that will come upon the world if they are not obedient to God’s Word. The Old Testament just ends that way. Now Jesus comes to bring blessing, to reverse the effects of the curse on this fallen creation. So the coming of Christ into the world inspired outbursts of poetry, of music, and of expression.

I think of that one song we often sing at Christmas, “O Holy Night.” Remember some of the words of that song?

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother.
And in His name all oppression shall cease.

A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
[It was a weary world then.]
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
[The Day Star had shown into our hearts.]
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, 
With  all within us praise His holy name.
  

("O Holy Night" by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure)

That’s why since the coming of Christ, we should be a singing people. We have reason to sing. We have reason to give praise. Now God has not finished all that He is doing, but we see the breaking forth of God into our world. We see Him sending Christ to bring redemption. We see Him loosing the chains of people, the chains of sin that had long held them captive.

Now as we come to Luke chapter 1, we see that the first two songs, as we transition into the new covenant era, are both sung by mothers. They are sung by two mothers who had never expected to be mothers at this season of life.

One, Elizabeth, is an elderly woman who had been barren for years. She had longed for a child. She and her husband Zechariah had prayed for a child, and now finally God had given a child to them in His time. Now she is six months pregnant as we come to this passage in Luke chapter 1.

The other mother is a much younger woman. Her name is Mary. She’s a young teen, maybe just fourteen years of age. She’s engaged to be married. She has kept herself pure in a city, a community that was known for immorality, the city of Nazareth, and now she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

In Luke 1 we see these women coming together. They had been alone in their culture, alone in their circumstances. God had spoken to them in a way that it was very hard for anyone else to understand. God was doing something in their lives that it was very hard for anyone else to understand. They both had received a divine gift of a child. They both had received revelation of God’s purposes for giving them a child.

But how would you explain all of that to someone else? How would you tell your family about this and expect them to believe it much less understand it? So God led these two mothers to each other to strengthen each other, to stir up faith, to encourage each other, and to help each other focus on what God was all about in their lives.

Let me just pause before we actually look at the passage and say you may be very alone or feel that you are in your walk with God. In your heart for Him, you may be the only one in your family. You may feel that you’re the only one in your circumstances. No one else around you can really fathom what it is that God is doing in your life, the purposes that He is fulfilling in you, the circumstances that He is creating in your life. You could start to think that you’re crazy because no one else around comprehends what God is doing. You feel alone in your faith and alone in the burden that you’re carrying for others around you.

Can I say that’s not cause for pining or whining? But it is an occasion for praise because, like these two mothers, you have Him. You have God’s promises. You have God’s purposes. You’re a part of God’s plan, and God has made Himself and His ways known to you. He has chosen you to be a recipient of His grace, as He chose Elizabeth and Mary.

He’s chosen you to be a participant in His eternal, redemptive plan. Even if you feel very alone, you’re part of a heritage, a legacy of Elizabeths and Marys and other moms and other women and men throughout the ages who have been a part of that remnant of God’s great redemptive plan.

So Christmas is a time to praise, to sing. It’s a time to lift up your eyes and sing songs of joy, even if at the holiday season you may find yourself in painful circumstances. You may be recently widowed, maybe you have a very difficult circumstance in your life. You’re not sure what God’s up to in your life. You can’t see where He’s leading you. You can’t see how He’s going to meet your needs or resolve your circumstances, but you have EmmanuelGod with us. So it’s a time to sing songs of faith, songs that testify to the character of God, the ways of God, the plan of God, and songs as Mary and Elizabeth did that uplift those around you.

So Luke 1 tells us, in verse 39, that,

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country. [After she had heard that she was going to have a child, she went] to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth (vv. 39–40). 

Now, we’re jumping into a context here. We’re told in verse 36 that Mary and Elizabeth were relatives. Some translations say they were cousins. And Mary now has been told she’s going to be the mother of the Messiah. She’s also been told that her cousin or her relative Elizabeth is six months along in her pregnancy. So Mary makes this trek, approximately 100 miles, perhaps by herself, to see her cousin, her relative Elizabeth.

And even as she makes that choice, it speaks to me of the importance of our having fellowship with like-minded believers. We need each other to encourage faith. We need to hang around those who have a genuine relationship with God and to let them strengthen us in our faith and to be a part of strengthening their faith.

When you get around people who love and know and trust God, it stirs up joy in your heart. It stirs up the work of God in your heart. As you get around people who have a fresh work of God going on in their hearts, you will find that you are stirred.

I have some friends that when you need to be encouraged, you know if you call them, that particular individual or another, you know that you will be stirred to faith and encouragement in your own heart.

Now the Scripture tells us in verse 41 that when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby, that is John the Baptist, that was in Elizabeth’s womb, leaped in her womb. Mary greeted Elizabeth, and the baby leaped in Elizabeth’s womb.

That word leap there is the same word that’s used in the Old Testament for the struggling of Jacob and Esau in Rebekah’s womb and for the mountains skipping in Psalm 14. It’s an active word. This baby was very alive and active within her. It was for joy because of what God was doing in redemption.

The coming of Christ into our world caused this baby, John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb, to leap for joy. And why should it not? Darkness was being turned to light. Death was being turned to life. Despair was being turned to hope. After 400 years of silence, God spoke. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory” (John 1:14). That’s something to leap for joy about.

Should we not have joy welling up in our hearts as we contemplate what it is that God did for the world on that first ChristmasGod visiting His planet in the form of His Son Jesus Christ. If you find as you celebrate the Christmas holidays year after year, same old, same old, busyness, activity, programs, food, travel, all those things, but you’ve lost a sense of the wonder of what it’s about, why not ask God to restore that.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss reminding you of how amazing the Christmas story really is. Today’s program is part of the series called "Songs of the First Christmas."

Sometimes it’s tough to sing. You just don’t feel like it, regardless of whether it’s the Christmas season or not. Nancy, one way the Lord uses Revive Our Hearts to help women thrive in Christ is to help them keep a biblical perspective, even in really tough life circumstances.

Nancy: So often I have to counsel my own heart and choose to sing, choose to be joyful, and to focus on the truth of God's Word—regardless of what my feelings may be telling me.

I know the Christmas season can bring painful reminders that sometimes life in this fallen world just doesn't work the way we want. But God is always faithful. We want to spend a few minutes at the end of today's program hearing the story of a woman who is learning to trust God for everything—even in those tough, real-life circumstances. We'll see how in a dry season of life, the Lord is helping her thrive.

Leslie: Nancy, this story is about a woman named Gail, who knows what it is to face life's storms. Several years ago she discovered that her husband had hurt and betrayed her in some serious ways.

Gail: When I first found out what was going on in Joe's life, I was just . . . I don't know how to explain it. I could hardly breath. I don't even know how I worked. At night I just slept on the living room floor. I just could not sleep.

Leslie: While dealing with this hurt and the separation that followed, Gail "just happened" to hear a message that spoke right to her situation.

Gail: Revive Our Hearts was being broadcast on a radio station in my little town. I had left work and was just sitting in my car in the park eating some lunch and just listening. I had never heard of Revive Our Hearts or Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I was just kind of mindlessly listening. Toward the end of the program she was sharing a testimony of a woman, and I just really started identifying with what Nancy was reading. All of a sudden, I was truly convicted about my own sin. I knew I needed to go to my husband and ask him to forgive me. That was going to be really hard.

I wrote her name down—Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Revive Our Hearts. I went home and looked this up on the Internet. I found out what this was about.

Leslie: About a year earlier Gail had gotten an iPod but had never learned to use it. But now she had something worth listening to. She started downloading archives of Revive Our Hearts.

Gail: I started listening to all those broadcasts through the night. I would turn them on. I would only let my mind listen to that truth. I wasn't going to give the Evil One an area of my mind. I was just so consumed with what Joe was doing. And this was truth, and I wanted truth in my mind. I just listened all night long. I think I burned my computer up because I ran it and never turned it off. 

It turned my life upside-down. I remember writing Revive Our Hearts and telling them, "I don't know if Joe will ever turn around, but I knew this was going to change my life."

My personal relationship with the Lord really became alive. I pursued the Lord Jesus. He gave me a passion for Him, for His kingdom, for everyone around me. I was wanting His name to be honored, even in my workplace. I was really thankful that God allowed me to go through all of that. I feel like He love me that much that He wanted me to walk closer with Him.

Leslie: Gail and Joes were separated, but they got together one day and took a walk. Gail took a step of obedience based on what she had been hearing.

Gail: We sat down on a bench and I asked him to forgive me for not being a godly wife. I truly wanted to be a godly wife. I knew I had not honored him in our marriage. I felt like I had all kinds of ammunition for why I shouldn't be honoring him, but that was being very disobedient to God's Word.

He was very surprised. I don't think he was expecting that at all. I don't really remember what he said exactly. But I told him I really wanted to work on our marriage.

Leslie: Gail began praying for Joe to return home. So you can imagine the disappointment when she received divorce papers in the mail.

Gail: That was really hard for me because I had prayed for so long that God would glorify Himself in bringing him home. I've realized that God can bring good in my life, even through this. But God has given me grace to forgive Joe. It's not like I just forget about it, but He has really given me a peace and a joy that is really, truly from Him. I know that forgiveness is just the first step.

Leslie: God didn't answer Gail's prayers like she wanted. But she's learning that He will walk with her in everything. He'll help her thrive even in difficult circumstances. She looks back and realizes how much she's grown closer to God during this trial.

Gail: I'm so grateful for that time. Of course, I would go back and change it if I could, but the Lord really worked it out for my good. It's been wonderful. I've told the Lord. I don't want to ever go back to what I was before.

Leslie: Gail is thankful for the way the Lord is using Revive Our Hearts helping her to thrive in Christ. It's a joy for her to support the ministry financially and share this message with others.

Gail: It's a ministry that speaks to women of all ages and of every walk in life. To have other people and that's their heart too, if they would be a ministry partner, it would reach so many women like me. It wasn't very long at all that that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a part of that ministry.

So I would encourage everyone that's become familiar with Revive Our Hearts to be a part of that, financially supporting this ministry. I was so grateful for it.

Leslie: Gail's story is so encouraging to all of us. The Lord can help us thrive, even in a tough situation.

Nancy: Leslie, I'm so thankful that Revive Our Hearts was on the radio right when Gail needed it. She was in such a difficult situation, and God provided just the word she needed. Revive Our Hearts was able to support Gail and her spiritual journey because listeners like you supported this ministry.

We're able to provide biblical teaching on the radio and online thanks to the prayer support and financial support of friend like you.

A huge portion of the funds we need to continue this ministry each year arrive during the month of December. So your gift right now will make a big difference in whether we are able to speak to countless women, just like Gail, desperate to hear biblical truth in the coming year.

Because this time is so critical to the ministry, there are some partners who have stepped up and offered to match each gift, up to a total of $650,000. I'm thankful for many who have already said, "I want to be a part of meeting the challenge." Your gift will go twice as far because of this matching challenge.

In order for us to continue operating at our current levels of ministry, we not only need to meet this matching challenge, we need to substantially surpass it. Not only are we praying for needs coming up in 2015, we also need to make up a budget deficit that we've experienced over the last several months. So we really need to hear from you now.

Would you ask the Lord how He would have you to help meet this need? Then give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Well, Mary of Nazareth faced a lot of challenges as a virgin carrying a baby, but she received great encouragement from a certain family member. When you study the song of that relative, you’ll be encouraged, too. Find out more tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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