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Family Christmas Letter 2009

Wow, it’s hard to believe that 2009 will mark the eleventh Christmas our family has been living in Kingsport. Composing this letter makes me realize that Gail & I have now spent half of our married lives here and seen our children grow up in this house. Speaking of children…

Andrew celebrated sixteen in a big way, getting his driver’s license and his Dad’s Honda Accord. (It was so weird seeing him drive the kids to school for the first time.) He completed a leadership training experience at Doe River Gorge this summer and really loved it. He played varsity soccer for the first time this year as well. We are starting to look to see where God will guide him for the right college and the right major for his gifts.

 Lily at thirteen continues to blossom like a flower, more beautiful with each passing year. She continues to do good work at school, and is becoming a gifted volleyball player. She continues to enjoy photography and hanging with her friends. She has had a lot of fun with her friends doing Cotillion this Fall.
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Michael at eleven is as infectiously joyful as this photo shows! He continues to develop his academic, social, musical, and sports gifts. He loves learning, loves soccer, and loves being with people. He is fascinated with everything and is always asking questions and trying to figure things out.
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Gail continues to relish her role as Mom, and I have been very grateful for the multiple opportunities that God has given me this year to minister as a husband, father, friend, physician & writer.

God has indeed blessed all of our family this year, and I am truly thankful. But I am also keenly aware that the foundation of my joy & my hope should not be in the blessings of family, friends, health, or even ministry. My one and only hope should be firmly fixed on nothing less than what happened in a stable two thousand years ago. Romans 15:12 reminds us that “The root of Jesse (Jesus) will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in Him will the Gentiles hope.” May the reality of Christ fill your hearts with hope & joy this Christmas season.

Christmas Sounds for the Spirit


Snow gently falling, the flickering lights of a Christmas tree, and the soaring strains of ancient carols— what wonderful ways to attune our spirits to this season of Advent!

I wish I could snap my fingers and whip up a winter wonderland outside your window right now, or at least help you put up your Christmas tree, but, alas, I can do neither. But I can add some music for your ears… here is a link to an iTunes list of some of my favorite Christmas music:

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewIMix?id=346469763

Here are melodies old and new, yet all seem to tap into the hope & awe & joy that I think God wants us to dwell in during this sacred time of the year. In no particular order, the songs are:

Angels We Have Heard on High– an ancient French carol on the adoration of Christ, it makes me think what it would have been like to hear those angel choruses and then kneel before the newborn babe:

Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

The Bells of Christmas– from one of my favorite Christmas movies, The Santa Clause, which really is a beautiful story of faith and supernatural personal transformation. I love this soaring score & lyrics:

In the silence of the night
When the snow lies soft & still
You can see a magic light
And hear the ring of Christmas bells

Breath of Heaven– I can imagine that young Mary could have prayed these very words so very long ago:

Breath of Heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of Heaven

Breath of Heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me Your holiness
For You are holy Breath of Heaven

The Coventry Carol– this was originally a Mediaeval passion play song, dating back at least to the 1400s. Its somber tone reflects the horror of the slaughter of the infants by Herod, and reminds us of the evil in the world that Christ came into:

Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young to slay.

Ding Dong! Merrily on High– the melody was originally a dance tune in the 1500s, which reflects the joyous lyrics:

Ding dong! merrily on high
In heav’n the bells are ringing:
Ding dong! verily the sky
Is riv’n with angel singing.

Emmanuel, God With Us– a contemporary song that tells us that the hope of Christ is still with us:

And still He calls
Through the night,
Beyond the days of old.
A voice of peace
To the weary ones,
Who struggle with the human soul.

All of us,
Travellers,
Through a given time.
Who can know
What tomorrow holds?
But over the horizon,
Surely you and I will find.

Emmanuel, God with us,
Emmanuel!
Emmanuel, God with us,
The son of Israel.

Good Christian Men, Rejoice– the original Latin words are thought to have come from a dream that the German mystic Henry Suso had in 1328:

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice
Now ye need not fear the grave:
Peace! Peace!
Jesus Christ was born to save
Calls you one and calls you all
To gain His everlasting hall
Christ was born to save
Christ was born to save

O Come O Come Emmanuel– parts of this carol may date back to 8th century Gregorian chants. Richly saturated with Old Testament prophecy verses, it reminds us that Christ truly does put death’s dark shadows to flight:

O come, Thou Day-Spring, 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.

One Small Child– a contemporary carol that paints a beautiful picture of the babe in the manger:

See Him lying, a cradle beneath Him.
See Him smiling in the stall.
See His mother praising the Father.
See His tiny eyelids fall.
See the shepherds kneeling before Him.
See the kings on bended knee.
See the mother praising the Father.
See the blessed infant sleep.

One small child in a land of a thousand.
One small dream of a savior tonight.
One small hand reaching out to the starlight.
One small savior of life.

We Three Kings of Orient Are– was written by the Reverend John Henry Hopkins for a Christmas play in 1857. Written for a seminary, it speaks of Christ’s “three-fold office”— in that as the Messiah He is both prophet, priest, and king:

Glorious now behold Him arise,
King and God and Sacrifice.
Alleluia, Alleluia
Sounds through the earth and skies.

What Child is This– was written in 1865 by William Chatterton Dix, a business manager who wrote these words while bed-confined with a life-threatening illness:

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the king,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary!

What are your favorite Christmas carols? Enjoy them this Advent season!