In Between Sundays

Stille Nacht

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My hope and prayer for you is that you’ll enjoy the simplicity of Christmas.  Keeping it simple -  it’s hard to do.  After all, there’s a myriad of Christmas songs on iHeart Radio, and the guy down the block that decorates like Clark Griswold and thinks it’s a good idea, not to mention Lifetime Movie Network’s endless parade of Christmas stories.  I’m a guy so I can say this: “If you’ve seen one Lifetime movie . . . (fellas, you finish the phrase).  Don’t get me wrong, I like Christmas.  I just think it’s hard to avoid the tug and pull of trying to create a “picture perfect Christmas.”  There is value in keeping it simple.

80-year-old’s understand simplicity.  They love old stories, pictures, and seeing others experience joy.  At Thanksgiving, I asked my mom what her Christmas was like as a young girl growing up in Iowa.  She said, “Well, we didn’t have a Christmas tree until I was a teenager.  Typical gifts were an apple, and a real Christmas treat was an orange.  One year we all got a bag of candy!”  Mom’s Christmas childhood memories were simple.   

I think that’s why my favorite Christmas carol is SILENT NIGHT.  It’s easy to sing and memorable.  It’s probably been used as the musical backdrop for more Christmas Eve Candlelight Services than one could imagine!  SILENT NIGHT had a humble, simple beginning.

“Stille Nacht” was first presented as a musical offering in 1818 at a Christmas Eve service in the Austrian village of Oberndorf.  Father Joseph Mohr had written the lyrics the year before and Franz Gruber, a schoolmaster and organist, wrote the melody. 

Father Mohr asked Gruber to write the piece using a guitar accompaniment.  Details vary, but legend has it that the reason it was written for guitar was because the church pipe organ was broken.  Together, Mohr and Gruber performed the new carol during the candlelight mass at St. Nicholas parish on December 24, 1818.


“Silent night, holy night

All is calm, all is bright

‘Round yon virgin, mother and Child

Holy Infant so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace

Sleep in heavenly peace.


Silent night, holy night

Shepherds quake at the sight

Glories stream from heaven above

Heavenly hosts sing “Alleluia!”

Christ the Savior is born

Christ the Savior is born.”

And that, is the simple, miraculous story of Christmas.  “Emmanuel”, God with us.  On behalf of the staff and elders of Fellowship Bible Church, we wish you a simple and hope-filled Christmas!  Blessings to you!

Posted by Ted Burden with

The Gift of Joy

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By most measurements, John Pierpont’s life was anything but successful.  In 1804, he graduated from Yale College and entered his professional life as an educator, but that didn’t last long.  He was too easy on his students.  Pierpont then attempted a legal career, but that also came to an abrupt end; he was too generous to his clients, extending credit and failing to collect legal fees. 

He then went into business for himself as a dry goods merchant.  Unfortunately, business wasn’t his thing; he didn’t charge enough to turn a profit and he failed to collect on debts created by extending credit.  John Pierpont then tried his hand at poetry, and yes, while he was a published writer he didn’t earn enough royalties to make a living.  You got it.  Another failure.

What was left for Pierpont to do?  He became a minister.  (No snarky comments, please.)  He went to Harvard School of Divinity and was ordained at the Hollis Street Church in Boston.  But, because he favored prohibition and was anti-slavery, John Pierpont landed in trouble with some of his parishioners and they asked him to resign.

He entered the political arena and ran for the governor’s seat in the state of Massachusetts and lost.  He then made a bid for a congressional seat in Washington . . . and lost.  The last five years of his life?  Pierpont spent them as a file clerk tucked away in an obscure office of the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C.  Did he find fulfillment?  Not really.  He had no passion for it.

Pierpont is buried in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  He died in 1866.  His grave marker reads, “Poet, Preacher, Philosopher, Philanthropist.”

Now before you place John Pierpont in a column marked “Losers”, every December we celebrate him; it’s a memorial of sorts.  You see, John Pierpont wrote a Christmas song.  It’s a song about the simple joy of flying through drifts of snow in a “one-horse open sleigh”, laughing and singing with the best of friends!  John Pierpont penned the words as a simple gift to his family, friends, and church, and in doing so he left a permanent gift for every Christmas:  the invisible gift of joy.

Yes.  John Pierpont wrote the Christmas song, “Jingle Bells!”  It was his way of reminding us that in the midst of our own personal winter, we too can celebrate the angelic message: “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy . . .”  Thanks, John, for sharing your song & success with us!

Posted by Ted Burden with

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