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The Lord asks us to sing with understanding, so let us look at the carols with discerning eyes, for they are filled with truth from godly men and women of old who were immersed in the Word.

We must teach our children Christian doctrine. We ourselves must remember Christian doctrine. Why? Isn’t doctrine a set of musty old creeds?

No. Doctrine is a set of beliefs that shapes who we are and how we react every moment of the day. Everyone, even atheists, has a doctrine by he lives.The Christmas carols, if sung with understanding, can revive those beliefs and change us, giving us power, power to wait on Him, to trust Him, to resist our idols.

“O Come All Ye Faithful” & “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” each proclaim the vital doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity. These are doctrines the cults do not believe, nor do other world religions. No other world religion has a God who is a loving Trinity. The world religions have a monolithic or warring gods — not a loving God who has been in joyful fellowship, each worshiping the other, from all of eternity. The early church fathers had a name for this: “perichorises” — a dance, a chorus of love. Here is a visual picture of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit in a joyful dance of worship:

Now, consider, “Why did God the Son leave this joyful fellowship of love that first Advent and take on flesh?” He was, as Luci Shaw puts it: “Eternity walled in a womb.” “The Word stern-sentenced to be nine months dumb.” Why would He leave paradise for confinement and eventual death on a cross?

If you answer this doctrinal question correctly, it will shape how you respond to events today. And for those of you who went through our Song of Songs study, I am eager to show you how this truth: “The Word became flesh and dwelt (or tabernacled) among us,” is relevant to The Song of Songs. And hopefully for the rest of you, it will arouse your curiosity to The Song of Songs!

tabernacled Do this study daily, sing the carols with understanding, and you will experience the power of the Word, the Word who became flesh.

Sunday/Monday Icebreakers

1. What stood out to you from the above, and why?

2. How would you answer this doctrinal question: “Why did God the Son leave that joyful fellowship of love that first Advent?” How could this truth help you with your idols this Advent?

Monday/Wednesday Advent Bible Study

I sung the carols as a child, in church, in school, and at my mother’s piano as she played. The seed of the Word was planted in my heart through the carols. When my sister came to me when I was a young mother, when she followed me around asking me who I thought Jesus was, and I didn’t know — she quoted John 1. This is where it says, in verse 14, that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The lyrics of O Come All Ye Faithful came back to me, and I thought: I’ve sung those words, I’ve celebrated Christmas — now I must find out if the message is true.

      3. Watch Ann Voskamp’s second video for Advent and comment here: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2013/12/advent-devotionals-week-02-peace-video

4. In John 1:1-3, find all the “doctrine” you can about Jesus. IF A VERSE QUICKENS, YOU STOP — AND LET, AS JILL PUT IT LAST WEEK, HIS SUN

John 1 is similar to Genesis 1 in showing us the Trinity. Consider:

In the beginning God (the Father)


In the beginning God (the Spirit) hovered over the face of the deep


In the beginning God (the Son, the Word) spoke the world into existence

andgodsaid5. The cults, for example, don’t believe in the Incarnation or the Trinity as Scripture defines them. They may believe Jesus was a prophet, an example, or even call him a son of God, for they may consider all of us to be sons of God. How does believing that Jesus is God, that He has always been, that He is very God of very God, impact how you live your life today?

6. Tim Keller says, “Why did Jesus give up paradise? For us! To gain a Bride!” Our own Jill said, “Sometimes I sit during study and just absorb the “rising sun”, not literally, but Christ’s love coming to me through study and meditation on His word. I can physically feel warmth upon my face.” Now read 1 John 1:1-4 and let the Sunrise from on high come to you. Share whatever pops out and quickens you.

7. FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN THE SONG OF SONGS: (I realize this might be too challenging for those who have not studied The Song — but feel free to give is a good try — I think it is fascinating.)

 Why is The Song of Song’s Solomon’s song? It mystifies us that God would choose a man with 700 wives to be the representative of the faithful Bridegroom. I am convinced that it has to do with his association with the temple. God chose Solomon, a man of peace, to build this beautiful temple where man could enter into intimacy with God. Read this from Ellen Davis:

Look behind the Temple building itself to the spiritual reality for which it stands. The Song of Songs points to the possibility of an intimate encounter with God in this world. More than that, it attests that such an encounter is necessary for a truly human life in this world. …The incarnation of God in Jesus Christ affirms the same spiritual reality. Indeed, as the Gospel of John shows, there is a sense in which the body of Jesus is the Temple, that is the body of Jesus represents the physical presence of God in this world.

Her commentary gathers overwhelming evidence throughout the Song. But for those of you who studied, with us, simply read the following few descriptions of the Temple and see if you can find a parallel in The Song of Songs:

A. 1 Kings 6:8 and The Song 1:17

B. 1 Kings 6:29 and The Song 2:3

C. 1 Kings 7:18-19 and The Song 4:13-14

There is so much more — but that is a taste. The Temple was made to look in many ways like a garden and The Song is a garden. Ellen Davis writes:

“The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s” — could this title be phrased specifically to evoke in our minds Solomon’s other “superlative achievement,” that place of ultimate sanctity and deepest awe? Further, perhaps the title suggests that the Song is one way of entering that holy place — even, the only way.

8. What thoughts do you have on the above? What do you think about her comment “perhaps The Song shows us the only way to enter the presence of God?”

Thursday/Friday (By popular demand — a Keller sermon — and one of my ten favorites!)

(You may already have purchased it if you have been with us for a while)

Myth Became Fact. It is 2.50 but worth every penny: Link

9. Listen and share your comments.


10. What’s your take-a-way and why?

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  1. 9. Listen and share your comments. I haven’t been able to listen to the last little bit of it due to problems with my redeemer account and Elizabeth took great notes so I won’t add much.
    The reminder of what God’s presence truly is (not cozy as our society has sensationalized it) was good. I so appreciate Tim Keller’s way of articulating things into vivid word pictures so that understanding comes more deeply. All legends have a king/master – and we try to be our own master. We pull up our roots from the very soil that would nurture us in order to be our own master which, obviously, is destructive and doesn’t work.
    I also was provoked to thought when he said “we struggle to get to God, but then we struggle to get away from God.” Because, as Elizabeth said, with our current centers it is uncomfortable and we can’t understand until we align with God’s center: holiness and righteousness.

    1. I have been having problems with my Redeemer account as well. It won’t let me log in so I can’t buy Keller’s sermon. I haven’t had time to call their line and deal with it.
      We have hope that our guest will be able to get into a respite bed at a special care home by tomorrow. We are expecting a huge storm on Sunday so I hope she can be out of this house before our access ramp is snowed under.

  2. 7. simply read the following few descriptions of the Temple and see if you can find a parallel in The Song of Songs:
    A. 1 Kings 6:8 and The Song 1:17
    WOW..the beams of Cedars are both in the Temple and in Song of Songs when He says the beams of our house are Cedars.
    B. 1 Kings 6:29 and The Song 2:3
    This one I am not seeing as clearly. She delights to sit in His shade-and in the temple Solomon carved Palm trees-The tree she sits under in song of songs is an apple tree and she tastes it’s fruit comparing that to Jesus- the correlation in 1 Kings is a Palm tree.
    C. 1 Kings 7:18-19 and The Song 4:13-14
    Her plants were an orchard of Pomegranates in Song of Songs. Solomon made pomegranets in two rows decorating the capitals on top of the pillars in 1 Kings. What is REALLY cool is that the capitals on top of the pillars in the portico were in the shape of lilies! So the pomegranates were decorating the Capitals which were in the shape of Lilies! He uses Lilies and pomegranates to describe her-and she says in Song of songs 6 that he gathers lilies and feeds among the lilies.
    What I am really seeing here is that in the song of songs He refers to their house as ‘ours’, so there is a one-ness. She is in His temple with Him-He is the Temple and she dwells with Him..so we are walking tabernacles because He dwells in us via the Holy Spirit-we are one with Him.

  3. 5. How does believing that Jesus is God, that He has always been, that He is very God of very God, impact how you live your life today?
    Well, if Jesus was just a good example of a man, or just a prophet, then when He died, He would be dead – and powerless. I could not be in a “relationship” with Him, I could not talk to Him, pray to Him, and there would not be much point in reading the Bible except to maybe feel better by reading some nice stories. This blog/study would be pointless, too. But believing that He is God – I know Who to give all the praise and honor to – it belongs to Him. I know that ultimately I am accountable to Him because He is God. I know that He does have a plan that was set in motion way back in eternity past, and He will never go away and leave us. I always liked what Keller said, “Everything is moving headlong into His lap”. Because He is God, I can have hope. Because He is God, only He has the power to forgive sins and to save.

  4. For those having trouble with their redeemer acct, try deleting your “cookies” and then logging in. I had the same issue last week and that solved it for me–hope that helps!

    1. Will try it! Thanks, Elizabeth. 
      Diane, I do hope it works out so that you get some respite! May your blessing to her bring fruit in both your lives. 

  5. I just want to thank all of you who prayed for Marilyn, our house guest. We have been notified that she can move to the Special Care Home tomorrow. When the social worker came to evaluate her on Wednesday, she was a real sweet person who had really advocated for Marilyn. The doctor, who was being uncooperative, agreed to send the paperwork to the social worker on Monday so things could move forward.  Then the social worker moved quickly today to get her in tomorrow. I am sure your prayers were heard. Having Marilyn here has been a very interesting experience. It really pushed me, but I feel it has been a good learning experience. 

    1. oh Diane–I am thankful to hear this! I know her time with you will always be a special blessing to her, but I am thankful she can get the care she needs, and you can have peace in that, definitely heard our prayers!

    2. I pray that it all goes well today.

    3. So good to hear — checking to see if she did get moved to Special Care Home.

  6. 8. What thoughts do you have on the above? What do you think about her comment “perhaps The Song shows us the only way to enter the presence of God?”
    I loved it. We tend to go in and out of idolatry daily and so we part company with Him, yet we long for Him at the same time, and have times of great intimacy too- kind of like the Shulamite maiden not wanting to get out of bed yet inwardly she does..so it isn’t that we ‘lose’ Him, He is with us-we are His and there was nothing we could to do attain that and nothing we can do to lose it. When we are in bed with our idols He withdraws in fellowship because that is what we wanted but we still yearn for Him because we are His. 
    I think the Song of Songs pulls us out of bed and back into company with Him-for some of us this is daily, and for some it is seasonal. This is a book not just “about” intimacy with God, but when we dive in we experience Him. 🙂 

    1. “This is a book not just ‘about’ intimacy with God, but when we dive in we experience Him.”
      Amen.  I have experienced the same. And I revel in it!

  7. Tim Keller’s sermon:
    This is it in a nutshell: “The purpose of Christianity is to show you that God is not an abstraction, or just someone to follow but someone to be beheld.”
    We can behold His Glory-behold Him- We can be deeply intimate with Him although in part here on Earth yet SO transformational-We can be in the presence of His Holiness because of the Cross! In part here on Earth-but being with Him ‘in part’ is pretty wonderful..and in full in the future, totally transformed. :)))
    So.. can I answer question #8 again? 😉 

    1. Rebecca, 🙂

  8. 6. Now read 1 John 1:1-4 and let the Sunrise from on high come to you. Share whatever pops out and quickens you.
    I get a feeling of excitement as I read this passage! I think of phrases such as “No eyes have seen God”…when Moses went up on Mt. Sinai, the people were warned not to even touch the mountain or try to come up or they would die…when Moses asked to see God, God put him in the cleft of the rock and passed by Him but Moses could not see His face. Then I read, from John, that he and the other disciples heard, and saw, and looked at, and their hands touched – God! And John is so excited to tell us about their experience because he wants us to share in this amazing fellowship and he makes it clear that it is fellowship with God the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.
    That someone can say, “I have fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus”…God is not a distant, remote, uninvolved deity. And I am invited to join this fellowship, too. “So that you also may have fellowship with us” tells me that there is room for everyone – room for me, too!

  9. Hi ladies! Celebrating my oldest sons graduation from college this weekend, so traveling and having a hard time finding time alone to blog. I wanted you to know that the doctor visit went well and we have decided to run the genetic test that will give me a very good idea of whether the cancer will recurr or not. The hardest part is the waiting….I have until January 2. So now the prayer is for a low Oncotype DX score. Thank you for your prayers sisters!

    1. Congratulations, Laura, on your son’s accomplishment! I think it is wise you are having the genetic testing done, too. I will keep praying. I do hope your travel isn’t affected by the snow storms.

  10. 7.
    A. 1 Kings 6:8 and The Song 1:17 – I think it should be 1 Kings 6:9 (?) which says that he roofed the temple with beams and cedar planks. Then in SOS, the King says, “The beams of our house are cedars, our rafters are firs.”
    B. 1 Kings 6:29 and The Song 2:3 – the temple is described as having cherubim, palm trees and open flowers carved on the walls. So the palm trees and flowers-kind of an outdoor-nature feel. In SOS, she says that He is like an apple tree among the trees of the forest and she delights to sit in his shade and his fruit is sweet to her taste.
    Hmm…I guess from both I am seeing a description of living things in bloom – trees, open flowers, fruit. (It’s definitely not winter)
    C. 1 Kings 7:18-19 and The Song 4:13-14 – in 1 Kings I see that pomegranates and lilies were used to decorate the pillars. The Bride is described in SOS as a garden having an orchard of pomegranates.
    Rebecca’s post was very helpful to me as she caught the “oneness” – Him referring to their house as “ours”. So the temple, when it was built, was God’s house but there was still a separation – the curtain – no access. In Song of Songs it is like the temple but they are sharing it together – no more separation. Makes me also think of the words of Paul, “Do you not know that your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit?”

    1. Susan, I think you stumbled upon a meaning when you said ” in 1 Kings I see that pomegranates and lilies were used to decorate the pillars. The Bride is described in SOS as a garden having an orchard of pomegranates.” The Bride is the temple. I am seeing question 7 much more clearly now after Rebecca’s post and yours.

    2. Love this, Susan.

      Makes me also think of the words of Paul, “Do you not know that your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit?”

      Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. And, therefore, because the temple had strong recurring garden imagery as did the Song of Songs. We are also God’s garden, His life is in us. I love that idea that I am a beautiful garden to revel in and enjoy with my Lord. Shade trees, vines of ripe grapes, pomegranates, olive trees — and the beauty of Jesus’ presence with us, enjoying Him. 
      And this further reminds me of the Garden of Eden before the Fall (perfect fellowship with God) and the garden restored in Revelations. How wonderfully it all ties together. Right now, my garden has foxes that attempt to destroy the garden, but, in heaven, no foxes and Jesus will be fully present with nothing to hide Him from us. 

      1. Diane, I’m really liking your post, too…thinking that “we are also God’s garden, His life is in us. I love the idea that I am a beautiful garden to revel in and enjoy with my Lord.” So much shadowy imagery – so hard for my small mind to grasp and understand…like a 2 year old trying to understand calculus:))
        But the temple made by human hands in the Old Testament…then these pictures in Song of Songs and the verses in the New Testament…God, it seems, has ‘brought the temple to us’ in a mysterious way that we are temples where He dwells by His Spirit…but the mind-boggling thing is that it isn’t visible with our eyes…just like we can’t see the Holy Spirit or our spirits…but then there is visible fruit, like when we turn to His power to say no to a sin, or react with forgiveness instead of bitterness.

  11. 10. What’s your take-a-way and why? I continue to be convicted to reclaim the reverence and focus of Christmas for myself and then also for my family. I am looking forward to a Christmas feasting with Christ, truly celebrating His presence in my life as well as on this earth. Just as we love God for who He is and not for what He gives us, I will now celebrate Christmas for what it is instead of what it can give me. I have always loved Christmas time but my Christmas this year will look very different than Christmases in the past up in the North. This year: no snow (oh how I relish freshly fallen snow and its symbolism), no extended family, no parties with friends, etc., etc. I do not say all that to complain, merely to demonstrate that Christmas is still Christmas, a reverent remembrance of when God sent His Son to the Earth to, in Sally Lloyd-Jones’ words, begin His rescue plan. I was trying to come up with ways to “make Christmas special” (perhaps a control idol?) but it already is special. I am still going to start some (hopefully) sweet traditions with my boys to make Christmas special and to emphasize Christ, but I can already see my heart is different and I pray theirs will be, too.
    Along that vein I found this video this morning that I thought was lovely.

    1. Beautiful version of Hallelujah, jillwithaj.

    2. Jill, this post encouraged me so. He has given you such a tender spirit. 

  12. Dee, Came on now to ask about your speaking this morning. Praying for a safe trip home for you.

    1. Renee, from what she told me it went great..but  looking forward to more detail when she gets on the blog! 🙂  She drove home in the snow yesterday-Yikes! So I hope she got home okay! 

  13. Just wanted to let you all know (and especially Renee, who asked). We moved Marilyn into the special care home this morning. It was a little traumatic for Marilyn, especially when they immediately confiscated all her meds (I know they have to) and didn’t give her the blood pressure pill which she normally takes late morning and was due. It was even a bit traumatic for me, wondering if she would be OK in that place — feeling a bit like I was abandoning her, feeling protective of her, even though I didn’t know Marilyn well before last week. She has been through a lot this last six weeks — losing her home, having her husband rushed to the hospital in critical condition (a brain bleed requiring surgery), staying with friends and then with us (whom she hardly knew except through her husband). I think she trusted us because we were the pastor and wife. Marilyn hadn’t been attending church for several years due to mobility and other issues. From what we hear, she had isolated herself from almost everyone and had become a hoarder. Her husband had been looking after her. We know that she has some mental health issues, though she is quite intelligent. We found out she is only 67 years old. She looks and acts much older. It is sad, really. 
    We had a bit of an adventure getting her there. Normally, to get to the village where the home is, the shortest route for us is to go across the St. John river by ferry.  (One of the few still operating in the province.) This morning all the signs showed that the ferry WAS operating, but when we got there the river was quite iced up due to the deep cold we have had over the last several days and the ferry didn’t come start across. We waited across thinking they were just busy with a back hoe on the other shore. Then it started across the river towards us, stopped part way and went back. We ended up waiting at least 15 minutes waiting for the ferry and had to do the half hour drive around the other way to cross the river by bridge. Marilyn was quite anxious to get there as she is diabetic and really needed to pee. 🙂
    Anyway, all is well, I hope. Thanks so much for your prayers. I was definitely out of my comfort zone, but am aware that home care for the seniors is a major need in our area. 

    1. Thankful that Marilyn was placed where she will get the fulltime care she needs! Any word on how her husband is recovering?

    2. Wow Diane, how hard that was on both Marilyn and you. I am sure Marilyn was scared but once she settles in perhaps things will get better and she will get used to a new normal and it is great that she will get the care she needs. It was wonderful for you all to have helped her!

  14. 8. What thoughts do you have on the above? What do you think about her comment “perhaps the Song shows us the only way to enter the presence of God?”
    The temple was made in many ways to look like a gardenI skimmed over the building of the temple in 1 Kings because I wanted to see if it was God who gave detailed instructions as to how He wanted it built (like He gave Moses detailed instructions of how to build the sanctuary) but from what I read, there were no instructions from God; however, Solomon had asked God for wisdom and discernment when God gave him the chance to ask for anything he wanted, and this pleased God so that He said, “I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you nor will there ever be.” So armed with this wisdom, Solomon built the Temple. I am thinking that all the vision and creativity and talent needed to accomplish this great task was God-given.
    The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s was it Mike Reeve’s in one of his talks who said that the Jewish people also refer to it as “The Holy of Holies”? Song of Songs used to be one of the most preached-on books in the Bible…it seems to be so clearly tied to Solomon’s greatest achievement, building the Temple for His God. This thought is running through my mind – that when a Jewish man and woman were engaged to be married, he would be away preparing their home and then come and get her when all was ready. Solomon was preparing a magnificent place for the Lord to dwell in.
    Perhaps the title suggests that the Song is one way of entering that holy place – even, the only way – one verse from Songs that immediately comes to mind is “He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.” How can we ever hope to enter that holy place where we may dwell with God unless, and only, if He comes to get us? He must rescue us first, declare that we are His, and then He takes us as His Bride and we may enter at His side.
    Also, the entire book of Songs is about an intimate, loving relationship. It’s not a book of The Law, giving us a list of what we must do, achieve, to somehow earn our way in. We don’t get to enter into the most holy place of abiding with Him by rules and regulations or self effort. All throughout the book, He pursues her…knocking at her door, calling her out of the cleft in the rock, telling her she is beautiful.

  15. Okay…this just ‘knocked my socks off’…another thought…in Solomon’s day, to approach God in the Temple you did have to follow instructions, rules, and regulations. The sacrificial system was incredibly elaborate and detailed and you had better follow the rules to the minutest detail because to approach God in the wrong way meant death! So…how in the world did Solomon “see” past that to the day when that whole system would be done away with? When God would become “approachable”…this picture of a bridegroom and his bride enjoying mutual love?

    1. Susan-What a great thought! your thought screams even more that the Song of Songs is totally inspired by God.