Comfort, Comfort Ye My People

From First Thoughts

There is perhaps no biblical passage that more breathes the spirit of Advent than Isaiah 40:1-8, which, after the destruction predicted earlier in the book, suddenly and unexpectedly promises comfort to the people of Israel, who have gone through generations of exile in Babylon. So unexpected is . . . . Continue Reading »

Hannah’s song, Mary’s Magnificat

From First Thoughts

It would take too long to list the myriad composers who have set to music the Magnificat of Mary, as found in Luke 1:46-55. J. S. Bach’s is perhaps the best known of the baroque settings, while, of the modern English-language versifications, Timothy Dudley-Smith’s Tell Out My Soul . . . . Continue Reading »

Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying

From First Thoughts

I would love for our churches to sing Advent hymns all year round. Why? Because they convey the aching sense of longing that all of us Christians have as we continue to live between the times. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it,Advent is a time of waiting. Our whole life, however, is Advent — that . . . . Continue Reading »

Veni Redemptor gentium

From First Thoughts

Some of my favourite hymns are Advent hymns. No, not the Christmas songs that fill the malls and airwaves around this time of year, but the Advent hymns that fill us with a sense of expectation at both comings of the Messiah. One of the very best has to be Saviour of the Nations, Come. The Latin . . . . Continue Reading »

Faith-based hiring: news not so bad

From First Thoughts

My friend Stanley Carlson-Thies was for a long time associated with the Center for Public Justice in Annapolis, Maryland, and served in the Bush White House in 2001-2 in the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Now he is leading the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance (IRFA), whose . . . . Continue Reading »

Grateful: a daughter’s blessing

From First Thoughts

Because God is the author of the entire creation, it is difficult to know where to start in offering thanksgiving for the many discrete blessings he has given us. I could run through any number of things for which I am grateful, but probably the greatest is my daughter, Theresa, who just turned . . . . Continue Reading »

The gospel for all of life

From First Thoughts

As Christians we confess with our hearts that our salvation is in Christ. More to the point, we acknowledge that God became man in Jesus, lived a sinless life on earth, suffered and died on the cross under the burden of our sins, and rose victorious from the grave. He ascended to the Father and has . . . . Continue Reading »

Singing the psalms

From First Thoughts

Nearly 25 years ago I made a discovery that would change my life profoundly, especially as it relates to the worship of God. While visiting Prague in 1976 I had purchased a copy of a Czech hymnal published in 1900 that contains the 150 Psalms in metre and some 350 hymns. But it was not until the . . . . Continue Reading »

Baptist brothers?

From First Thoughts

I have recently noticed the uncanny physical (though by no means ideological) resemblance between these two Baptist preachers, John Piper, of Desiring God Ministries, and the late Tommy Douglas, the father of Canadian medicare and the first leader of Canada’s socialist New Democratic Party. . . . . Continue Reading »