Category Archives: Christmas

The Gift

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor,Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen

This passage from Isaiah 9:6-7 was written thousands of years before that blessed day when The Messiah was born to the virgin, Mary. Centuries later we still celebrate with joy His birth, death, resurrection, ascension and present authority in all heaven and earth.

He Is Lord and one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess to the truth of His sovereign reign and absolute power of His Name.

Oh Come Let Us Adore Him…

Christ The Lord!

Merry Christmas!

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The Wonder of Music!

My wife absolutely L O V E S  Christmas. It is her favorite holiday and she cherishes it more than her own birthday – perhaps even our anniversary, but I’m afraid to ask…

The fact is that she will spend the entire season playing holiday music in her car and at home, practically non-stop. Obviously, as we decorated the tree and began to light up our house, she switched to that nauseating 24/7 station that begins to choke you with sleigh bells and every other conceivable lyrical concept that have completey no thing to do with The Savior’s birth. With the exception of a few recognizable traditional favorites, those artists that came closest to the reason to celebrate seemed, in my opinion, to only be pimping Jesus for airplay.

I remained silent. I love my beautiful wife. She was humming along while placing the ornaments on what was turning into a marvelous display and hanging the girls’ stockings about the fireplace. I coughed a few times and stifled a groan or two, but I began thinking about how God originally utilized the gift of song as a backdrop to the entire narrative surrounding the conception and birth of His Son and I became more engaged and intrigued, in spite of what was blaring through the speakers.

The Gospel of Luke, Chapter One records the song Mary sang to her expectant cousin Elizabeth, soon to be mother of John The Baptist and she, a virgin, carrying The Messiah in her womb. In Chapter Two, Angels appear to the shepherds in the field singing “Peace on Earth & Goodwill toward Men!” the shepherds go into Bethlehem to praise God and worship The King, no doubt humming, whistling, singing with joy! Matthew’s gospel reveals rejoicing and worship of the Wise Men to the toddling King!

God took great care that the Wonder of Music, Laughter and Singing comprised the soundtrack of the glorius prophecy fulfilled in Isaiah 9:6-7:

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

What a Wonderful Reason to Dance & Sing!

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You Are The Gift

During this Season of Celebration & Glad Tidings, we are mindful of those who have suffered tremendous personal loss and tragedy. We don’t try to sugarcoat reality with soft niceties and extended smiles which do nothing to soothe the pain. We Mourn with those who Mourn.

Life teaches us that at any moment, all we presently know and cling to can change in an instant. No One is exempt. The lesson is that each moment is precious, that tomorrow is not promised and that how we spend each moment is of the utmost importance. Life extends to us an opportunity to present what we have been given to express and share. For each one of us is a gift.
Be it our personality, perspective or performance. Our educational, creative and/or spirit gifts were never meant to remain internalized, but to be Given Away. It’s always Others who benefit from our God given talents and abilities. We study, develop, practice, discipline our objectives and hone our skills so that someone else reaps the enrichment of our sacrifice.
Whenever we encounter someone experiencing a hardship, we should acknowledge that we have been equipped with the ability to help soften the blow. Whether or not we have our instruments with us. We are musicians and musicians are the carriers of hope – of life – of light. We are the containers of the possibilities of what could be, even when what we see bears very little resemblance. We can change an emotion with one chord and with say, a five chord progression, spark a degree of inspiration where there was once despair.
We Are A Gift.
You have the Power to Change The World. You are hardwired to make incredible differences in your surroundings. You are uniquely designed to alter destinies. You Are The Gift.
You can fan fresh fires of innovation, create melodies that last for generations, produce rhythms which stretch theories, challenge mores and spark revolutions. You truly are the Gift.
I challenge you today to begin thinking of yourself as a gift. Be it to another, your particular society, networking channel or the world. I promise that the more you see yourself as such, the more you will be able to see and embrace opportunities to share what you’ve been blessed to give!
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Merry Original Christmas!

On This Wonderful Christmas Day as I celebrate my Savior’s Birth with my incredible family, I just wanted to pause to wish you and yours a glorious day!

As a Man & Pastor who is very intentional about respecting the faiths and belief systems of others, today is the one day I insist that the Original Intent of Christmas be given the proper honor and respect it deserves. For God So Loved the World that He gave His Only Begotten Son, so that whosoever would believe and trust in Him would have Eternal Life. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him, the world might be Saved.

We celebrate this great day because God’s Son was born of a Virgin, the teenaged Mary, who although engaged to a young Joseph, had not known him intimately. The situation was so extraordinary, they both had to be convinced by an Angel that this was indeed God’s purpose. The promised baby was born according to this Holy plan and yet because there was no room available at the inn, The King of the Universe came into this world in a filthy stable, surrounded by salivating animals and manure. Nearby, shepherds learned of this wondrous birth through a choir of angels. Later, three wise men would follow a star to herald His arrival. When they found the toddler King, they presented Him with costly gifts – from which we adopted the exchange of presents during this season.

This Holy Boy, Jesus, grew in Favor with God and Man. He went about accomplishing His Original Purpose. He performed many miracles. He healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind and ears of the deaf and even raised the dead!

Jesus foretold of His own death, which would be the absolute and only acceptable substitute to cleanse us of our sins and place us in right standing with God, securing an eternal life with Him. He was later crucified on a cross as He foretold and scripture predicted.

Jesus also promised to raise Himself from the dead, after three days, also according to foretold scriptures.

Impenetrable Facts and Unswerving testimonies from many eyewitness not only confirmed that He did, but many even gave their own lives based on this truth. Others became tireless witnesses who helped spread the message of this Savior; some performing signs, miracles and wonders in His Name.

As Jesus promised He would one day come back for all of His followers, we who remain are absolutely convinced that He Will return and that He IS exactly who He said He IS: The Way, The Truth and The Life. The Messiah. God’s Holy Anointed One. King Forever.

Although many Christians throughout history, myself included, have done and said stupid things to misrepresent, distort and often distract from the basic Love of God and the ministry of Jesus, it does NOT erase the fact that He was born a King who died to save, yet lives forever! The entire world acknowledges His Birth and pauses annually to celebrate this miracle.

With each passing year, there is more pressure to turn away from and call this day, this season, something other than Christmas. Merchants have convinced us that the priorities are the presents and not His Presence. But we shall celebrate all the more, not defensively, but rather, with joy in our hearts and arms open wide to invite everyone to receive this Christ, who has literally changed our lives.

May you have the warmest, loveliest, most joyful Christmas Ever!

Jere B

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Tis the Season of enjoying the merriment of wonderful Christmas music! Yet somehow as we wander thru the maze of perceived sales, picking thru the circulars of what should be on the shelves, we can get a little dizzy listening to the same playlist of muzak themed endorsements circa 1958.


It’s always refreshing to find new approaches to traditional holiday melodies that resonate the true spirit of the season. Today, I introduce three CDs from two artists with future household names. This music is both profound and engaging. They have become my favorite choices in the car and around the tree as Lori, our daughters and I sip hot chocolate and decorate everything in sight!
Phillip K Jones II has released two very different and distinct Christmas discs which are an extension of his musical personality. As a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory, PKJ is extremely prolific in the depths of jazz. Also being a Praise and Worship leader who grew up as an organist / director in his dad’s church, Phil’s choir enraptures a hearty Christmas, with sensational jazz sensibilities.
His first holiday release, appropriately titled “The Meaning of Christmas,”  begins with the sterling’What Child is This‘ featuring exceptional saxophonist, Diego Rivera and proceeds to reconstruct the passion of the most sacred traditional favorites like ‘We Three Kings,’  ‘O Holy Night,’  ‘Angels, We Have Heard on High’ and ‘O Come, Emmanuel’ as well as the popular  ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ and ‘Carol of the Bells’  which features former SounDoctrine sideman, Keith McKelley, who released his own holiday project last year. ‘Hark, The Herald Angels Sing,’ the lone choral selection is a sparkling rendition of the classic, oddly reminiscent of the Andrew Sisters for the new school!
This 2008 release features the multitalented Jones on Piano, Organ, Bass and Drums with help from Christopher Mees (Acoustic Bass) and Tony Pulitzi (Guitar). If you’re a fan of Oscar Peterson, John Coltrane or Kenny Kirkland, this is perfect music for keeping the zing in your Christmas Party!
Phil releasedCome Let Us Adore Him in 2011, utilizing the gifted voices of Cleveland choir, Fellow Worshippers.
No doubt about it, this CD takes you straight to the altar!
To prove his dexterity, the fiery pianist completely revamps the aforementioned ‘Angels’ for the wailing choir then places them in a scenic cathedral for the brimming ‘Emmanuel.’  If you’re hip to the term “Get Your Praise On!” you can’t help but do so on ‘Go Tell It On The Mountain.’ Musical disciples of Kirk Franklin & Fred Hammond will appreciate the snappy “Joy To The World’ and the original composition, ‘Angels, from the Realm of Glory.’ The CD provides many contemplative moments to bow and worship The King with ‘Lord, I Thank You,’  ‘It Came Upon A Midnight Clear’ and ‘Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne.’ 
This thrill packed set displays the prowess of anointed, faith filled, expert musicianship, superb production and a choir perfectly comfortable balancing the acrobatic tightrope of jazzy syncopation and the power of pentecost!
Serene, reflective and meditative are a few of the words that come to mind when I put on Jim Couchenour’s (pronounced Coke-In_Hour) “Quiet Canvas Christmas.” You will need: a) a fireplace; b) warm pajamas and c) lots of cocoa!
This third component to Jim’s ethereal Quiet Canvas series is all about slowing life down a few notches and how much more so during the often hectic Christmas season when, instead of satisfying the merchants’ marketing whims, we should all be calm, patient and graceful. The very first notes of ‘Carol of the Bells’  begins the descent and transitions us from the bustling workday to a soothing ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’
Couchenour’s solo piano on ‘White Christmas,’ string laden ‘Silent Night in 5ths’ and ‘In the Bleak Mid Winter’ caresses your spirit and helps keep the joy of the season in perspective. Creating a little fun with ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Jingle’  and ‘Yuletide Medley,’  Jim skips through holiday favorites with the radiance of carolers outside your door. ‘God Rest You Merry Gentlemen’ is performed with such honor and finesse, it may become the new standard. The original ‘Still With Us’ showcases his singing, which is equally as laid back as his piano.  
QC Christmasis the quintessential evidence that faith, family, friends and fellowship are the four cornerstones of Christmas. Repeated listening of this masterful work creates a wondrous atmosphere of enlightenment that will shine in every heart that listens. Fans of George Winston & Jim Brickman will feel right at home with this disc in your collection.
I am honored to be able to call both of these gentlemen true friends, that they are also fellow Niayana Recording Artists and that their music is touching lives around the world. 
You can still purchase multiple copies of these CDs in time to give as stocking stuffers or download into your media players to chill you out as you prepare for the wonder of this holy advent season.
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