My Rejected Devotional: “Adam Lay Ybounden” (That’s a real song.)

At first they assigned me “Adam Lay Ybounden” for my advent devotional. I assumed they wouldn’t like what I did with it, so I sent them my rough draft and offered to take a different song assignment. I was right…18 minutes later they gave me “Carol of the Bells.” I’m still laughing.

Personally, I liked my original. Here’s the hymn and my rough draft.

Hymn:

Adam lay ybounden,
bounden in a bond,
Four thousand winter
thought he not too long;
And al was for an apple,
an apple that he took,
As clerkes finden writen,
writen in hire book.
Ne hadde the apple taken been,
the apple taken been,
Ne hadde nevere Oure Lady
ybeen hevene Queen.
Blessed be the time
that apple taken was:
Therefore we mown singen
Deo Grattias.

My rejected devotional:

Listen, I grew up at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Texico, New Mexico. I’ve moved away, but my dad is still the pastor there. We still have prayer meeting on Wednesday nights, and we move it an hour later in the summer so the farmers can use all the daylight. I bet you fifty bucks this one isn’t in the Baptist hymnal we still use. Ybounden isn’t even a word, is it?

Can I, a twenty-first century Evangelical Christian, find any value in this fifteenth century Catholic hymn from a British minstrel?

First, every preacher I know would be quick to point out, “We don’t know it was an apple!” That’s what we do. Second, we would protest that the Bible never calls Mary “Heaven’s queen.” Sounds too Catholic. Are we supposed to pray to her next?

The biggest obstacle to this 4-H preacher is the idea that we would bless “the time that apple taken was.” We curse the time the apple taken was. No sin is blessed, much less that sin which caused the fall of mankind.

Yet, like C.S. Lewis, I can find it in my heart to bless the God who made it possible for man to fall so far. The idea of Felix Culpa (blessed fall) may have made sense to Thomas Aquinas, but the fall didn’t result in the murder of Aquinas’ son as it did with Adam and Eve.

Lewis put it this way: “The better stuff a creature is made of—the cleverer and stronger and freer it is—then the better it will be if it goes right, but also the worse it will be if it goes wrong.”

“Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently He thought it worth the risk.”

Like me and my friends at Pleasant Hill, the minstrel who wrote this song didn’t have all of his theology straight. He was probably too susceptible to the influence of some popular preacher of his day. But I think I have this in common with him. We are both struck by something profoundly beautiful and ironic in the redemption story. This world has potential for grievous, unspeakable evil, but God’s plan is vast enough to include even the fruit thief who sold out the planet.

That fifteenth century minstrel did what people do when they see something beautiful and mysterious. He wrote a song about it.

God’s plan is big enough that even Adam’s sin is swallowed up in the story. And that’s good news because I know another fruit thief who is given to selling out the world for a bite of apple.

If you’d like to read the devotional that was not rejected, click here.

It’s just as inspiring, but less…ughhhh…rejectable. Here’s a quote:

What kind of woman entrusts a song as magnificent as “Carol of the Bells” to a dozen west Texas farm kids?

A saint. That’s what kind of woman.

http://www.dbu.edu/advent/841-the-beauty-of-christ-s-birth-and-the-carol-of-the-bells

Jesus’ Birth is Good News for the Humble, Luke 1:26–56

Good News for the Humble CoverLesson Overview

This is lesson 2 of 4 in the Good News for the Humble series, a Christmas and New Year’s study of Luke 1–2.

  • Main Point of the Passage: Mary responded with humility when she learned that she would be the mother of Jesus.
  • Main Point of the Lesson: Jesus’ coming is good news for the humble.
  • Main Application of the Lesson: Participants will recognize their humble state before God and praise him for his mercy.
  • Key Verse: Luke 1:46–48, CSB “And Mary said: My soul praises the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, because he has looked with favor on the humble condition of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed…”

Preparation

Leader Preparation

To prepare for this lesson, write your own answers to each of the questions below. You will share some of your answers with the group, but make it your goal to talk less than 20% of the Bible study time. Ask the questions, listen to your group, and let them carry the Bible study. You’ll be amazed.

Optional Homework

If you plan to use the optional homework, you’ll need two or three volunteers each week. A few days before your Bible study, choose two volunteers and give each of them one of the following assignments. Tell them you’d like them to take 3-5 minutes to share their work with the group.

Discussion Questions

Once everyone in your group is sitting in a circle, say, “Here’s the first question. Everyone answers the first question, and it’s just for fun.” Then read the first question, pause, and listen to your group’s answers.

Smile Question: What’s your most likely reaction when somebody scares or surprises you?



Share Question: What would have been scary about being the mother of Jesus?



Introduce the Passage:  Jesus’ coming is good news for the humble. In Luke 1:26–56, Mary responded with humility when she learned that she would be the mother of Jesus.

  • Optional: If you’re using the optional homework, have a member of your group either recite the passage from memory or give a detailed summary of the passage from memory.
  • Optional: Have a member of your group present their word study on the following word(s):
    • “Humble” in Luke 1:48

Study Question: As we read this passage, let’s list answers to this question: What was humble about Mary’s circumstances or her response?

Possible answers include:

  • She was from a humble town (v. 26)
  • Her response to the angel was fear (v. 29-30)
  • She called herself the Lord’s slave (v. 38)
  • She submitted to God (v. 38)
  • She praised God (v. 46)
  • She acknowledged her humble position (v. 48)
  • She acknowledged her need for God’s mercy (v. 50)



Connect-the-Dots Question: Why is Jesus’ coming especially good news for the humble?




Count-the-Cost Question: Tell about a time you experienced the type of pride that creates a barrier between you and God.




Let’s-Do-It Question: What would it mean for you to respond with humility to the story of Jesus?




Prayer: Father, thank you for showing mercy to your servants. Give us the humility to recognize our need for you and praise you for showing your favor to us. Amen.

Optional homework for next time: After your group discussion and prayer, distribute the following pages to volunteers in preparation for your next Bible study.

Jesus’ Birth is Good News for the Repentant, Luke 1:1–25, 57–80

Good News for the Humble CoverLesson Overview

This is lesson 1 of 4 in the Good News for the Humble series, a Christmas and New Year’s study of Luke 1–2.

  • Main Point of the Passage: God sent Zechariah and Elizabeth a son named John to prepare the way for Jesus by giving God’s people the knowledge of salvation.
  • Main Point of the Lesson: Jesus’ coming is good news because he brings forgiveness of sins to those who repent.
  • Main Application of the Lesson: Participants will repent of their sins from the heart.
  • Key Verse:  Luke 1:76-77, CSB, “And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.”

Preparation

Leader Preparation

To prepare for this lesson, write your own answers to each of the questions below. You will share some of your answers with the group, but make it your goal to talk less than 20% of the Bible study time. Ask the questions, listen to your group, and let them carry the Bible study. You’ll be amazed.

Optional Homework

If you plan to use the optional homework, you’ll need two or three volunteers each week. A few days before your Bible study, choose two volunteers and give each of them one of the following assignments. Tell them you’d like them to take 3-5 minutes to share their work with the group.

Discussion Questions

Once everyone in your group is sitting in a circle, say, “Here’s the first question. Everyone answers the first question, and it’s just for fun.” Then read the first question, pause, and listen to your group’s answers.

Smile Question: What is one of your family’s unique Christmas traditions?


 


 

Share Question: Imagine you were an Israelite living in Jesus’ time. What aspects of his birth would have surprised you?


 


Introduce the Passage:  Jesus’ coming is good news because he brings forgiveness of sins to those who repent. In Luke chapter one, God sent Zechariah and Elizabeth a son named John who was to prepare the way for Jesus by giving God’s people the knowledge of salvation.

  • Optional: If you’re using the optional homework, have a member of your group either recite the passage from memory or give a detailed summary of the passage from memory.
  • Optional: Have a member of your group present their word study on the following word(s):
    • “Salvation” in Luke 1:77

Study Question: As we read verses 1–25 and 57–80, let’s list clues about the nature of the salvation John will announce.

Possible answers include:

  • It will be a source of joy (v. 14)
  • It will turn people to the Lord (v. 16)
  • It will change people’s hearts for the better (v. 17)
  • It will bring redemption for God’s people (v. 68)
  • It will fulfil ancient prophecy (v. 70)
  • It will bring salvation from enemies (v. 71)
  • It will be an act of God’s mercy (v. 72)
  • It will fulfil God’s covenant with his people (v. 72-73)
  • It will allow us to serve God without fear (v. 74)
  • It will enable us to live in holiness and righteousness (v. 75)
  • It will allow us to live in God’s presence (v. 75)
  • It will bring forgiveness of sins (v. 77)
  • It will be because of God’s merciful compassion (v. 78)
  • It will bring light to those in darkness (v. 79)
  • It will guide our feet in the way of peace (v. 79)

 


 


Connect-the-Dots Question: One of the basic teachings of Christianity is that no one can achieve righteousness because of what they’ve done. Read Luke 1:6 again. Why do you think Luke said this about Zechariah and Elizabeth?


 



Count-the-Cost Question: John’s message was “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). What might an upright person like Zechariah have to repent of?


 


 


Let’s-Do-It Question: Has today’s lesson brought to mind a sin that you need to repent of or a relationship you need to restore?


 


Prayer: Father, thank you for giving your people the hope of salvation through the forgiveness of our sins. Your kindness leads us to repentance. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Optional homework for next time: After your group discussion and prayer, distribute the following pages to volunteers in preparation for your next Bible study.