This post was written two years ago and I still love it. Yes, let’s practice together. 

My favorite Christmas Carol is “We Three Kings.” Between the beautiful tune and the lyrics poetically telling why each gift is important, it is the only song I’d sing for my students in China. I’d make them all look at the lyrics saying I couldn’t sing if they were looking at me.

I have a new reason to love this song. My seven year old niece was in a Nativity play this year (OK, with me and her sisters) and she insisted on singing the line, “Frankincense to offer have I, incense owns a deity nigh.”

This line is now seared into my soul.


Through tears of frustration she admitted (aka screamed at us) she had no idea what many of the words meant so how could she ever memorize it?! Um, precisely. This is why we all wanted her to sing the line, “Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain, gold I bring to crown him again.” But no, she wouldn’t have it. Would. Not. Have. It.

There were whispered practices in the bathroom with her sisters (whispered because this was to be a surprise performance). Whispered practices at meal times when in the hubbub she’d put her little face in mine and say, “Let’s practice, Frankincense to offer have I, incense owns a deity nigh.” Whispered practices in the car with her sisters.

She practiced and practiced to the point we can now all sing this line in our sleep.

When the moment came and she handed a candle to Joseph, she sang with utmost sincerity and accuracy the line she chose without understanding the meaning.

And can’t the same be said for us as well?

We may say we understand worship or the Holy Spirit or prayer or any number of elements of the faith, but do we? Thankfully through community and practice and, at times, screaming and tears we make progress and are able to do things that had been impossible for us.

Let’s practice together.

Behind closed doors.

In the hubbub of daily life.

As we travel.

Every now and then we’ll grab each others faces and say, “Let’s practice.” And together we’ll go over this part or that part of our faith.

We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him, even though parts of the story are beyond us.


I’d love to hear of your favorite Christmas Carol or really any thought this stirred in you :)

Photo Credit: Sheila Sund via Compfight cc



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  1. sharon December 29, 2014 at 8:16 am - Reply

    Appreciate this. so much that is not understood but, glad to have others that understand and stand with me while holding onto the promise. SD

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      Amy December 30, 2014 at 11:20 am - Reply

      And in many ways it’s freeing not to have to understand :) … and to be in process, isn’t it?

  2. Mark Allman December 29, 2014 at 9:22 am - Reply

    I think we are often so blind to that which we think we know deeply but do not. I think all our lives through we should continue to seek to find the meanings in the words we think we understand and in the ones we know we don’t understand. It is humbling to realize we may not understand something completely and humbling to know we sometimes have no clue. At the same time we can praise God that he is so awesome where we find us in this place of wonder.

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      Amy December 30, 2014 at 11:23 am - Reply

      Mark, you are so wise :)! I don’t know why or how we got on this path of using words definitively in the sense that we “know” what they mean. I’m all for study and understanding and not crying “mystery” when what we mean is “I’m too lazy to wrestle with this!” BUT I think we have lost (did we ever have it?) the value of being in process and holding mystery after wrestling. Thanks for your thoughts :)!

  3. Susan Gaines December 29, 2014 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    Insightful. For me, today, this sheds light on those who “walk away” from the faith. They knew the words, they said the words, but, did they ever really understand and grasp the words in their hearts?

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      Amy December 30, 2014 at 11:27 am - Reply

      Oh Susan, and now you have sparked the question in me … or did they encounter people who spoke too definitively and shallowly of big and mysterious things? I think those who walk away could fall into various camps :). Thanks for nudging my thoughts!

  4. Mike December 29, 2014 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    Oh Amy, you know that asking me which song is my favorite is like asking a parent which child they love more! I have so many “favorite” Christmas songs, all for different reasons:

    I like “Little Drummer Boy” because it expresses the manner that I most frequently use to most deeply worship my Lord and express my love for him – through music.

    I like “Some Children See Him” because it shows the way children all over the world see Jesus – as one of their own.

    I like “Joy To The World” because whenever I sing it, I’m celebrating the birth of my Savior. The words of this song help me to look beyond the manger, past the cross, to his victorious coming again! Yeah!!

    And, yes, I like “We Three Kings” because all those difficult-to-understand words encapsulate so well the mind-boggling concept that Jesus is our king (gold), our high priest (frankincense) and our ultimate sacrifice (myrrh). Oh, and the fact that if I’m leading worship, I get to hold out the “Oh, oh” at the beginning of the chorus as long as I want. :-)

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      Amy December 30, 2014 at 11:28 am - Reply

      Ha!!! Your last line makes me smile!

  5. Elizabeth Trotter December 29, 2014 at 10:47 pm - Reply

    Love this, yes we practice these things without knowing what we are doing or what they mean! So much of what we understand about ourselves, even, i think, we get wrong, and don’t really understand. But oooh, you asked the wrong girl, if you want a short answer on the songs question! I pretty much love all the Christmas carols, especially the ones in minor keys. What is it about minor keys that draws me so, that *feels* so much more? So We Three Kings goes in that category ;)

    O Come O Come Emmanuel and What Child is This? are two very favorites, as well as Come Thou Long Expected, Little Drummer Boy and Do You Hear What I Hear? I love the classics First Noel, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and Joy to the World. But i love them so much more if we sing ALL THE VERSES. Yes i am that crazy woman. I can’t get enough of the meaning behind the extra verses to all the hymns. We miss out on them when we only sing the first verse!!! And i won’t torture you here by writing out all my favorite verses, suffice it to say i think we find the gospel story more clearly represented in subsequent verses, and they have richer meaning. In fact, it was only this year that i discovered a love for It Came Upon a Midnight Clear — and only because of the later verses. Last year i also heard Julie Meyer’s Who Would Have Thought which is about the shepherds, and fell in love with it.

    Ok I’ll stop now on the song list!! But i do want to say that the story of the wise men meant so much more to me this Christmas season, because my husband did a whole bunch of research on the Magi to prepare for his Christmas sermon. I never thought about it before, but the Magi were pagans, probably astrologers, not in the family of Israel at all! Yet God spoke to them through signs, and their faith led them to seek, and to worship. The commentaries said that for Matthew to include the wise men in his gospel was completely counter cultural. That the Jewish people would not have taken kindly to this insinuation that people OTHER than they could be part of God’s story. Even though His desire for all nations was all over the OT! But then again, even the scholars that Herod asked about Bethlehem, they weren’t in a hurry to go see the child, even though they knew the prophecies. Just goes to show how poorly we can ALL interpret the scriptures in light of our own feelings and prejudices. Ouch, huh? But back to the wise men — isn’t it cool that God invites all people into His story??(!!!) This is a subject that makes me rather excited. But i will stop now. ;)

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      Amy December 30, 2014 at 11:39 am - Reply

      OK now I have even MORE reasons to love the Magi! I’ve share numerous times in China there is a small possibility they could be Chinese because of how technologically advanced the Chinese were at that time when it came to all things science and astrology (but it’s also small, I get that!) — and mostly to have them think outside the box that it’s not as the propaganda says (Christianity is for Westerners). It’s so stunning to think of some of the first to know were not “typical” in the family kind of folks — the shepherds (and I want to research this more for next year, unless your husband wants to do the research and just Skype with me. Ha!) were old, young, women, and overall outcasts and of low social value. So, people with no social power and then people with social power, but not OF ISRAEL. Wow. I also heard this year we have so sanitized the Christmas story and turned it into a kids story but have kept Easter the gruesome reality it was. I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently too.

      • Elizabeth Trotter December 31, 2014 at 12:09 am - Reply

        That is so interesting. I never thought about the contrast of sanitizing the Christmas story, but not the Easter story. I wonder where that came from??

  6. Teresa December 29, 2014 at 11:43 pm - Reply

    My favorite Christmas carols are Little Drummer Boy ’cause it says Jesus accepts our gifts to Him no matter how small we think it is; It Wasn’t His Child ’cause Joseph raised a son who wasn’t his own; and How Many Kings. I get tears in my eyes each time I sing the line . . How many gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that has torn all apart? When I turned my back on God and told Him I no longer wanted to be His child, He romanced me back to Himself

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      Amy December 30, 2014 at 11:34 am - Reply

      Teresa I love that you (and others) have mentioned The Little Drummer Boy! We were trying to work that into our Nativity because Niece #2 took up drumming this year. But was also Mary and Niece #3 (who has a HIGH sense of artistic accuracy) could not envision how we could pull off one person needing to be Mary and the drummer.

      And the line from How Many Kings … I don’t have a good word to capture how I feel, but suffice it to say, it’s deep :)

  7. Jessa December 31, 2014 at 8:38 am - Reply

    My favorite Christmas Carol is the Huron Carol:

    ‘Twas in the moon of winter-time
    When all the birds had fled,
    That mighty Gitchi Manitou
    Sent angel choirs instead;
    Before their light the stars grew dim,
    And wandering hunters heard the hymn:
    “Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
    In excelsis gloria.”

    Within a lodge of broken bark
    The tender Babe was found,
    A ragged robe of rabbit skin
    Enwrapp’d His beauty round;
    But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
    The angel song rang loud and high…
    “Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
    In excelsis gloria.”

    The music is gorgeous and simple, and it’s been my favorite since I was a little girl. It was in the Reader’s Digest Big Book of Carols, and we used that for bedtime singing every night.

  8. Mark Allman December 23, 2016 at 9:07 am - Reply

    Enjoyed reading this again and the comments.

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