Archive for December, 2005

Sermon on “All My Heart This Night Rejoices”

December 24th, 2005 Comments off

Pastor Chad Kendall just e-mailed me to say that at his congregation his senior pastor and he has have been devoting their Advent and Christmas sermons to Christmas hymns. He offers this sermon.

Reverend McCain,

I received your email about the wonderful hymn.  It just so happens that the
Rev. Phill Andreasen and I have selected Advent hymns as the basis of our
sermons for this Advent Season here at Immanuel, Spirit Lake, Iowa.  We did
the same for Christmas Day.  The sermon I had selected for its beautiful
words is TLH 77, "All My Heart This Night Rejoices."  I had just finished
writing it when I received your email.  I humbly send my sermon your way.

Have a blessed Christmas.

Rev. Chad Kendall, Associate Pastor


TLH 77 All My Heart This Night Rejoices-Luke 2:1-20

"All my heart this night rejoices, as I hear far and near, sweetest angel
voices. "Christ is born" their choirs are singing till the air everywhere
now with joy is ringing"(Stanza 1). Is not this a true description of the
Christian church? The church rejoices, your hearts, and my heart included.
Today we come together, and we celebrate the wonderful mystery of God coming
in the flesh and breaking into our world.

If I struggle with anything today, it is knowing what to say on such a
glorious feast day. Christmas Day and Easter Day are the two days in the
church year where I struggle the most with my sermon writing. Some might
say, "well, pastor, these should be the easiest sermons to preach. Truly, I
could probably step into the pulpit and talk all day about the birth of the
baby Jesus.

Our first thought may be that Christmas and Easter preach for themselves
with their popular imagery. The messages of these two feasts are so clear,
it hardly seems that a sermon could add much to the artistic sermon that we
already have in pictures. The birth of the baby Jesus is so miraculous that
it almost leaves me speechless. What more can be said. God came down and
entered the womb of a virgin and was born a baby, thereby entering our
world. We behold the mystery of the incarnation. We behold a glorious
miracles today that took place many centuries ago and it is marvelous in our

The chief hymn for today helps us to understand some of the reasons why God
did this glorious thing we call the virgin birth. It is a great Lutheran
hymn, though it is not popular like some of the other standard Christmas
hymns. The more I read the words to it, the more I like it. Stanza 2, "Forth
today the Conqueror goeth, Who the foe, Sin and woe, Death and hell
o’erthroweth. God is man, man to deliver; His dear Son Now is one with our
blood forever."

Stanza 2 really tells it all. It is not enough for the world to know that
God came into the flesh and was born a baby. Much of the world can look on
and see this little baby in swaddling cloths and be moved to shed a tear. So
often this is where the world takes leave of the Christ. They leave Him in
the manger. They leave Him in the stable, without having room for Him in the
inn of their hearts and lives.

Society only looks upon Jesus when it is appropriate and convenient. The
reality is that our society only wants the niceties associated with this
holy day. You may have seen on the news or read articles on the web which
pointed out that many "mega churches" are closed today.

These churches decided not to have church because attendance would be too
poor, citing that people want to spend time with their families. Hence, no
church. Worldly customs have won the day in our country. Jesus is looked
upon in the manger, people feel their hearts flutter with a "warm fuzzy
feeling," but then they go about their business.

Not having church because attendance would be too poor due to people’s felt
needs of being with family and opening presents is to be counted as the same
as saying that there is no room at the inn for this little one. "My inn is
full today, thank you very much," many conclude. Have Him sleep outside of
my life today, perhaps in the stable. I will come for Him again when the
time is right.

Upon pondering the mystery of the birth of the little baby Jesus, we would
think that people would have lined up to behold God’s face, but they didn’t.
Just a couple of shepherds came in awe, eagerly desiring to see what the
angel had prophesied. We shouldn’t expect anything different from society
today. Until a person understands why God came in the flesh, he will only
cast a passing glance at this babe in the manger.

Our hymn preaches a sermon of its own, telling us why God did what He did.
The beautiful and serene picture that the world loves to behold on this day
tells a different story than what can be seen in the manger at first glance.
So it is, that though this day speaks for itself, a sermon must be preached,
a story told, because it is what comes after this beautiful scene that the
world wishes to ignore.

Stanza 2 hints to us that "God is man, man to deliver. His dear Son Now is
one With our blood forever." He must be made man to deliver, and He has
blood running through veins, just like us. He became like one of us. There
is more here than meets the eye, and the world doesn’t see it.

God’s love for mankind is seen in this birth. Stanza 4 says, "Should He who
Himself imparted aught withhold from the fold. Leave us brokenhearted?
Should the Son of God not love us, Who to cheer Suff’rers here, Left His
throne above?" And Stanza 5, "If our blessed Lord and Maker Hated men, would
He then be of flesh partaker? If He in our woe delighted, would He bear all
the care of our race benighted?"

We find that the hymnist is confessing that God’s love is made known in this
miraculous birth. The hymnist also tells us that Jesus, the 2nd person of
the Trinity left His throne above in order to cheer the suff’rers here.
There is something more to this miraculous birth than meets the eye. There
is more to God becoming a flesh and blood man than is readily apparent.

We find it explained by the hymnist in stanza 6. "He becomes the Lamb that
taketh Sin away and for aye full atonement maketh. For our life His own He
tenders and our race, by His grace, meet for glory renders." Interestingly
enough, the writer of this hymn was a fantastic theologian, for in stanza 6
he shows us that it is not enough to just look upon this sweet and beautiful
baby in the manger. This is where the world leaves Him. We cannot. He would
not remain this way.

In stanza 6 a sermon is being preached. He is bringing us beyond the
captivating gaze which leaves us speechless and brings us to a different
picture than what we find on this blessed Nativity of Christ. Paul Gerhardt,
the writer of this hymn, is bringing us to the cross. Good Friday cannot be
separated and ignored from this blessed scene. "God is man, man to deliver,
His dear Son Now is one with our blood forever (stanza 2).

We have to understand that this sweet baby, God in the flesh, will become a
man. Many will be divided because of Him. He leaves this world giving the
world a very different picture than what we see today. The church sees His
blood being spilled onto the cross and onto the soil. The Christian church
sees sadness, suffering, one who is forsaken and left alone. It might seem
odd and a bit disruptive to give my audience such a picture on such a happy
and joyous day.

Yet, this day of celebrating His birth would not be a happy and joyous one
if it were not for this gruesome scene on the cross. Perhaps the world
doesn’t want the joys of the cross. Perhaps they are content to just glance
at the serene and peaceful scene of the baby in the manger, His mother Mary,
and Joseph looking on with a glow.

Christians must look beyond and see the real meaning of Christmas. Jesus
took on flesh, our flesh, in order to spill that blood which He has in
common with us. He came in the flesh because He would pay what is due: He
would pay what we owe. Our flesh is corrupt, we were born at enmity with
God. Jesus comes with a holy and righteous flesh. He comes with a flesh that
is holy and righteous and without sin. Jesus was born so that He would die
in our place. He would suffer hell so that we wouldn’t have to.

So, you see, because of our sinful flesh, we need a sermon on Christmas Day.
We need Him to enter our world again and again. As awe-filled as the
Christmas Day picture is, it is not enough to just gaze upon the manger
scene and stay home, cancel church, and skip the sermon. We need to be
preached to from the wood of the manger to the wood of the cross because
there is a reason Jesus took on flesh. There is a reason that blood flowed
through His veins.

He did it for the life of the world. He came to die so that everyone might
have life in Him. Though all mankind is still plagued with sin, believers
know that they will never experience spiritual death, because Jesus
experienced it in our stead. So it is that the Christian sings this
beautiful Christmas hymn and closes it out with stanza 15, "Dearest Lord,
Thee will I cherish. Though my breath fail in death, Yet shall I not perish,
but with Thee abide forever there on high, in that joy which can vanish

Christmas is about Jesus coming to be that Lamb that taketh away the sins of
the world, and this is the church’s joy on this Christmas morn. Amen.

Rev. Chad Kendall, Associate Pastor

Immanuel Lutheran Church

Spirit Lake, Iowa

The Feast of the Nativity, 2005

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Forth Today the Conqueror Goeth!

December 24th, 2005 Comments off

Nativity_3May the grace, mercy and peace of God the Father, made ours in the God-man Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, fill your heart, soul and mind with great joy. A blessed and happy Christmas and New Year to you and to yours.
    I read recently again all the verses in Paul Gerhardt’s powerfully beautiful Christmas hymn, "All My Heart This Night Rejoices" and thought it would be an appropriate Christmas gift to share with you.   
    Take courage and be of good cheer knowing that nothing in this world can separate you from the love of God which is yours through Christ Jesus our Lord who became man, to live and suffer and die in our place, for the sins of the whole world, as the deepest and most profound manifestation of the love, mercy and grace of God, so that we might become heirs of eternal life.

All My Heart This Night Rejoices

by Rev. Paul Gerhardt

Here is the tune

Here is the sheet music [easier to follow]

Note: This is the translation provided in The Lutheran Hymnal, a slightly altered form of Catherine Winkworth’s English translation. Winkworth liked to add Victorian-style lace and ruffles when she translated, for instance, Gerhard did not speak of "sweet voices" but simply "angels singing." etc. If anyone reading this post knows of a better, complete, English translation of this hymn, please let me know. Gerhardt’s original is fifteen verses long and it is not uncommon that some of these verses are dropped in various Protestant hymnals, which will often choose to forego the more theological of the verses.

1. All my heart this night rejoices
        As I hear Far and near
        Sweetest angel voices.
        "Christ is born," their choirs are singing
        Till the air Everywhere
        Now with joy is ringing.

        2. Forth today the Conqueror goeth,
        Who the foe, Sin and woe,
        Death and hell, o’erthroweth.
        God is man, man to deliver;
        His dear Son Now is one
        With our blood forever.

        3. Shall we still dread God’s displeasure,
        Who, to save, Freely gave
        His most cherished Treasure?
        To redeem us, He hath given
        His own Son From the throne
        Of His might in heaven.

        4. Should He who Himself imparted
        Aught withhold From the fold,
        Leave us broken-hearted?
        Should the Son of God not love us,
        Who, to cheer Sufferers here,
        Left His throne above us?

        5. If our blessed Lord and Maker
        Hated men, Would He then
        Be of flesh partaker?
        If He in our woe delighted,
        Would He bear All the care
        Of our race benighted?

        6. He becomes the Lamb that taketh
        Sin away And for aye
        Full atonement maketh.
        For our life His own He tenders
        And our race, By His grace,
        Meet for glory renders.

        7. Hark! a voice from yonder manger,
        Soft and sweet, Doth entreat:
        "Flee from woe and danger.
        Brethren, from all ills that grieve you
        You are feed; All you need
        I will surely give you."

        8. Come, then, banish all your sadness,
        One and all, Great and small;
        Come with songs of gladness.
        Love Him who with love is glowing;
        Hail the Star, Near and far
        Light and joy bestowing.

        9. Ye whose anguish knew no measure,
        Weep no more; See the door
        To celestial pleasure.
        Cling to Him, for He will guide you
        Where no cross, Pain, or loss
        Can again betide you.

        10. Hither come, ye heavy-hearted,
        Who for sin, Deep within,
        Long and sore have smarted;
        For the poisoned wound you’re feeling
        Help is near, One is here
        Mighty for their healing.

        11. Hither come, ye poor and wretched;
        Know His will Is to fill
        Every hand outstretched.
        Here are riches without measure;
        Here forget All regret,
        Fill your hearts with treasure.

        12. Let me in my arms receive Thee;
        On Thy breast Let me rest,
        Savior, ne’er to leave Thee.
        Since Thou hast Thyself presented
        Now to me, I shall be
        Evermore contented.

        13. Guilt no longer can distress me;
        Son of God, Thou my load
        Bearest to release me.
        Stain in me Thou findest never;
        I am clean, All my sin
        Is removed forever.

        14. I am pure, in Thee believing,
        From Thy store Evermore
        Righteous robes receiving.
        In my heart I will enfold Thee,
        Treasure rare, Let me there,
        Loving, ever hold Thee.

        15. Dearest Lord, Thee will I cherish.
        Though my breath Fail in death,
        Yet I shall not perish,
        But with Thee abide forever
        There on high, In that joy
        Which can vanish never.

Gerhardt’s German:

1. Froehlich soll mein Herze springen
        Dieser Zeit, Da vor Freud’
        Alle Engel singen.
        Hoert, hoert, wie mit vollen Choeren
        Alle Luft Laute ruft:
        Christus ist

        2. Heute geht aus seiner Kammer
        Gottes Held, Der die Welt
        Reisst aus allem Jammer.
        Gott wird Mensch dir, Mensch, zugute.
        Gottes Kind, Das verbind’t
        Sich mit unserm Blute.

        3. Sollt’ uns Gott nin koennen hassen,
        Der uns gibt, Was er liebt
        Ueber alle Massen?
        Gott gibt, unserm Leid zu wehren,
        Seinen Sohn Aus dem Thron
        Seiner Macht und Ehren.

        4. Sollte von uns sein gekehret,
        Der sein Reich Und zugleich
        Sich uns selbst verehret?
        Sollt’ uns Gottes Sohn nicht lieben,
        Der jetzt koemmt, Von uns nimmt,
        Was uns will betrueben?

        5. Haette vor der Menschen Orden
        Unser Heil Einen Greu’l,
        Waer’er nicht Mensch worden.
        Haett’ er Lust zu unserm Schaden,
        Ei, so wuerd’ Unsre Buerd’
        Er nicht auf sich laden.

        6. Er nimmt auf sich, was auf Erden
        Wir getan, Gibt sich an,
        Unser Lamm zu werden,
        Unser Lamm, das fuer uns stirbet
        Und bei Gott Fuer den Tod
        Gnad’ und Fried’ erwirbet.

        7. Nun, er liegt in seiner Krippen,
        Ruft zu sich Mich und dich,
        Spricht mit suessen Lippen:
        Lasset fahr’n, o liebe Brueder,
        Was euch quaelt, Was euch fehlt,
        Ich bring’ alles wieder.

        8. Ei, so kommt und lasst uns laufen!
        Stellt euch ein, Gross und klein,
        Eilt mit grossem Haufen!
        Liebt den, der vor Liebe brennet;
        Schaut den Stern, Der uns gern
        Licht und Labsal goennet.

        9. Die ihr schwebt in grossen Leiden,
        Sehet, hier Ist die Tuer
        Zu den wahren Freuden.
        Fasst ihn wohl, er wird euch fuehren
        An den Ort, Da hinfort
        Euch kein Kreuz wird ruehren.

        10. Wer sich fuehlt beschwert im Herzen,
        Wer empfind’t Seine Suend’
        Und Gewissensschmerzen,
        Sei getrost, hier wird gefunden,
        Der in Eil’ Machet heil
        Die vergift’ten Wunden.

        11. Die ihr arm seid und elende,
        Kommt herbei, Fuellet frei
        Eures Glaubens Haende!
        Hier sind alle guten Gaben
        Und das Gold, Da ihr sollt
        Euer Herz mit laben.

        12. Suesses Heil, lass dich umfangen,
        Lass mich dir, Meine Zier,
        Unverrueckt anhangen!
        Du bist meines Lebens Leben;
        Nun kann ich Mich durch dich
        Wohl zufrieden geben.

        13. Meine Schuld kann mich nicht druecken,
        Denn du hast Meine Last
        All’ auf deinem Ruecken.
        Kein Fleck ist an mir zu finden,
        Ich bin gar Rein und klar
        Aller meiner Suenden.

        14. Ich bin rein um deinetwillen;
        Du gibst g’nug Ehr’ und Schmuck,
        Mich darein zu huellen.
        Ich will dich ins Herze schliessen;
        O mein Ruhm, Edle Blum’,
        Lass dich recht geniessen!

        15. Ich will dich mit Fleiss bewahren,
        Ich will dir Leben hier,
        Dir will ich abfahren;
        Mit dir will ich endlich schweben
        Voller Freud’ Ohne Zeit
        Dort im andern Leben.

        Hymn #77 from The Handbook to The Lutheran Hymnal
        Text: Luke 2:11
        Author: Paul Gerhardt, 1653
        Titled: Froehlich soll mein Herze springen
        Composer: Johann Crueger, 1653
        Tune: Froehlich soll mein Herze

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ELCA Bishop Green Lights “Gay” Blessings

December 23rd, 2005 1 comment

And so it goes…you can have it both ways in the ELCA these days. To anyone who seriously thought, or still thinks, that what happened in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Orlando was not another seismic lurch into oblivion for the ELCA, I say, "Wake up and smell the Brokeback Mountain Java." An ELCA Bishop has made it clear she will approve same-sex blessings. What a wonderful way to celebrate our Lord’s Nativity. What else could one expect from a so-called "bishop" whose own occupation of the office of the holy ministry is itself both anti-apostolic and anti-biblical?

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Sometimes God Doesn’t Expand Your Territory

December 23rd, 2005 Comments off

Remember Bruce Wilkinson of "Prayer of Jabez" infamy? The man who made a literal fortune peddling snake-oil theology? The man who made many actually believe that if they would repeat an obscure passage in the Old Testament God would give them miracles? Well, apparently, the mantra doesn’t always work. Wilkinson moved to Africa with a grand dream and left in a huff, leaving many in the lurch. You can read the story from the Wall Street Journal. Another grandiose, theology of glory, train wreck. Oh, by the way, the publishing company that pumped out this tripe, Multnomah, just about went bankrupt when it put all its eggs in the "Jabez" basket. They increased capacity, they purchased warehouses, and then the Jabez fad faded and they were left with unsold inventory and debt. That was an interesting fact that we didn’t hear much about either. We must be careful when people come along making grand promises and casting their effusive visions. Sadly, often these grand visions go down in flames. It never ceases to amaze me how American Evangelicalism goes in for this nonsense. It is a blight on the Gospel and bring the entire body of Christ into shame and disgrace in the eyes of the world.

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More evidence for December 25 as Christ’s birthday

December 23rd, 2005 Comments off

I’m sure you, like me, have for many years quietly accepted the claim that December 25 is an entirely arbitrary date for Christ’s birth and is in all likelihood a date chosen by Christians to counter-act a competing pagan festivity. Well, this may all be quite wrong. Follow the link for the rest of the story.

Link: More evidence for December 25 as Christ’s birthday.

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Christmas and Vocation

December 23rd, 2005 Comments off

Lofc1birangshepI believe my friend, Dr. Gene Edward Veith, will appreciate how Luther uses the narrative of our Lord’s birth to make good points about the doctrine of vocation. I found this quote and its accompanying footnote in an article by Professor John Pless. Here is what Luther had to say:

Here is another excellent and helpful lesson, namely, that after the shepherds have been enlightened and have come to a true knowledge of Christ, they do not run out into the desert-which is what the crazy monks and nuns in the cloisters did! No the shepherds continue in their vocation, and in the process they also serve their fellow men. For true faith does not create people who abandon their secular vocation and begin a totally different kind of living, a way of life which the totally irrational monks considered essential to being saved, even though it was only an externally different way of existence. [Klug, Luther's House Postils, Vol. 1:48]

Professor Pless comments:

In Luther’s homiletical treatment of the shepherds, we are given an excellent window into his doctrine of vocation-a doctrine that contemporary Lutheranism desperately needs to recover in light of the "neomonasticism" of contemporary American Evangelicalism. One may see Harold Senkbeil, Sanctification: Christ in Action (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1989), 12-15. In his treatise of 1520, "On the Freedom of a Christian," Luther writes (LW 31:371): "We conclude, therefore, that a Christian lives not in Himself, but in Christ and in the neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love. By faith he is caught up beyond himself into God. By love he descends beneath himself into his neighbor." This is expressed liturgically in the Post-Communion Collect "We give thanks to you, almighty God, that you have refreshed us through this salutary gift, and we implore you that of your mercy you would strengthen us through the same in faith toward you and in fervent love toward one another. . ." Homiletically, Luther gives expression to this in his Christmas sermons. For example in a 1521 Christmas sermon Luther says (Lenker, 146): "These are the two things in which a Christian is to exercise himself, the one that he draws Christ into himself, and that by faith he makes him his own, appropriates to himself the treasures of Christ and confidently builds upon them; the other that he condescends to his neighbor and lets him share in that which he has received, even as he shares in the treasures of Christ." Contra Richard Caemmerer’s distinction of "faith-goal sermons" from "life-goal sermons" (Preaching for the Church [St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 19591,179-190), Luther preaches faith which is active in love.

John T. Pless, "Learning to Preach from Luther in Advent and Christmas," Concordia Theological Quarterly, Fort Wayne: Indiana, Volume 62, No. 4, October 1998, pg.

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Don’t Show This To Greek Students

December 22nd, 2005 4 comments
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Gay Great Britain

December 22nd, 2005 Comments off
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A Plenary Indulgence

December 22nd, 2005 1 comment

I know I’ve already blogged on this once before, but I just read the full text of the papal declaration, at the Vatican’s web site. It bums me out. Just when some begin to hope that maybe, just maybe, this papacy might represent a definite turn away from the traditional errors of Rome, this is what we get. Some things never change, I guess.

Link: A Plenary Indulgence 8 December Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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Why Calvinism is So Wrong

December 22nd, 2005 1 comment

A number of folks have asked me for a more in-depth presentation on the errors of Calvinism. I would refer all interested in a thorough-going critique of Calvinism to purchase and read the three-volume systematic theology by Dr. Francis Pieper titled Christian Dogmatics. Interestingly, when this work was published it was the second volume that was printed first. The second volume in the series deals with The Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Quite telling that a Lutheran dogmatician would want his work on Christ released before any of the other traditional categories of theology. I’m providing several quotes from the work of Dr. Pieper to help clarify why Calvinism is so wrong.

Here is a discussion of Calvinism’s error regarding Christ.

Here is a discussion of Calvinism’s error regarding universal grace.

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Dr. Kurt Marquart

December 22nd, 2005 Comments off

Please remember in your prayers my dear friend and father in the faith, The Rev. Dr. Kurt Marquart, who has learned he has ALS disease. For quite some time he and his dear wife Barbara have been searching for answers to continuing medical problems Kurt has been facing. A recent trip to the Cleveland Clinic provided answers, but answers none of us ever would have wanted to receive.

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Top Ten Used Book Searches in 2005

December 22nd, 2005 Comments off

For many years I’ve tried to keep this web site a secret. For, you see, this is the place where I buy most of my books these days. Yes, so great is my bibliophilia that I simply must replace all paperbacks with the original hard back editions, where possible And so, I’ve been hesitant to mention for it is the greatest used book site on the Internet. Here is an interesting blog post they put up recently, on the top ten used book searches in 2005.

Link: Journal: Top 10 out of print books of 2005.

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The Pope’s Santa Hat

December 22nd, 2005 Comments off

2212popebThe traditional hat, known as a camauro, was commonly worn by popes in
the medieval period to keep their heads warm on cold days and it
featured on many paintings at the time, but it has rarely been worn in
modern times. Various reports have taken note of how this pope is using once again various items of papal clothing not used for many decades. Read more about this here.

Link: News – International – Pope caps audience with his ‘Santa hat’.

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Another Wake-Up Call About Islam

December 22nd, 2005 1 comment

Is Islam a "religion of peace"? Check this out.

Link: All Things Beautiful: The Jihad Apocalypse ‘A Muslim Obligation’.

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Eminem Number One at Christmas

December 22nd, 2005 Comments off

Here’s another one for parents to be aware of. Eminem’s greatest hits album titled, "Curtain Call" is number one. You can read the lyrics of his songs on the Internet. They are vile, obscene and sick. So, keep a close watch on what your children are loading on to their iPods.


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