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A Musical Christmas

Do you like Christmas music? You have likely heard differing responses to that question. Some people can’t get enough of Christmas music, so they start listening to it well before Thanksgiving. Others can’t stand the stuff, and think it is torture to hear it every year.

As for me, I love Christmas music, though I typically wait until after Thanksgiving to start listening to it. After all, you can have too much of a good thing! Music has the wonderful power to deeply reflect emotions. I love the joyful tone of Christmas carols like “Joy to the World” and “Angels We Have Heard on High. I love the sense of reverence and amazement expressed in “What Child is This?” I love the friendliness of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and the purposefulness of “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”

Music also has the power to express truth in profound ways. We can know a particular truth, but sometimes that truth expressed in song hits home in a special way. For example, consider how the song, “O Holy Night” summarizes what the birth of Jesus means for humanity. In this song we sing, “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!”

It turns out that songs have been used to express deep truths about Jesus since the very first Christmas. Our Advent Series this year is titled A Musical Christmas. We will be studying four songs found in the first two chapters of Luke. It is interesting to observe that each of these songs focuses on a slightly different aspect of who Christ is or what He has done for us. We don’t really know whether these songs were actually sung at first, but these “songs” are poetic and have been sung in worship services by the Christian Church throughout history.

Mary’s song (sometimes called “The Magnificat”) is first. It talks about how God turns things in this world upside down. “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (Luke 1:52). Next is Zechariah’s song (sometimes called “The Benedictus”). It focuses on how God fulfilled His promise to send a Savior to the Israelites. The song we are probably most familiar with is the angels’ song to the shepherds. In it we are reminded that Jesus demonstrates God’s “goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14). The final song is Simeon’s song (sometimes called the “Nunc Dimittis). From this song we learn that Jesus is not only the Savior of the Israelites, but He is also the Savior of the Gentiles (non-Israelites).

As we ponder the words of these songs together, I pray God will give us a greater appreciation for what He has done for us through the gift of that baby in a manger, Jesus Christ.

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!

Hail, the Son of Righteousness!

Light and life to all He brings,

Ris’n with healing in His wings.

Mild He lays His glory by,

Born that men no more may die,

Born to raise the sons of earth,

Born to give them second birth.

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