One of the my favorite parts of the Christmas season is the music. There are so many great songs we get to blast on the radio, belt out in church, and hum as we walk the aisles shopping for gifts. Whether it is a classic carol from the 1700’s such as “Hark! The Herald Sing” or a modern tune like “Mary Did You Know?”, each song is filled with memories and bring joy to so many people. No wonder every famous singer has a Christmas album. However, I wonder how often we actually listen to words of these familiar tunes as we sing them.
Christmas is not about singing carols and songs so that we can simply feel happy and reminisce about the past. No, the music of Christmas is intended to put us into God’s story of redemption. The lyrics reflect what God was doing so long ago in that little town of Bethlehem and when we consider those words, the way we sing them will change. No longer do we sing because these songs are our tradition and heritage, but now because we are proclaiming the amazing grace and goodness of our God. Proclaiming the truth the Apostle Paul writes to the Galatians that “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law.” (Galatians 4:4) Remembering this makes us sing “Joy to the World!” with true joy because our joy is not the presents under the tree or the time with family (both good things), but the joy of the Lord because Christ has come to save us from our sins.
I’ve also wondered, if people listened to the words of the carols they sing, would they say they actually believe them? Take the song “Hark! The Herald Angel Sing” for instance. Do you believe those lyrics? The first stanza says, “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” Do you believe that the only hope for this world is Christ? Do you believe that the only way to be made right with God is through the death and resurrection of Christ? Has your belief in this been evidenced by your turning from your sin and turning to Christ alone for salvation? Have you called out to Him to save you? If not, I implore you to not just sing this song but to heed what it teaches.
How about these lyrics in the 2nd stanza? “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity. Pleased as man with man to dwell. Jesus, our Emmanuel.” Can you affirm these words as true? Do you think Jesus was merely a traveling moral teacher in the 1st century pointing people to God? Perhaps, you believe Jesus is a created being like an angel or a lesser god. What about the idea that Jesus was a son of God in the same way that you might have a son, and that His birth was brought about in natural procreation, the same way that your son was? Do any of these reflect your beliefs? If so, I don’t think you can actually sing this song with integrity because you don’t believe what it says. When Charles Wesley wrote this song and George Whitefield helped tweak it, they were pulling glorious truth straight from the words of the Bible. Jesus is Emmanuel, which means God with us. If you don’t believe that Jesus is the Mighty God, “El Gibbor”, as it says in Isaiah 9:6, then can you in good conscience sing this song? If you don’t believe that Jesus is the eternal God, the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, who humbled Himself in order to become the perfect sacrifice for sin (Philippians 2), then do these words even make sense to you? I’m not trying to be divisive during this wonderful time of year and I’m not staking the sole claim to Christmas carols. I’m simply asking you to listen to the words of these great songs and ask yourself if you believe them.
If we take the time to really listen to the words of the music we so love during this time of year, I believe it will change the way we sing, and God willing, change eternal destinies. Don’t let another Christmas go by without having the real reason to celebrate. God became flesh to save sinners. Listen to the words of the 3rd stanza of “Hark! The Herald Angel Sing” and see what God has done. “Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die. Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” This is my prayer for those who don’t have this hope this Christmas. When you do, the last words of this song will sound forth gloriously, “Hark! The herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the new-born King!”
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ