Songs of the Season: Luke 2:10

“But the angel said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)

One last song of the season as we prepare for Christmas Eve’s arrival tomorrow. We’re not going with anything new or particularly different today. Instead, we’re going with something old. This is a classic Christmas carol that was first published in 1739. I heard a wonderful podcast the other day in which the interviewee described this as the greatest Christmas carol ever.

It was written at a time when religious revivals were sweeping across the United States and England. This was when the Methodist Church was forming, and protestant groups generally were gaining strength. Baptists were multiplying much to everyone’s chagrin, and evangelicals were first starting to become a meaningful Christian group. About this time, participants in these various revival movements started to increasingly write their own much rather than merely singing the psalter as believers had done for a very long time prior to this point. In a sense, these hymns were the contemporary music of their day.

This was one of the first Christmas hymns written in this significant period of history. Like so many of the hymns of the day, it is filled with rich theology that can be used to teach young believers some of the great and deep truths of the faith if they are exhorted to listen carefully to what they are singing.

The hymn speaks of angels heralding the birth of the newborn King. It calls for joyful nations to rise in praise of the God who would send His Son for us. It proclaims the fully divinity of Christ at every point in His human existence. It speaks of the healing He would bring the world, and of the second birth to eternal life God promised us through Him.

By now, I suspect you have successfully identified our final song of the season as Hark! the Herald Angels Sing. As you prepare on this second-to-last day of the Advent season, may you reflect joyfully on the third day from now with a wonderful rendition of this great carol by Phil Wickham. Blessings and Merry Christmas to you!

Songs of the Season: Isaiah 7:14

“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: See, the virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Can you imagine what waiting for the Messiah was like. Here was Israel as a people with the news that one day their God had promised to come and rescue them out of all of their troubles. He was going to regather them into one place. He was going to send a deliverer who would be their strength and their shield. He was going to come and be with them. Immanuel would be His name. Then, once He came, the church was left in a season of waiting once more. And though the object of the waiting had changed some, the hope really hadn’t.

It is no wonder then that Christian monks in the eighth or ninth century AD composed a hymn that gave word to this longing, this expectant desire for the coming again of Christ the Lord to make all things new. This cry of longing rings all the more true in our hearts today as we long for relief from the brokenness of the world around us. We want redemption to be made complete. We hope for salvation to finally be delivered in full.

This is what the season of Advent is all about. Give form and substance to this great hope and expectation. It would be several generations before the hymn those monks wrote would be given the form that is more familiar to us today, but when it did, their cry of, “O come, o come, Emmanuel,” would be sung by heaven-minded believers the world over with passion and desire for that day. In a world torn asunder by troubles of every kind, His coming, His arrival is the longing of our hearts.

As you listen to today’s song of the season, one of my very favorite, reflect on the powerful reflection of desire latent in these words. This particular version from the Piano Guys adds a wonderful layer of beauty to the haunting, minor melody of this great hymn of the faith.

O Come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, I Israel!

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, I Israel!

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, I Israel!

O come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind.
Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, I Israel!

Songs of the Season: Luke 2:6-7

“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

As we have been working through our Advent teaching series, God with Us, last week we talked about the incredible glory and power that belongs to Jesus as the eternally pre-existent second member of the Trinity. He is fully God, and we dare not forget that. And yet, at the same time (and as we will talk about this coming Sunday, available here on Monday), He voluntarily took on all the limitations of humanity. All of them. Not only that, when He actually entered the world, it was not among the halls of the great and powerful where He would be afforded the honor rightly due His station. Instead, it was through the womb of a poor, teenage mother who was giving birth on a cave floor with no one but an anxious father and a collection of smelly animals as her company. What could motivate the God of all creation to enter the world in such mean estates? One word: love.

That brings us to today’s song of the season. A Christmas album I keep going back to again and again each year is Meredith Andrews’ album, “Receive Our King.” Every year as I listen to it from start to finish over and over again, the rich theology and superb storytelling woven into some truly spectacular music leaves me looking forward to the next year’s excuse to listen again. If this were an old cassette tape, I would have likely long since worn it out.

Toward the end of the album is a song borrowed from another tremendous artist, Andrew Peterson, that starts out with an unassuming guitar line and Andrews’ declaration that the night of Jesus’ birth was not the silent night the traditional carol so beautifully but, in all likelihood, so inaccurately proclaims. The King of Heaven entered the world not with pomp, but with pain and a mess and the utmost of humility. I have yet to find a song that captures that night and the love that made it possible quite so well as “Labor of Love.” As you continue to celebrate through this Advent season, I hope and pray this is the blessing for you it has so often been for me.

Songs of the Season: Christmas Eve Edition

“The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant from the Holy Spirit.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

When Matthew offers up his version of the story of Jesus’ birth, he starts it like this: “The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way.” Now, if you didn’t know the story from there, but you had some rough idea of who Jesus was, you might expect the tale to be one of great action and glory. You might expect it to be a story of power and might. God was breaking into the world. Surely He did it in the most dramatic and impressive way He possibly could have done it so no one would be able to miss it. After all, shouldn’t the creator of the universe enter into His creation with all the pomp and circumstance He was due? 

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Songs of the Season

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Have you ever had one of those albums where every single song on it is your favorite song? For me, around this time of year, it is Meredith Andrews’ Christmas album, Receive Our King. Last year around this time I introduced you to the first track on the album, Andrews’ version of Come Thou Long Expected Jesus. This morning as we continue in our Advent series, I want to share with you another from the same album (and, spoiler alert, I’m going to offer you one more from it next Friday which is going to be instrumental in our Christmas Eve service). What was it like being a shepherd in the fields around Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born? What was the song of the angels really like? Let’s ponder that together.

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