The December Epistle: Something to Sing About

I’m looking forward to Christmas Carols.  I like to sing them. I like to hear them sung.  They always bring to my mind Christmas images, like the picture of Mary and Joseph, peering down at the miracle child in her arms.  There are a few animals nearby, some also gazing peacefully at the Christ child.

Other images that come to mind when I hear Christmas carols are like Christmas cards – hillsides of leafless trees, the ground covered in snow, and a sleigh gliding easily along, the only sound a bell jingling and the muffled clop of the horse’s hooves.  Peaceful scenes.

Have you noticed the definite trend away from meaningful Christmas carols in the stores these last years?  I used to enjoy hearing the carols over the speakers and humming along and thinking about peaceful things while we shopped.  But it’s hard to be peaceful while “rockin’ round the clock” to Jingle Bell Rock (over and over, I might add).  

The devil, of course, is quite pleased with the slow slide toward the complete secularization of Christmas (“Christ-mass”).  He would be thrilled if the holiday (“holy-day”) became completely “Christ-less”. Don’t play Christian carols, as they might offend someone.  Stop displaying the manger scene at City Hall and put up something inoffensive, like Santa’s workshop. Don’t have a baby Jesus Christmas pageant in school, or sing Silent Night, or any other song that describes the true meaning of Christmas.  And so, little by little, Christ is taken out of Christmas.

But the devil will be sorely disappointed in the end.  As long as the Christian church exists, it will celebrate the humble birth of our Savior in Bethlehem.  And that church will always exist, because Christmas itself is God’s doing. All of history led up to and looked forward to the coming of the Christ child.  What that child would do in his life, death and resurrection for our redemption, would change the future for all who put their trust in him. Kingdoms may crumble, and one tyrant after another may come to power, but the words the angel choir sang to the startled shepherds on the hills outside Bethlehem that sacred night will continue to be sung.  The story of the angels’ words to Mary and Joseph, their travel to Bethlehem, the visits of the shepherds and the wise men and other details of the Christmas story will continue to warm the hearts of Christians until the angels herald the Christ’s return in glory.

It’s ironic that the child whose birth was wrapped in joy and peace would die in the opposite manner, amid shouting and mocking, beaten and whipped and nailed to a Roman cross like a criminal.  “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). The Wise Men came seeking one born king of the Jews, and Pilate placed this exact placard above Jesus’ head on the cross.

Jesus is our King, and he has brought us peace – peace between God and man, the peace that comes from sins forgiven and our broken relationship with God restored.  So sing those Christmas carols and tell the blessed story of the birth of our Savior in the stable in Bethlehem that starry night so long ago.  YOU are part of that story, as one for whom Jesus died and rose. This is YOUR story, since YOU are who he loved and reason for his coming. His death and resurrection are for YOU, bring forgiveness and life and a restored relationship with God to YOU.  YOU have eternal life in his name, and that’s something to sing about!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

O holy night! the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth.
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!
Fall on your knees! O hear the angels' voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!

O holy night O night divine!

Have a blessed and peace-filled Advent and Christmas season!

- Pastor Vanderhyde