They’re here. Christmas music. I’m pretty sure when the clock struck twelve on November twenty-eighth, every other song was erased from the radio stations and replaced with Christmas songs. For the next four weeks it’ll be the same songs sung over and over and over, in many different ways.
For many that sounds like torture. You could easily turn off the radio, but what about when you go into a store? You’ll be rockin’ around those aisles as you gather your normal groceries. I’ll admit, I have been known to tire of the same Christmas songs as well. It’s not hard to do when there’s only so many ways you can tell Santa Baby that all I want for Christmas is you. Or when your daughter goes around singing Jingle Bells in a continuous loop. However, whenever I stand amidst the congregation singing out that familiar refrain of O’ Come All Ye Faithful, I remember that at their foundation, Christmas carols are a joyful way to prepare our hearts and announce the coming of our Savior.
Instead of half-heartedly singing Joy to the World, how about we contemplate the words we are singing and allow them to draw us closer to the Savior not the season.
Carols as a Call of Hope of Salvation
O Come, O Come Emmanuel has become one of my favorite traditional carols. Did you know this song comes from the prophesy in Isaiah? “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Listen carefully, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will call his name Immanuel (God with us).” (Isa. 7:14, AMP)
From the very first verse, O Come, O Come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel, this song speaks of God’s intention for His Son to break the chains of bondage and captivity. The very name Emmanuel speaks of God’s desire to reside with us, no longer separated by an insurmountable divide.
Rejoice, rejoice for God [is] with us. He shall come to you…
And just how is His Son going to carry out the Father’s intentions? By freeing us from the grip of sin and death, putting them to flight, and opening wide the gates of Heaven, God’s presence, that all may enter in.
But wait, you might say, this song only sings of God’s intent to free Israel not the world. Yes, but as we know, Jesus came first to the Jew (Israel) and then to the Gentile (the rest of the world). (Romans 1:16)
O come, Thou Key of David, come And open wide our heavenly home
As we sing this traditional carol, we can remember that tiny baby Jesus came to us and made clear the way to the Father’s heart for us. We remember that Jesus’ coming, both in prophesy and in action, was the Hope of Salvation for the entire world.
Carols as a Call to Know Him
What Child is this both questions and answers itself. It is so simple to skip over this song because we know who this Child is. Yet when we pause to contemplate this carol, we see the intricacies that make up His uniqueness.
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing…
It is easy to dismiss this line because of the many times we’ve heard the story of Jesus’ birth, but let’s take a moment to see what this is saying.
Shepherds had one job, to keep the flock safe from all sorts of dangers, including the sheep themselves. They spent countless hours in the hills diligently watching over their flock. They had to be strong lest a wild beast snatch one of their precious flock away. In the social hierarchy of the day, they were the lowest of the low.
In comparison, Angels are the messengers of God. They are constantly in His presence. They were revered by the people. So basically we have two very different levels of a hierarchy coming together all for one Child.
Another hierarchy difference? Peasants and kings alike are encouraged to before Him and worship Him, to allow this Child into their hearts and own him. I’ve long questioned this choice of wording, thinking of Herod who wanted to destroy Him. I finally realized that this means letting Jesus in, claiming Him and His sacrifice as our own. To truly claim Him as our own, living a life worthy of His, means coming to know Him intimately. It’s not only knowing His Name, Jesus, or knowing the name of His parents, but knowing His nature, how He loves and lives, to call Him Savior and Friend.
Raise, raise the song on high! The virgin sings her lullaby
A call to announce Jesus’ coming, the fulfillment of prophesy. Joyfully announce it for all to hear, the King of kings salvation brings! An announcement of why this Child has come: to be pierced with nails and raised high on a cross for the salvation of all.
I know that at Christmas we don’t like to think of this cute little baby’s purpose, but we cannot have one without the other. What Child is this invites us to contemplate who He is and why. It invites us to contemplate these questions within ourselves, Who is this Child to me? And to open our hearts up to Him so that we may come to truly know Him.
Carols as a Call to Enter His Presence
O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant. O come ye to Bethlehem
Faithful to what? Why are they joyful and triumphant? Why should they go to Bethlehem?
I’m sure the answers to these questions are obvious, but within them is the call to come near to God. To gather within Jesus’ presence and worship Him. It is a call not for the perfect, but for those who have faith in Him.
As a child I was told that Bethlehem means House of God. I discovered today that it literally means House of Bread, but when we take Jesus’ words in the Book of John, “I Am the bread of Life…” (John 6:35) we see that coming to Bethlehem is an invitation to come to Him, Jesus. We can take it as Jesus saying, “Come into My house.”
O come let us adore Him
If you’re like me, you think of going, “Awe what a sweet baby. He’s so cute,” when singing this line. It’s a word association thing, I guess. However, that’s not what adore is.
By definition, Adore means to worship; venerate; to love or respect someone deeply.
O Come All Ye Faithful is a call to come into God’s House, into His presence and worship Him. Worship who? Christ the Lord.
A prince is still a prince as a baby. In the same way, Jesus was still Christ, the Messiah, even as He laid in a manger. We can only enter into His presence joyful and triumphant because He was born. We can only come into His presence because He came into our’s, into this world as a physical being to do what we could not. We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
The terms joyful and triumphant themselves speak of a celebration. We’re not coming into His presence morose and beaten, but freed. We’re celebrating by dancing, singing, shouting, and all of it is an act of praise within His presence.
If we look at this carol, not as us calling others, but as Jesus calling us then we can see it is His invitation to enter into His presence with jubilation and worship.
Carols as a Call to Join in with all Creation and Worship Him
Joy to the World! Angels We Have Heard on High! Silent Night, Holy Night! Do You Hear What I Hear?
All of these songs have a common theme, that the universe itself is worshipping the coming of its Lord and Creator. A theme that nature itself wants to celebrate His coming and worship with us.
Let Earth receive her King, Let every heart prepare Him room
Earth, too, wishes to be freed from the curse that befell it at the fall of man. Adam didn’t just hand over mankind’s freedom to the enemy when he sinned. He also handed over that which he had been given dominion over: the earth and all that resides within it. Jesus’ ultimate victory over the enemy, which began when He entered the earth as a baby, also restored the universe to its rightful Ruler. Just as we invite Him into our hearts and recognize Jesus as King, so does nature recognize Him.
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains Repeat the sounding joy
This line reminds me of Luke 19:40, Jesus replied, I tell you, if these [people] keep silent, the stones will cry out [in praise]!” (AMP)
Even if we were to keep silent, all of nature would sing in adoration and celebration over Jesus’ coming.
Said the Little Lamb to the Shepherd Boy
In this hymn, it’s not angels who first bring the news of Jesus’ coming, but nature’s. We can see this reflected in the story of the Wisemen. They speak of a Star which alerted them to the coming of a new King. (Matt. 2:1-12) Angels didn’t come to them, but even the heavens announced the the birth of Jesus.
Nature is asking us, do you hear, do you see, do you know what has and is coming? Do you understand the significance of what has happened? Will you join us in worshipping the God of all creation?
So Let Us Answer the Call
This season, let us sing those carols and answer the call that rings out from them.
Let us enter into Jesus’ presence. Let us come to know Him. Let us come and worship Him.
What is your favorite Christmas Carol?
I encourage you to contemplate them within your heart and let them lead you to Jesus.