Christmas songs bring us some of the most memorable song lines ever. Clearly, “Now bring me some figgy pudding,” remains the best. But there are some other honorable mentions. Everyone who has grown up in the church has at least one traumatic experience with “Lo, how a rose e’er blooming” being sung an octave too high by a well-meaning soprano. And of course, “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” is the easiest way to drop a Latin phrase into a casual conversation at Christmas parties.
What has struck me recently about these songs, and many more like them, is that Christmas hymns in America get a free pass on talking about theologically weighty material. Do you ever nd it odd to watch a performance of your favorite pop star singing, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity”? I know I do. It’s odd to hear rich theology coming from places where you would expect it least. But this is the odd juxtaposition that we have at Christmastime in America. While we can be thankful that the gospel is being sung, there’s a danger that we could rejoice more in their sentimentality than in the truth that they proclaim.
Our worship ministry has spent the last few months arranging and recording three Christmas songs. Our hope is that these songs will bring you more than warm Christmas feelings, but will be a useful tool for helping you meditate on these rich lyrics. Here are a few thoughts on each of the songs that I hope will draw that out for our faith family.
Joy To The World
I love worship songs that call us to respond to God. Certainly there’s a place for fact-filled worship songs. We need to sing what is true so that it goes deeper and deeper into our hearts. But when a worship song will tell me what is true and then call me to respond, it’s the best of both worlds. “Joy To The World” is one of those songs. And the way that Isaac Watts calls us to respond in this song is by using the word “Let.” Here’s how he uses that word.
- Let every heart prepare Him room
- Let men their songs employ
- No more let sins and sorrows grow
Three times in four verses. Issac Watts wants us to know that Jesus isn’t just to be looked at and discussed. He isn’t just to be thought about and pondered. We are to respond to His coming. Notice the three ways that we respond.
- We respond by getting our hearts ready. We need to prepare room by getting rid of things that aren’t as important as the residence of the King in our heart.
- We respond by singing. The Psalms are filled with this same command. See that the Lord reigns; He rules the earth; now sing out to Him and praise Him for His majesty.
- We respond by seeing the curse-reversing blessing of God go into all of the shadowy crevices of the world. We shine the light of the glory of Christ by living lives of righteousness, and by seeing the small beginnings of a day when righteousness will reign on the earth.
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
This past week during our family devotions we talked about all the incredible irony that happened at the birth of Jesus. Heaven’s angels announced to shepherds that Jesus was born and they could nd him in a barn in Bethlehem. The King of the world had to be laid down in a feeding trough. All of these accounts are reminding us that Jesus didn’t come with powerful pomp. His arrival was understated and humble.
Listen to a few lines that really draw out the glory and condescension of Christ:
- Come to earth to taste our sadness, He whose glories knew no end
- Leaving riches without number, Born within a cattle stall
- Born Thy people to deliver, Born a child and yet a King
These truths aren’t just ironic and interesting, they’re powerful and helpful. I’d encourage you to consider two ways that these truths could impact you. The first is to see the example of Christ’s humility and seek, by the Spirit, to emulate this same attitude. To be Christ-like means that we take on the hurt and sadness of others. It means that we are happy to leave a place of power to be close to those who are marginalized or looked down on in our society. But secondly, be convinced of the love that Christ has for you as you think about these lyrics. Christmas can be a hard time of year for many of us. The grief of the loss of a loved one is more pronounced around Christmas. And loneliness feels more noticeable around this time of year. If this is a struggle for you this year, I’d encourage you to meditate on how far the Son of Man was willing to come so that He might save you, so that He might give you eternal life and make you His son or daughter. His incarnation is overwhelming evidence that He loves us.
All Glory Be To Christ
This is a beautiful song written to “Auld Lang Syne,” the tune that we usually sing on New Year’s Eve. What I and so meaningful about this song is the coming together of a brand new year and these powerful lyrics: All glory be to Christ, His rule and reign we’ll ever sing, all glory be to Christ.
This is the time of year when we start thinking through resolutions and new patterns in our lives. While New Year’s resolutions can be very good and helpful, they are often white-knuckled and self-empowered. They often make us feel guilty for all of the failures of the past year. And we usually give up on them by February. It’s good for us to bring together these two necessary qualities: our desire to bring about new habits and goals, but that they will only be lasting and meaningful when they are done for the glory of Christ.
Daniel Renstrom is husband to Danielle, father to Bennett, Eden, and Mercy, and serves as our Worship Pastor. You can get a free download of Brook Hills Music’s version of “All Glory Be to Christ” and purchase your copy of Joy and Wonder, our new Christmas EP. Simply visit, brookhills.org/joyandwonder.