The Christ in Christmas

17 Dec

When I was growing up, I wasn’t a Christian but I did Christian things. I went to church every Sunday (because I had to), I memorized Bible verses (because I had to), I took sermon notes (because I had to), and I sang in the church choir (because I had to). They were all done in a business-like fashion, just to get it done. They may also have involved complaints and groaning.

The Christmas season was not immune, though I loved Christmas so I did it without complaining and groaning. I could sing the words to many Christmas hymns and songs from memory but I never actually thought about the words. They were like a fun, musical version of the Apostle’s Creed–repeated so often that saying/singing them became second nature and void of concentration.

That’s why it’s fun to hear those same old Christmas songs now that I’m a Christian. Just like I finally understood the Bible verses I had read countless times before, I finally pay attention to the verses of these common Christmas songs. And some of them are positively moving. 

My favorite right now:

“O Holy Night”

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

“What Child is This?”

What child is this who, laid to rest,
on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
while shepherds watch are keeping?

Chorus:

This, this is Christ the King,
whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
haste, haste to bring him laud,
the babe, the son of Mary.

Why lies he in such mean estate
where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
the silent Word is pleading.

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
come, peasant, king, to own him;
the King of kings salvation brings,
let loving hearts enthrone him.

 “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

O little town of Bethlehem,
how still we see thee lie;
above thy deep and dreamless sleep
the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
the everlasting light;
the hopes and fears of all the years
are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary,
and gathered all above,
while mortals sleep, the angels keep
their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together,
proclaim the holy birth,
and praises sing to God the king,
and peace to all on earth!

How silently, how silently,
the wondrous gift is given;
so God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven.

No ear may hear his coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him, still
the dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in,
be born in us today.

We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
o come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Emmanuel!

“Let Us Bow Before the Throne” (written by Steve Rosin)

Let us bow before the throne
Of our blessed Lord this night
And raise our voice in honor to his name
As a baby he was born,
As a servant he would die
And our lives were forever touched
by the love he could not hide.

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King,
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with th’ angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”

Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail th’ incarnate Deity,
pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”

God coming to earth in the form of a baby is incredible. A Holy God came to dwell in the midst of Sinful Man. Jesus was “by highest heaven adored” and yet was “pleased with us in flesh to dwell.” These songs are so rich with theological truth and wonders. Just think about those waiting for the Christ, like Simeon in Luke 2 who was “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” When he saw Jesus in the temple, he said “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

400 years pass between the end of the Old Testament and the birth of Jesus. Whereas God had spoken through many prophets in the OT, for those 400 years, He was silent. But God had promised a Messiah, a Redeemer. All of Israel is waiting for the Christ. And on that night in a little town of Bethlehem, a town “too little to be among the clans of Judah,” the long-awaited Messiah was born. God had no more reason to speak–because as the Apostle John says “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” “Mild he lays his glory by” and takes on the human flesh, for the rest of eternity. The catalyst of God’s plan of redemption.

I have been reading through the OT prophetic books for my Bible reading plan. They all have a similar formula: predictions of the horrible things to happen to Israel and Judah because of their sins, followed by God’s promise to redeem them. How amazing and wonderful it is that God’s plan of redemption is so independent of us! He does it for His own glory, for His name and for His purposes. His plan will not be thwarted…by humans, sin, or Satan. Jesus was sent to earth as the fulfillment of God’s ultimate promise: eternal salvation.

I hope that Christians and non-Christians alike have their eyes re-focused on the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus is truly the Greatest Gift Ever Given.

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