Music ornament, Haven, KS

More than just a Christmas carol

I love Christmas music. True, I prefer to avoid a steady diet of it until after Thanksgiving, but even in the time outside the brackets of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, sometimes I just have to stop and marvel at the lyrics. Have you ever truly stopped to think about the words in Christmas songs? No, I’m not talking about “Jingle Bells” or “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” I mean the classic Christmas carols, the ones that even secular shopping locations play this time of year.

I got to thinking about music after yesterday’s post. I don’t think music plays as big a role in any other part of American culture as it does during the Christmas season. I mean, we don’t really have Easter songs. We sort of do, but in my experience many Easter-themed songs are still sung during other parts of the year. Likewise with Thanksgiving or with New Year’s or with any other popular holiday. The only season that has its own music is Christmas.

But that didn’t start with modern culture. Singing has always been a part of celebrating Christmas.

Music ornament, Haven, KS

Music ornament, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Luke 2:8-14.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Luke 2 is probably one of the most well-known chapters of the Bible, at least among Christians. It’s the story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. This passage today is only a small part of it, where a group of shepherds got to hear the first news of it. Can you imagine being in their shoes (er…sandals)? Remember, this was before special effects on television. This was before television. They’d never seen anything like it.

And, just being honest here, even with all our vast knowledge about the world and everything in it (yes, I’m being sarcastic), if a sky full of angels appeared to you and started singing at the top of their lungs, I’m pretty positive you’d wet yourself. I would.

Music is an integral part of the Christmas story, so I think it’s altogether fitting that our entire godless culture still stops and sings “Silent Night.” No matter how far away we’ve fallen, we still get misty eyed at “O Holy Night” or “Away in a Manger.” Some parts of the United States are trying to ban religious Christmas songs, but I’m not sure how successful they’ll be.

Every time I hear “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” I cry. Why? It’s the theme of my heart. The song is about crying out to God, asking for the Savior to come and save us, to bring light to our dark world, to bring life to the lifeless. And it’s what our world needs. It’s what I need, not just today or during the Christmas season but every moment of my life.

So the next time you hear a Christmas carol on the radio or on the street, stop for a moment and just listen. Really listen to the lyrics of “What Child Is This?” or “Angels We Have Heard On High.” Listen and think about them and let them sink into your heart and remind you what Christmas is about. What’s ironic is that so many of those songs were penned so long ago, but they’re still relevant, still wonderful, still a blessing to so many people.

Don’t be silent this Christmas. Sing out, even if you can’t sing. Remember that a joyful noise doesn’t have to be beautiful; a joyful noise is beautiful to God whether it’s off-key or not. Let the songs of the season make a difference in how you experience Christmas.

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Christmas tree in the living room of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

What I learned from TSO

I love Christmas because it’s the one time of year when believers can stand and worship Christ in public without being jeered at. Any other time of the year, if I stood on a street corner singing about Christ being Lord, I’d probably be called a lunatic; I might have stuff thrown at me. But in December I can stand on any street corner nearly anywhere and sing about Christ being my Lord and people just call me a caroler. It may not last much longer, but I’m going to enjoy that as long as I can.

I recently got to attend a Trans-Siberian Orchestra show (thanks, Grandma!!), and I realized something: No matter how much our culture tries to push Christ out of Christmas, they can’t. As far as I know, TSO is a secular group, but for some reason I found the show this year to be more Christ-centered (in content) than I remember their other shows being. They did a rendition of “O Come All Ye Faithful” that honestly had me in tears, and all I could think as the gal was singing it was how awesome God is … because sitting there in a secular concert, a woman was singing about Christ being Lord in front of 8,000 people and everyone was listening.

Even in our broken, ruined culture, God still finds a way to make sure His Son receives glory for His sacrifice. And I realized that we can’t separate Christmas from Christ; no one can. You can’t see Christmas without seeing Christ. And that’s what helped me understand something else: Just as you can’t see Christmas without seeing Christ, you can’t see the world without seeing God Himself.

Christmas tree in the living room of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Christmas tree in the living room of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Colossians 1:15-17.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
    He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
for through him God created everything
    in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
    and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
    Everything was created through him and for him.
He existed before anything else,
    and he holds all creation together.

Who made light? Who made fire? Who designed fire to put off smoke? Who gave us the creativity to manufacture smoke machines and firecrackers and lasers? Who made music? Where did it come from? Who created the human eye and the human spirit so that we could enjoy loud concerts where all of these things come together in the awe-inspiring crescendo that is Trans-Siberian Orchestra?

Want to venture a guess?

The lyrics of the old, familiar Christmas carols bear witness to who God is and what He’s done for us. But beyond the lyrics is so much more. All creation is witness to who God is and what He’s done for us. The Earth. The stars. The oceans. The plains. The mountains. Clouds. Storms. Wind. Fire. Water. Birth. Death. Life itself. Pick an aspect of our world that we don’t understand and try to make sense of it without God.

As Christ is inseparable from Christmas, God is inseparable from the world around us. And the people who refuse to see Him are simply deceiving themselves for some reason or another. That’s totally their prerogative, by the way.

I know I rejoice at sunrises and sunsets because they’re so amazing only God could have made them. But when was the last time I marveled at an inchworm or an ant? When was the last time something small and “insignificant” caught my eye? Because even the small things are miraculous.

And the beauty of it all is that I don’t have to say anything. Creation speaks for itself.

I grieve for this culture because they’ve turned their backs on God. I mourn for the loss of the relationships that people could have with God because I know what He’s done in my life. But what I realized at that TSO concert is that if God can bring a secular audience to their feet in response to “O Come All Ye Faithful” in a culture like ours, He can bring glory to Himself however He wants, and the people who are listening will recognize it.

So go stand on a street corner today and sing Christmas carols while you still can. And if the day ever comes when we can’t do that anymore, don’t worry. Point out the sky and the sun and the moon and the stars. Point to the wind. Point to the parts of the life that can’t be explained and let God explain Himself to others when you don’t have words for it. He’s been doing it since He created time; He can handle it.