I am a major fan of singing hymns, and as many verses of those hymns which are theologically correct. Something I have been thinking about recently during this Advent time is the question, “What are we waiting for?” And, “Do the songs we sing accurately portray that waiting?
When the Jews awaited the coming of the Messiah they awaited for a Savior of a military and earthly sorts. They believed the Messiah would save them from Rome. Someone to restore their culture. Heal them of their wounds and sickness. Free them from their oppression.
The problem was that when Jesus showed up, He spoke of another kingdom, of another freedom from a different oppression. He spoke of a healing from a different kind of sickness. He was claiming to be a different kind of Savior. This is ultimately why they rejected him and then killed him. But what does this have to do with singing and Christmas hymns?
Well, the most popular Christmas hymns are often played on the radio and in the mall and stores this time of year. Often when they are played the artists singing the songs only choose the first and last verse or even less to sing. Everyone seems to know the first verse to hymns like Joy to the World, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, O Little Town of Bethlehem, etc. Sometimes I wonder if the world is confused by our “pretty little catchy tunes” that they, and we, miss the gospel presented within these songs. We might be portraying the same Messiah that Israel waited for and not the Savior Jesus was.
We have an opportunity through song to speak the gospel on every secular corner in our cities and towns. Through the singing of these wonderful Christmas hymns. True Christmas joy and cheer is spread when sinners come to realize that Jesus came to earth, God-incarnate came and “with His blood man-kind hath bought,”(vs. 4 The First Noel) so sinners now saved can say, “no more let sins and sorrow grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found” (vs. 3 Joy to the World). “Now ye need not fear the grave: Jesus Christ was born to save! Calls you one calls you all to gain His everlasting hall. Christ was born to save, Christ was born to save” (vs. 3 Good Christian Men, Rejoice). “Yet with the woes of sin and strife the world has suffered long” (vs 2 It came upon a midnight clear) “Light and life to all He brings, ris’n with healing in His wings, mild He lay His glory by, born that man no more may die born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth” (vs. 3 Hark! the Herald Angels Sing)
May our cry be “O Holy Child of Bethlehem! Descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today!” (vs 4 O Little Town of Bethlehem) They awaited a Savior and He came to dispell sin and grant the heavenly kingdom and grace and mercy to those who did not in any way deserve it. We now praise this Savior and await Him to return a second time and complete the work He has begun in us. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly!
Let’s sing all the verses of these songs and share the Gospel in song. Spread real Christmas cheer. The hope of true salvation.
“Saints before the altar bending, watching long in hope and fear, suddenly the Lord, descending, in His temple shall appear.” (vs. 4 Angels from the Realms of Glory)