Learning from our Christmas Carols

We all love the Christmas season. Even in its secular form, there’s beauty in all the lights and decorations, in joyous fellowship with parties and celebrations, in the love we feel through the gracious and generous spirit that’s in the air, and in the music in which we delight and take great joy. I’m sure like many of you, I love Christmas music, but I have to say that for me, I love especially the traditional Christmas Carols that reflect the essence of the Nativity of Jesus Christ.

Listening to songs about Rudolph or Frosty or the Winter Wonderland or Santa Claus coming to Town might remind us of our childhood, but I love the traditional Christmas Carols which were originally sung as  hymns in churches, hymns that reflect the deep theology of this unbelievable feast. Remember, Christmas isn’t mainly about Santa Claus and the North Pole, nor is it mainly about presents and even warm, family gatherings.

Christmas is the revolutionary, earth-shattering, unbelievable divine event of God the Creator becoming a human being. Why did God become a man? That’s a good question and one that the traditional Christmas Carols try to answer.

In today’s sermon, we’re going to sing with the choir a few of my favorite Christmas carols and reflect on what they teach us. This is just an example of what we can learn from the traditional Christmas Carols. Let’s begin with O Come O Come Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here, Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan's tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save, And give them victory o'er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.

What does this beautiful carol tell us? Why did Jesus, who also was given the name Emmanuel, come?

Well, the song says it clearly. Israel, who represented the world, was held captive in lonely exile here on earth. They, and all humanity, were kicked out of paradise, from the Garden of Eden, from the time of Adam and Eve. Humanity was captive from the time of the Fall under Satan’s tyranny of death and hell. Israel and all humanity could do nothing to resolve this ultimate dilemma of death.

So, God acted! He chose to become a human being, to take on our fallen human condition, to experience the evil of the world, including death itself, so that He could conquer all darkness and give victory over the grave!

He came to remind all humanity that we no longer live in lonely exile, but that God IS WITH US, Jesus is Emmanuel! Christmas reminds us that we are no longer alone, and we no longer fear death itself! We have a new vision, a new hope, a new reality. Death never has the final say for those who truly believe and live Christmas!

This is where our faith becomes practical; remember our faith intersects and affects our lives. We don’t separate and compartmentalize our faith as if what we proclaim and believe on Sundays is for Church and what we experience throughout the week or in our lives is a different reality. We integrate our faith with what happens to us in our daily lives. Here’s a concrete example. In the last two weeks, I have heard of several very sad deaths. Our own parishioner, Mary Seferi has a sister who lost her grandchild in a tragic car accident. The young girl Jaelyn was in her early teens. Can you imagine a family celebrating Christmas following such an unimaginable death? And then a couple days ago, Dawn Lindstrom, an acquaintance of our family and a beloved community member in Dudley, passed away from cancer in mid-life, leaving behind a dear husband and beautiful family of six children and many friends.

How do these families celebrate Christmas after such tragic losses? How do they make sense of such untimely death? How do they go forward?

Well, this is precisely what Christmas is all about! We no longer mourn “in lonely exile.” We no longer remain under Satan’s tyranny of hell. We rejoice as we proclaim Christ’s victory over death. The birth of Jesus is only the beginning of a story that will end in the resurrection of Christ. Christmas points to Pascha and Easter. We never separate these realities in our faith. We say, “Come O Come Emmanuel.”

What about another Christmas Carol? Let’s sing together “Hark the herald angels sing.”

Hark! the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King.
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful, all ye nations, rise, Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic host proclaim Christ is born in Bethlehem
Hark, the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King

Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ the everlasting Lord
Late in time behold Him come, offspring of the Virgin’s womb;
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity,
pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark, the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King

Hail, the heaven Prince of peace, Hail! the Son of Righteousness
Light and life to all he brings, Risen with healing in his wings
Mild he lays his glory by, Born that man 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 newborn King

What theology in this magnificent hymn! It highlights how Jesus is God, the incarnate Deity whom we see in the flesh. Let’s never forget who Jesus is. The little fetus in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the defenseless babe in the manger in Bethlehem is none other than the Creator of the universe who has become human.

And this everlasting Lord brings reconciliation between God and humanity;
this Son of Righteousness brings Light and Life in the midst of our darkness,
This newborn King brings healing to all that is broken.
Jesus, the God-Man is born so that we no longer die,
Christ is born to raise us from this temporal earth and give us a new birth as His eternal heir!

Here is the “Good News of Great Joy” proclaimed by all creation. This is how Christmas changes world history! This is how Jesus our Emmauel changes the lives of each one of us!

Knowing all this, let us sing together with the choir, the feeling this Good News of Great Joy brings to us – Joy to the World

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

All Creation rejoices at this revolutionary, earth-shattering, unbelievable divine event of God. Heaven and earth join together in praise. The fields, the rocks all creation rejoices. Yet this hymn reminds us that even though God has entered and changed the world,

-       we have to prepare Him a room;

-       we have to make space in our hearts and push aside the clutter of our lives to receive our King;

-       we have to allow His truth and grace, His righteousness and love to rule and guide our lives.

-       Only when we choose to live under God’s reign and don’t relegate His rule to a little corner or compartment in our lives will we truly be able to discover the joy and wonder of His eternal love.

Well, what else do we do with all this Good News? If we truly experience Christmas in the depths of our hearts and allow the coming of God in the flesh to change our lives, to give us hope, to fill us with eternal joy, and to reassure us with His unconditional love, then we can only have one response.

What do we do with this Good News? We Go, tell it on the mountains!!!

 

Go, Tell It On The Mountain, Over the hills and everywhere;Go, Tell It On The Mountain, That Jesus Christ is born. While shepherds kept their watching, Over silent flocks by night,Behold throughout the heavens, There shone a holy light: Go, Tell It On The Mountain, Over the hills and everywhere;Go, Tell It On The Mountain, That Jesus Christ is born. The shepherds feared and trembled, When lo! above the earthRang out the angel chorus, That hailed our Savior's birth. Go, Tell It On The Mountain, Over the hills and everywhere;Go, Tell It On The Mountain, That Jesus Christ is born. Down in a lowly manger, Our humble Christ was bornAnd God send us salvation, That blessed Christmas morn:

 

The angels of the Lord announced His coming by proclaiming “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and good will among all. Jesus ended His earthly life by proclaiming, “All authority on heaven and earth I have. Go and make disciples of all nations. Go and proclaim the Good News to all creation.” Go, shout this Good News from the mountain tops!

Remember,

  • - the Good News of Great Joy is about Emmanuel, God is with us;
  • - the Good News of Great Joy is about the Savior of the world, that saves us from our sinful and fallen reality and offers hope and life in the face of evil and darkness a
  • - the Good News of Great Joy brings grace and healing to all that is broken;
  • - the Good News of Great Joy brings a message of victory over death, life eternal is our destiny.
  • - this Good News of Great Joy is surely not meant to be kept secret, to be kept to ourselves.

This Good New of Great Joy is for all the world and that is why we Go and Tell it from the mountain, shouting out that Christ is Born! God is with us! Our Lives are Changed because of Christmas. So let us say with joy to one another:

Christ is Born! Let us all glorify Him!

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