Listen, Pray, Sing: Christmas Carols

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I love Christmas carols. I mean real Christmas carols, not those annoying holiday songs about mother’s having affairs with Santa and rockin around the Christmas tree. I’m talking about the Christmas hymns. The centuries old words that mean as much today as they did when they were written, if we would only take the time to stop and really listen.

I get this from my mother. She has always loved Christmas carols but I remember her saying that after she became a Christian they started to mean more to her than they did before. She saw the deep truth in the words.

Our church doesn’t sing a lot of Christmas carols. As far as I’m concerned we could pretty much sing only Christmas carols they entire month of December. But apparently some people don’t like them. They find they boring, cliche, too hard to worship with, etc. I wonder if they’ve ever actually read the words.

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 the angelic host proclaim:

“Christ is born in Bethlehem”

Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

That’s the gospel and the Christmas story all rolled into one.

There is something magical about Christmas. Like the deeper magic that C.S. Lewis talks about in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. A God, born in a manger, appearing as a child. A child who came to save us all. It’s a beautiful mystery that is answered by the crucifixion and resurrection, and yet not quite explained. A father who gave up his only son to save a universe. This is what Christmas is about. The old Christmas carols embody this. They tell the story in the style of an epic tale using words that are both difficult to understand and yet too familiar, which is why some have trouble connecting with them.

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.

 The prisoners have been bought back the debt has been paid, the promised one has arrived. How can we not celebrate? How can we not worship? If you don’t already, I invite you to really listen to the Christmas carols this year. Pick one or two and actually look up the words to all the verses. Read them through a few times and ask yourself what they are really saying. Make it your devotion. Make it your prayer. Worship at the edge of the manger as you do the empty tomb. Love has come to save us.

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.

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