Christmas Songs

Recently, on social media, I noticed many of my friends complaining because they were hearing Christmas music being played in stores and on radio stations in mid-October. Granted, the reason for seasonal music was probably to start getting customers in the “giving” mood. Retailers are notorious for trying to commercialize on the spirit of generosity that washes over us during Christmas. But let’s don’t blame the music for getting us in the mood. After all, songs have been part of the story of Christmas as long as there has been a story of Christmas.

Some purists will tell me that in the story the wording does not suggest singing, but saying, “Glory to God!” Personally, I would err on the side of angels singing when the worship of the One born King of kings and Lord of lords was being announced. I have noticed that whenever I worship God, either alone or corporately, music just becomes a natural part of the process. It sort of wells up and overflows—leaking out of me as if I could not hold it back. And music at Christmas does this for multitudes of people.

Perhaps you’ve seen some of the “flash mob” videos that are popular around this time of year: in the middle of a crowded shopping mall, a lone shopper with clear, bright voice begins to sing the first strains of the “Hallelujah Chorus,” quickly joined by another voice, and another (this is part of the plan), but by the end of the song almost everyone in the crowd is either singing along or else listening in rapt attention to the worship of God. What a great Christmas song.

“Sing a new song to the Lord; let the whole earth sing to the Lord.”  —Psalm 96:1


There should be no confusion. The popular song from the early seventies tells us that “Jeremiah was a bullfrog” and he sang “joy to the world.” The time-worn Christmas hymn tells an entirely different story. Perhaps Three Dog Night and the society in which we live would find joy to the world in the disguise of a friendly bullfrog with a “mighty fine wine.” But true joy can be found in only one place.

This Christmas season, as we consider the words of a host of angels to shepherds on a remote hillside over 2000 years ago, it is appropriate to see the importance of joy. It is more than contentment, although contented people often have joy. It is more than family ties, although our families are often a source of joy for us. It is more than a newborn child, although whenever we hear the cooing of a brand new, infant our hearts leap for joy. Yes, Joy is more than mere happiness, it is a state of being that can only be found in Christ. The Christ of Christmas.

You cannot manufacture nor imitate true joy. It can only be encountered when you encounter Jesus. So, this season as you sing of Joy to the World, let the Joy of Jesus flood your heart and extend to all the people you meet.

  “The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’”  – Luke 2:10

Before you gather ‘round the Christmas tree and begin to plunder the greed hidden there, take a moment to reflect on Christmas. Shall I say CHRIST-mas. Today is the day that we celebrate the moment that the world welcomed its Maker. I like the fairly new Christmas song by Chris Rice (it’s been recorded not only by Rice, but also by the likes of Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant): “Welcome to our world.” This is the one thing that is all too often forgotten amidst the reckless abandon with which we practice our avarice on Christmas. We even encourage it with our children trying to bribe them into good behavior with a jolly old elf who will or will not give them all of their selfish desires depending on their behavior.

So this morning as you pour your Christmas morning coffee and settle onto the couch in front of your Yuletide evergreen, take a moment to read the Christmas story (most people choose Luke 2, but there are some other great passages in Matthew and Mark, and I really like John 1 for a thoughtful approach). Then take a moment to say to the Savior about whom we celebrate: “Welcome to our world; welcome to our home; welcome to my life.” And Merry Christmas to one and all.

“On the fourth day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me . . . four Calling Birds . . . “

The four who call our attention most pointedly to Christ are the evangelists (gospel writers, if you prefer): Matthew Mark, Luke and John. Of these four, two were among the number of the Twelve, and the other two were closely associated with Paul.

One might ask why it is necessary to have four gospels, wouldn’t one tell the story? In all candor there are other ancient documents claiming to be other gospel stories which for one reason or another were not included in the canon when the church spent months debating over the writings to include in Holy Scripture. So, not only why four? but why these four? It is not my purpose to get into a deep historical debate over which came first (I trust the experts who have concluded that Mark was the earliest to write his account), and I will also admit that if you find something wrong with my statements about each of the gospels, then you are free to comment and state your opinion (if it came down to debate, you’d probably win because you’re probably smarter than me, but I’d still stand behind what I write).

So, why four calling birds?

  1. Matthew wrote his account–from his perspective–with an audience in mind that would be interested in why Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ (Messiah). He went to great lengths to disclose the overwhelming number of prophecies concerning Messiah that Jesus fulfilled.
  2. Mark wrote his account–from his perspective–with a desire to get a record into existence that proved definitively that Jesus was not only the Christ, but also that He was God and Man united in one person.
  3. Luke, the doctor–writing from his perspective–was a stickler for detail. He included a multitude of historical details that set the events of Jesus in a historical perspective for us.
  4. John, the “beloved disciple”–writing from his perspective–gave us the most eloquent of the gospels in which he showed in the miraculous manner of His ministry, Jesus could be none other than the Word made flesh (dwelling among us).

Taken separately, these four gospels give us (some 2000 years later) a good picture of who Jesus was (the Christ) and what He did. Taken together they paint an entire picture from which we as Christ’s followers can tell the World about the Messiah who came to earth to save us from our sinful selves.

“On the first day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me . . . A Partridge in a pear tree”

The greatest gift of all Christendom is Christ Himself. In fact, as a Christian I might argue that Christ is the greatest gift of all. The gift, though is not the Baby Jesus in a manger. Yes, we must have the Babe in a barn stall, wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger for His bed. Without this humble beginning we would not have opportunity to see and know the Christ who walked Middle Eastern lands in and around Jerusalem, beginning in Nazareth and Capernaum and stirring up trouble among the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other religious leaders.

How was this greatest of all (first of all) gifts delivered? On a tree. You see it is not the Babe in a Manger, but the Lamb on the Cross who is our Savior. He started in the humility of the manger-bed, but lived to die for all my sin.

A partridge (the Christ) in a pear tree (on a cross, paying the price for my sins).

As we start on our “Twelve Days” series of posts, I want to be sure that we are all understanding that the items listed in the popular Christmas song are most likely NOT originally references to church-y matters as have been claimed over the past several years, we can let them give us pause to think about things devotional–and that is what we will do over the next several days. And if this gives you a new devotional angle with which to look at this fun song, then it will have been a worthy exercise. Plus, we will get to enjoy a few days’ worth of reflection together. (Be sure to register your thoughts about my thoughts in the “comments” section.)

Let us begin by identifying “my true love”

Consider this thought — Jesus taught about the greatest of all the commandments, in Matthew’s account, thus:  34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  (from Matthew 22, ESV)

What we see is that the One we love is God. In the same respect, He is the One who truly loves us. When you think about the 12 Days of Christmas, and all the gifts that your True Love gave to you, remember that your True Love is the One who made you, and the One who made a way for you to make your way back to Him.