Columns, Theology

Jingle All the Way?

Each Christmas season I find myself moved again and again by the profound truths we sing about in some of our better Christmas songs. Take, for example, these lyrics from “Silent Night”:

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

I thank God that I have not ceased to wonder at the mystery and reality of “Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.”

But as I said in a recent sermon, as much as I appreciate many of our popular Christmas hymns the songs of Scripture sing with a power beyond anything written by mere men and women. I’m thinking of songs like that of Zachariah in Luke 1:68-79. Because Zachariah wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, his words are “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). In other words, Zachariah’s song is truly heavenly.

Consider these God-breathed lyrics:

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days (Luke 1:68-75).

Redemption, faithfulness, mercy, rescue from enemies, holiness, righteousness, worship without fear: this is the song of heaven!

Can you hear it? Every note struck perfectly, every chorus in harmony, the indescribably beautiful crescendo that is leading to the ultimate climax of the ages when the trumpet will sound, and the angels will sing, and every tear is wiped away, and every wrong made right, and joy eternal becomes our only reality! This is the gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ–the good news of His life, death, and resurrection for sinners like us.

Tragically, millions of people this Christmas are settling for mere jingles when the symphony of God’s grace is sounding forth all around us. And I’m not talking about merely music. Instead of singing “the child born a King,” many people are singing about a new MacBook Air. Instead of singing “Joy to the world, the Lord is come,” many people are singing about vacation time. Instead of asking, “What child is this?” many people are asking, “What will I get for Christmas?”

Don’t misunderstand my point: it’s not wrong to give gifts and be excited to receive one. My concern is that we don’t miss the heart of Christmas in the midst of all the Christmas noise. In other words, don’t miss Handel’s Messiah for “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” After all, this is the season when, “Hark, the herald Angels sing glory to the newborn King.”

Do you hear what I hear?

Filed under: Columns, Theology
Michael Pohlman

Michael Pohlman (PhD, Southern Seminary) is professor of Preaching and Pastoral Ministry and chair of the Department of Ministry and Proclamation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is founder and executive director of Some Pastors and Teachers.

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