As I wrote in an earlier post, my daughter and son-in-law recently informed me that they no longer consider themselves Christians. With Christmas approaching, I considered whether to ask them if they still planned to celebrate the holiday. I reasoned that perhaps they would see the inconsistency of celebrating Christmas while simultaneously rejecting the existence of God. If there is no God, there can be no judgment of sin, which means that Jesus didn’t have to come to Earth to give His life to save us. Not to mention the fact that if there is no God, there is no Jesus.

I eventually came to the conclusion that perhaps my daughter and her husband would get some good out of celebrating Christmas even if they don’t recognize the person behind the holiday or what He has done for us. Perhaps something will sink into them, like the generosity, love, and compassion that is most prevalent at this time of year. Perhaps a phrase from one of the wonderful Christmas carols or hymns that people sing will be called to mind years from now, reminding them of Jesus.

carolers

Meaning in the Music

With these thoughts still on my mind, I recently listened to a podcast by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason, in which he spoke very eloquently about the music of the season. The lyrics of many of the old Christmas songs are very deep, accurate, meaningful expressions of the gospel story. While I recommend that you listen to the podcast yourself, starting at about 16 minutes in if you don’t have time for the whole thing, I have transcribed a portion of the podcast for inclusion here. Please take a few moments to read the following.

I love singing carols at Christmas time. I don’t mean ‘Jingle Bells,’ I mean carols that reflect profound theological truth. They’re among the best worship songs I’ve ever sung. They’re older, generally, and therefore they are not shallow. They are thought through. The lyrics are worked at. The writers have spent time and [they] took pains to produce something of quality. Not like many of the worship songs that we suffer through nowadays – the so-called ‘7-11’ – seven words sung 11 times or whatever. These things have substance and they have spiritual significance and they are heralds; that is, they announce the significance of the events of the season that we’re celebrating. And they do it in theologically profound and significant ways. I didn’t really notice this until after I became a Christian.

These were songs I had been singing all of my life. And when I went out with my church, soon after I became a Christian – within a few years – and we were going from house to house as some churches do – still, ours is having caroling this week I think, groups all over Conejo Valley – when we went out and began to sing these songs, I began to pay attention to the words and, honestly, I was deeply moved. I was taken by the things the lyrics said about Jesus and about hope and about all the things that these carols speak of. That I had sung so much in the past without ever thinking about it – now, the concepts were sinking in. And I think it’s curious, isn’t it, that for one season every year, millions of people without theological convictions are singing these songs extolling the virtues of Jesus in theologically precise and deep ways. And they do it with vigor when they’re singing these songs. ‘Hark the herald angels sing!’, you know, ‘Glory to the newborn King!’ and they’re not thinking of the King that was born. They’re just singing the song.

In a way, it’s ironic. It’s also kind of sad. Because there’s a dark side to this and the dark side to this reflection here about Christmas carols is that so many of those who sang His praises will in fact one day stand before Him at judgment. And then the picture will not be pretty. And it won’t be joyful. And they won’t be singing. It will be terrifying. And I’ve wondered many times, frankly, if when that time comes – and it will come – when that event takes place, I’ve wondered if there will be maybe a moment of ironic reflection as the person who stands now in judgment thinks ‘It was all right there. The words were on my lips. It was so clear. I was singing the truth in such obvious statements. Nothing tricky, there it was and it didn’t sink in. It didn’t make a difference. I didn’t respond. I let it go and now I stand here. I ignored it and now I stand in judgment and now it’s too late.’

Wow. Greg hit the nail on the head. What a beautiful description of the music of the Christmas season and its effects for good, and also an agonizing description of what lies in store for so many who don’t believe, but could have.

As you sing Christmas carols and hymns this season, please – please listen to the words and let them sink in. Believe their message. Let them become a part of you and influence you deeply. Get to know the One of whom the angels sang all those years ago.

The Gospel in Christmas Lyrics

In closing, I will share the words of just one verse of an old Christmas hymn that you have likely never heard or sung but which is one of my favorites, “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne,” composed by Emily E. Elliott.

Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word,
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary.

There it is, the good news of Jesus Christ in a nutshell. All that is here left unsaid is that Jesus rose from the dead after His crucifixion, making a way for us to join Him in Heaven. The chorus to the hymn then says

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

This is my prayer this Christmas. Please consider making it your prayer as well. Merry Christmas!