By Peter Amsterdam, adapted
Something I’ve always loved about Christmas is listening to and singing the beautiful Christmas carols that have been written over the centuries. I like them so much that I often listen to them at other times throughout the year. Many are masterpieces and deeply moving. Recently, when looking online for the words to some of my favorites, I was impressed by the beauty of their poetry as well as the power of their purpose in a way I hadn’t been before.
What struck me was how in the midst of the rhyme and repetition that songs require, they deliver such powerful and nuanced messages. They speak deep truths about Jesus, His incarnation, mission, purpose, and power, along with His love and sacrifice for humanity. They are not only a strong witness to the message of the Savior and salvation, but are also a reminder to those of us who follow Him of the deep truths that we believe.
For hundreds of years, these carols have told the story of the One who left heaven to bring salvation to all people. They remind us, as they have done for centuries, of the importance of this day we celebrate—the birth of Christ—Jesus, God’s Son, who lived among us and laid down His life for us so that we may live forever. Embedded within the beautiful Christmas carols is the truth of what God has done to bring salvation to humanity.
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” was written in 1739 by Charles Wesley. Originally set to solemn music, it was turned into the joyous and beautiful carol it is today by William Cummings, who based the music on a piece by Felix Mendelssohn. The message of reconciliation with God, the peace brought by the Prince of Peace, and the rejoicing that Jesus is King make this a deeply meaningful Christmas carol.
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!”
“O Holy Night” is my favorite Christmas carol—and in fact, my all-time favorite song. (Originally in French, written by Placide Cappeau (1808–1877), set to music in 1847 by Adolphe Adam) It is so powerful in both melody and word, and drives home the overall message of hope available to all who believe in Jesus and the effect He has on the lives of those who come to know Him. Here are a few excerpts:
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth. …
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
This additional verse, which is seldom sung, contains a touching word picture about comfort in difficult times.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend.
He knows our need; our weakness is no stranger.
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Jesus is always there for us. Through the journey of our lives, through each of our tests and trials, He is there. As the carol says, He’s born to be our Friend. He’s no stranger to our weaknesses and frailties. He knows all about us—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and loves us in spite of how we are. He wants to be part of our lives, to share not just in our difficulties when we cry out to Him in need, but also in our times of joy and happiness, when we celebrate our achievements and those of our family and friends.
At Christmas, we are reminded about Jesus’ birth, and it’s a wonderful time of year to think about Him and all that He has done for us, which goes way beyond the Christmas season. He is an integral part of our lives and wants to be part of all we do—and He can be, as much as we’ll let Him.
As we sing Christmas carols this year, it’s a great time to reflect on what they mean, what Jesus did, and how deeply He loves each one of us and each one of our fellow human beings.—And to carry those thoughts and that love throughout the year ahead. Love Him, love His creations, and be grateful for all He’s done.
Have a wonderful Christmas in Christ.
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