The Season of Song
One of the greatest joys as we enter into the festival half of the church year is the music. Itís not the music in itself that is the big deal. Itís the content, the words that are sung. As we enter into the season of Advent and onward into Christmas, we remember that weíre part of Godís story, His story of redemption. That story comes alive this time of year in the songs of the church.
On Reformation I preached about the importance of the Truth, expounding upon the story of the early Missouri Synod and the beginnings of Zion Lutheran Church in Staunton. Doctrine matters! But doctrine is always set within the context of Godís story. Thatís what makes it come alive. Itís part of the story in which God comes down into the earthy, muddy lives of sinners to bring about redemption in His Son. The story includes us, but began long before us, and thatís important to remember!
That story comes alive for us this time of year as we turn to the Gospel of Luke to reflect on the Saviorís birth and the events leading up to it. When God stepped into the lives of His people 2000 years ago in Palestine, theyíre moved to song. In the first chapter of his Gospel, Luke records Maryís song, the Magnificat, which she sang after the Saviorís conception by the power of the Holy Spirit in her womb. Mary sings no sappy love song, but a song of praise as a humble, servant who has been undeservedly chosen as a key part in Godís work of salvation. Next, Zechariah sings at the birth of John the Baptist. ďBlessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his peopleĒ (Lk. 1:68). He sings far more than the joys of a son for he and Elizabeth. He sings the joy of Godís faithfulness to His promise of old. In Luke 2, the angels sing their resounding, ďGloria in excelsis,Ē as they announce the Saviorís birth to lowly shepherds, but itís not just for them. Itís for all the earth. Finally, Zechariah sings the ďNunc Dimittis,Ē having held the Savior of the world in his arms. He had waited for the consolation of Israel and, having seen Godís salvation, was ready to die.
Iím sure you all have your beloved Christmas carols. What do you love most about each of them? The melody? The words? The memories recalled of Christmases past? As you sing them anew this year, consider how the words sung bring you into the story of Godís redeeming love. Youíre part of that story by virtue of your baptism into Christ. The songs of the season help you recognize your place in Godís story. Thatís why we regularly sing the above canticles in the liturgy of the church. They tell the story with all of its richness. They incorporate us into the story, not as principal actors, not as the big deal, but like Mary, Zechariah and Elizabeth, and along with them, as humble recipients of Godís undeserved love in Christ. Such is the case with all of our rich hymnody. Rejoice in being a recipient of His undeserved grace. And use those hymns, as we do with all our hymnody, to be grounded in the grace of God in Christ Jesus your newborn King.
Happy Advent, Merry Christmas, and a Blessed New Year under Godís grace in Christ,