Although Christmas is too commercial and the obsession with money is an “entrance to sin,” as the archbishop of Constantinople foresaw in 380 AD, some of the music continues to focus on God coming to Earth as a baby born more than 2,000 years ago and sacrificing his life to forgive mankind of its sin. Whether the anthems were pinned a few, for a few hundred, years ago, the message still points to the miracle of Christmas.
The hymn “Good Christian Men Rejoice” introduces Jesus Christ in stanza one, announces his mission next, “…He has open heaven’s door and man is blessed for ever more…” Then the savior’s purpose, “Jesus Christ was born to save, calls you one calls you all, to gain his everlasting call.” That paints a clear picture of the gospel message that his stood throughout church history. (That’s not to suggest those who call themselves Christians have always practiced it.)
Ponder that today as you have a Merry Christmas.
Another great hymn is “Silent Night.” Forget “White Christmas” or “The Christmas Song,” TIME claimed the Joseph Mohr/Franz Xaver Gruber classic is the most popular Christmas song ever in December 2014. The selection was made in comparing digital registrations in the U.S. Copyright Office since 1978. By the way, the hymn “Joy to the World” is second. That’s a fun fact to share with friends.
Often non-Christians think of the Prince of Peace as bringing peace on earth. Spiritually speaking that is impossible, but one doesn’t expect non-Christians to recognize the spiritual realm accurately. However another hymn helps address this. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lamented conditions in 1867 as he wrote “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
The symbols of the environment say “peace on Earth,” but all is not well in post U.S. Civil War Massachusetts in the 19th Century. After Longfellow’s narrator hangs his head in deep despair in recognition that “There is no peace on earth. For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will toward men.” As the bells clang the narrator has an “aha” moment and realizes there is hope. “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail; with peace on earth good will to men.” That peace will be on a new earth. If one cannot recognize the symbolism in Longfellow’s work, one will misinterpret it. Ironically, some argue Longfellow was not a Christian, but he was raised in a Puritan setting.
It seems hard to believe, but it has been a quarter of a century since Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene created what has become modern day classic “Mary Did you Know?” Lowry’s lyrics from “…Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you know?… And when you kiss your little baby boy, you have kissed the face of God,” serve as powerful reminders to keep Christ in Christmas.