Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Teach the Gospel through Christmas Songs

Over on our personal blog (goodwordgoodwins.blogspot.com), I posted recently about how I am trying to read through the lyrics of some Christmas songs this month. And I wanted to encourage all of you as families to take time to do this together this season. You and your children are familiar with many Christmas songs, but a lot of times--if you're like me--you don't take the time to really think through the words and see how insightful they can really be. So I think it'd be a great activity to each day the next few weeks as a family to read part of the Christmas story together (reading a short portion of Luke's account each day could take a few weeks), briefly discuss it, pray together, then choose a Christmas song to sing together, but be sure to point out something simple that it reminds us about the gospel before you sing (our sin, Christ's divinity, Him coming ultimately to die on the cross, etc.).

Here's an example of something I thought about when reading through "O Little Town of Bethlehem":

The third stanza is as follows:

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heav'n.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still
The dear Christ enters in.

Phillips Brooks, the author, is playing on the idea of Jesus' birth coming rather "silently"--although I don't know how "silent" it truly was with the angels proclamations and the shepherds spreading the word. But it is true that the whole world wasn't completely fascinated or awed by Christ's birth at that time. So in a sense, while angels were singing God's praises and marveling at the birth, the world rolled on as usual...Brooks is reminding us that Jesus invades the hearts of sinners like you and me in the same silent way when we are "meek" and repentant. The world may not take much notice of the change or appreciate it (they moved on from the birth of Christ rather quickly it seems--except for King Herod), but it is real none the less.

The last stanza goes like this:

O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us today!
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Immanuel!

Brooks very simply helps us sing to our Savior and invite Him to daily live within us. Of course, He never leaves us. It is not as if the Spirit of Christ has to be born in us again day after day after day. But Brooks is poetically having us ask Jesus to "abide" with us daily and to help us cast out sin from our lives daily. So in that sense, He can be born in us each day and influence us afresh. This idea of "abiding" is a rich biblical teaching that John especially focuses on and one that we can certainly be reminded of at this time of year where we celebrate Christ's first entrance into our world and into the lives of humanity.

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