The Christmas Story Told Through the Most Beautiful Music Ever Sung On Earth
When our children were young, I will never forget what our oldest said about sacred Christmas carols. He said to us that these songs had to come from heaven. He said that no mere man or woman could write these glorious songs about Jesus coming to earth as a baby.
Now don’t get me wrong – as much as I agreed with our son, these magnificent Christmas hymns should never be compared to the Word of God. We know that God’s Word was inspired by the Holy Spirit as men penned each word.
But I do believe that the Holy Spirit helped the writers of these exquisite hymns. These carols are taken directly from the Word, with melodies which seem to ring right out of heaven into our hearts!
Oh Holy Night
The first few notes of “O Holy Night stir the true spirit of Christmas in our souls. We feel this way because many of the Christmas Carols that have become part of the tapestry of our every December, are woven from the very One who was, is, and always will be. We sing songs that have been passed down and formed from the way God’s Word moved someone’s heart to put a tune to it.
In a world full of commercialism, especially around Christmastime, we need Hebrews 4:12. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Though we might not all be the best at memorizing Scripture, human nature often lends the success of our memory to song. As children, we learn our ABC’s by singing them!
The gospel of John reminds us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Jesus is the Word, and the reason for the Christmas season.
The First Noel
“Noel” derives from the Latin verb “nasci,” to be born, and eventually trickled down into the French reference to the Christmas holiday. Defined, it literally means, “a Christmas carol” (Merriam Webster). The very world “Noel” is synonymous with Christmas.
It’s quite possible that the tune of this song has been played since the 1200s. Davies Gilbert added the lyrics in the 1800s, and it was published in 1823. The song retells the story from Luke 2of the angels telling the shepherds in the field of the Savior being born, and the wise men following that same star to bring Him gifts.
Embracing Noel sends us traveling back to an ancient era, where our timeless Savior was born. The word used to describe the day of His birth became an anthem in celebration of the day of His birth. Though the angels sang in celebration of His birth first, we get to share in that joy of His coming by singing along today.
O Come O Come Emmanuel
Historically an Advent song, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” exudes the angst of a people waiting for their Savior. With references to the Rod of Jesse and the Key of David, it envelopes the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus Christ, which brings the New Testament into an even brighter light.
The first verse of the song speaks of the Son of God appearing. When we sing this classic Christmas carol, we are lauding the Lord over stanzas of Scripture that took over 800 years to be fulfilled. Isaiah spoke of the Messiah’s birth around 740-680 BC: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Centuries later, Matthew recorded these words: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”; Matthew 1:23).
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Charles Wesley, in an effort to share the gospel with ordinary people, wrote “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” (1739) among many other famous hymns. It seems that he, too, knew the power of melody upon any memory. The very beginning of this classic Christmas carol gives glory to the story Luke told in his gospel.
“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests’” (Luke 2:13-14).
“Hark! the herald angels sing Glory to the newborn King!” When standing in worship together, singing that song, we are repeating Scripture! This catchy carol highlights the definitive nature of the Christian believer, for we solely embrace the fact that Jesus came here in the flesh, died, was resurrected, and ascended to heaven.
“Hail the Flesh, the God Head see Hail the incarnate Deity Pleased as man with man to dwell Jesus, our Emmanuel!”
Go Tell it on the Mountain
“Go Tell it on the Mountain” is sung by everyone from cute little youngsters to full-blown adult choirs. Its powerful nature lies in the story it tells; a King coming down from heaven, humbled by human flesh for our salvation. Written by John Wesley Work Jr. in 1865, here is yet another centuries-old song that has continued to gain popularity and power over time.
The gospel of Luke mentions Zechariah’s burst into praise when his speech is restored. With his previous lack of faith now overflowing with proof, he could not keep from shouting praise to God for who He was. Some call the text of Scripture referenced in this song, “Zechariah’s Song.” The power of Christ’s birth on earth is soul bending. When we allow our minds to sink into the scene beyond the story, we, too, will feel like shouting our praises for Him.
Angels We Have Heard on High
James Chadwick wrote “Angels We Have Heard on High” to sing of the story in the gospel of Luke, when Jesus Christ was born. The shepherds were a very important part of the scene, and God’s plan. They were a lower-class group of people, yet the angels appeared to them! Scripture assures us that they were terrified! The events of this night were a far cry from their day-to-day operation of sheep herding. Perhaps it was the heart of those who made sure not to lose one sheep, that sought after sharing news of the One who would go after the hearts of all men … seeking not to lose one. “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day” (John 6:39).
“Gloria, in excelsis Deo.” This phrase repeated in the song means, “Glory to God in the highest.” Heaven sang praise as Jesus came down, which reflects the transition from heaven to earth is The first verse of this carol mentions the mountains “echoing their joyous strains,” as the angels sang. When the Son of God, who created all things, made His entrance to earth, angels sang of things that only they might have been privy to witness of the earth’s reaction to Jesus coming down.
Brethren, there are so many more wonderful Christmas carols. Writing this article made me want to go caroling in our neighborhood this year! I’m thinking of asking some neighbors to come caroling with us. Then I thought “What if they don’t know the words? No problem! Just type the words, and make sure that everyone has a small flashlight.
A Christmas gift for you:
I found this on youtube and thought that the readers would love this as much as I do. 3 solid hours of traditional (sacred) Christmas Music!
All history of the carols in this piece come from: crosswalk.com