Advent

Music Monday: Who Would Have Dreamed?

Music is beautiful. It stirs our hearts and alters our gaze. If we are intentional about the music we feed our souls, it can be a powerful conduit to increase our affections for our savior. Each Monday, I plan to share a new song which I find to serve this exact purpose - songs with beautiful melodies and rich lyrics, songs that stir our affections, songs that make our hearts sing, not just our mouths. My hope is that these songs do the same for you. My desire is that these songs strengthen your love for Jesus and increase your joy in him.

Lyrics for Who Would Have Dreamed?

VERSE 1
On a starlit hillside, shepherds watched their sheep
Slowly, David’s city drifted off to sleep
But to this little town of no great renown
The Lord had a promise to keep 

VERSE 2
Prophets had foretold it, a mighty King would come
Long awaited Ruler, God’s Anointed One
But the Sovereign of all looked helpless and small
As God gave the world His own Son 

CHORUS
And who would have dreamed or ever foreseen
That we could hold God in our hands?
The Giver of Life is born in the night
Revealing God’s glorious plan
To save the world 

VERSE 3
Wondrous gift of heaven: the Father sends the Son
Planned from time eternal, moved by holy love
He will carry our curse and death
He’ll reverse So we can be daughters and sons 

[source: https://sovereigngracemusic.bandcamp.com/track/who-would-have-dreamed]

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

During advent this year, I am writing a series of posts about some of my favorite Christmas Hymns. If you want more context, you can read my introductory post, Why I Love Christmas Hymns first. The first week week, I wrote about the song "O Come, All Ye Faithful." Last week, we looked at Silent Night, Holy Night. This week, its O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

Waiting in Anticipation

This song is all about waiting, and in that waiting, calling for the Emmanuel to come. There was a longing present among the people of Israel that is hard to fully express. They were a people who had known the presence of God. Who had seen his wondrous deeds in the exodus from Egypt, as God performed miracle after miracle to free them from oppression and give them the promised land. They had seen God's provision as He created a great nation and as they saw the great King David rise to his throne. This was a people who knew the goodness of God.

They were also a people who walked away from God and knew the exile that ensued. They were a people who had been taken from their lands and brought captive to a land that was not their own. Their temple had been destroyed, and the new temple lacked the greatness of the first. They were a people who had heard for generations that God would be sending a savior, a messiah, who would save His people. They waited for this messiah, like a child waits for their father to return from a long days work. They waited for their savior like a wife waits for her husband to come home from war. They waited...

And then he came. But not like people thought he would come. He came in humility. Born as a baby. Born into poverty. But born a King nonetheless. This song is about the waiting, the call for the savior to come, and the peace he brought to the world.

Lyrics

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel. [Refrain]

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high
And order all things, far and nigh
To us the path of knowledge show
And cause us in her ways to go

O come, Desire of nations
bind all peoples in one heart and mind
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease,
Fill all the world with heaven's peace

Until the Son of God appear

The first verse is a reminder of the waiting. They were morning in "lonely exile." They were exiled from their God and many were exiled from their land. And not just any land, but the promised land. They were captive to the world's rulers and the world's ways - until the Son of God appeared. God had come to set them free!

What are you being held captive to this Christmas? What chains are binding you?

God has come in the person of Jesus to set us free. He has come to deliver us from our sin and to bring new life.

Bind all peoples in one heart and mind

Jesus came to free people from their sins. That is the primary way he has brought salvation to our lives. But he also came to bring peace. He is the great uniter. Jesus came in humility. He came to serve, not to be served. Jesus came not as an overpowering and conquering king, but as a humble and meek king.

Jesus invites us to be servant-hearted leaders. Rather than find ways to exert your power or authority over others, find ways to bend your knee, humble yourself and get dirty in service to others. This is one of the ways he will bind all peoples in one heart and mind, when God's people are willing to give up on their preferences in the service of others. This is one of the ways he fills all the world with "heaven's peace."

How can you serve someone else this Christmas? It might be really small, but it could make a world of difference in that one person's life.

And death's dark shadows put to flight

The light of Jesus has caused the dark shadow of death to flee. Jesus has brought light to a dark world. He has brought life to a place of death and decay. Like yeast, it takes time to work through the dough of lives and societies. We still see the stain of death all around us, but we know that there is hope in this world.

The great Emmanuel has come. At Christmas we celebrate his coming. And as we sing, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," we do so with joyful hearts, because we know that he has already come. We also do so with longing hearts as we wait for Jesus to fully and finally complete the redemption he has begun.

The light of Jesus has caused the dark shadow of death to flee.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel video

Here is a video of Shane and Shane singing O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. The quality of the video isn't amazing, but the song is! I hope you enjoy this song as we quickly approach Christmas!

Silent Night, Holy Night

During advent this year, I am writing a series of posts about some of my favorite Christmas Hymns. If you want more context, you can read my introductory post, Why I Love Christmas Hymns first. Last week, I wrote about the song "O Come, All Ye Faithful." This week, we will look at Silent Night, Holy Night.

A childhood favorite

Silent night was my favorite Christmas song as a child. I can still remember my family gathering in my grandmother's living room to sing Christmas carols. It was dark outside and the Christmas lights were on as we would all huddle around the piano. My aunt would play various songs and we would sing. Celebrating the birth of our savior.

I am not entirely sure why it was my favorite, but I do remember that it was. As I think back, I remember that as we would sing Silent Night, a feeling of profound reverence and immense awe would overcome my small mind. The soft and somewhat solemn melody drew me in, and it was as though the world around me faded away. 

Christmas is a time where many emotions and responses are appropriate. We can have rejoicing at the thought of our savior coming to earth. We can have laughter and fun as we gather with our families and loved ones. There is also a place for quiet. There is a place for awe. There is a place for humble adoration when we remember that inside the baby boy Jesus, there resided the all-powerful God of the universe. Who, for a short time, "emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man (Phil 2:7)."

Listen to Silent Night with fresh ears this Advent, and allow it to draw you into the reverent worship of Jesus.

Lyrics

Silent night, Holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant, tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

Silent night, Holy night
Shepherds quake, at the sight
Glories stream from heaven above
Heavenly, hosts sing Hallelujah.
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born

Holy infant, so tender and mild

Jesus is an anomaly and contains so many paradoxes. He is holy, and pure holiness is not tender or meek. It is not mild and subdued. It is fierce and overwhelming. Isaiah 6 reveals as much, when the seraphim cry "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" And the foundations shook as God spoke. Holiness is not tender and mild, it is the exact opposite.

Jesus, the holy infant, lived in the weakest of forms, a human baby. We can marvel, because it is truly remarkable. There are other contrasting features within the song as well. It says, "Round yon virgin, mother and child." A virgin, who is also a mother!?! Virgins cannot give birth to children. It is a biological impossibility, and yet it is true of Mary and Jesus. It is possible because God brought about a miracle in the birth of Jesus.

Not to mention the paradox of the incarnation itself. Jesus, the God-man was fully human and fully divine.

Pure holiness is not tender or meek. It is not mild and subdued. It is fierce and overwhelming.

Son of God, love's pure light

The imagery of light is prevalent throughout the Scriptures and has a remarkable way of illuminating who God is and what he is doing in the world. In this song, Jesus is described as "love's pure light" and it describes, "radiant beams" coming "from thy holy face" and "with the dawn of redeeming grace." I love the imagery of light and this song draws it out.

Love's pure light has come to push aside the darkness that lay upon the land. When light comes, no matter how small, it casts out the darkness. Darkness cannot overcome the light. Jesus came to bring light, and at Christmas, we can celebrate its rising. Like the dawn of a new day, Jesus came to bring fresh light on an otherwise dark landscape.

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

An important feature of Christmas is to remember that Jesus was not just a baby boy, but God in the flesh. Jesus was Lord, even at his birth. When he came, Christ the Savior was born. Because we hear it so often, it can be easy to gloss over the incredible truth that God came to earth in the form of a man, and that we celebrate his coming at Christmas. Don't miss it this year.

Silent Night

Here is a video of Sara Groves singing Silent Night. Her's is one of my favorites!

O Come, All Ye Faithful

During advent this year, I am writing a series of posts about some of my favorite Christmas Hymns. If you want more context, you can read my introductory post, Why I Love Christmas Hymns first. This week, I will be writing about the song "O Come, All Ye Faithful.

Lyrics

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God's holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Come, All ye faithful, joyful and triumphant

This hymn begins with a call for all the faithful to come. Advent is a time of year when we are all called to come, and consider Jesus, when we are ushered into a fresh remembrance of Jesus coming to earth. As we draw nearer to Christmas, let this be an invitation for all of us to come with fresh eyes to the incarnation, when God became flesh and dwelt among us.

The call is not just to come, but it gives us a posture for our coming. Joyful and triumphant. As God's people, we are called to have joy in all circumstances. Because we know that no matter what happens, Jesus has already won our freedom through his death on the cross. Whether we have had a really rough year, or whether it has been great, Advent is a time of joy, not in circumstances, but in Jesus.

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing

Jesus is the word made flesh (John 1), and this phrase is a reminder that he is God. Jesus came as one who is fully God and fully man. Some want to emphasize Christ's humanity at the sacrifice of his divinity. Others will focus on his divinity and minimize his humanity. The Jesus of the Scriptures is both, fully God and fully man.

At Christmas, we celebrate that the God-Man came to live among us. He was born into this crazy and messed up world, to bring God's Kingdom to bear upon all of creation.

At Christmas, we celebrate that the God-Man came to live among us.

Glory to God, all glory in the highest

The glory of Christmas belongs to God, all glory belongs to Him. It is easy to make Christmas about us. We can make it about our expectations, our wants and our desires. Many will measure the success of this Christmas season by whether they have accomplished all the items on their list, whether they received the gifts they wanted or whether or not they had the magical family time they envisioned. Not bad things, but they are not the measure of a successful Christmas.

The Glory of Christmas belongs to God. Give him your attention this year, and take it off yourself.

O come, let us adore Him

As we come, our response is adoration. Find ways to cultivate adoration in your spirit this advent season. Find a Christmas concert to attend, read an advent devotion, have rich conversation around your tree and invite others to adore him as well. Find outlets that God can use to stir your affections for Him.

The song

Here is a video of Hillsong singing O Come, All Ye Faithful. It is on their Born is the King album, although they have titled it, O Come Let us Adore Him.


Why I Love Christmas Hymns

organ pic - for web.png

Can we play them before Thanksgiving?

Every fall, I hear people lament over the Christmas music that gets played before Thanksgiving has been celebrated. It can create fun banter and interoffice debates, and I am personally split on the matter. I really enjoy Christmas music, in particular some of the good old Christmas hymns that get played each December. On the other hand, I really only want to hear that Santa Claus is coming to town for about two weeks, and then I am over it. I am certainly dreaming of a white Christmas, but that dream becomes a nightmare when it is repeated too many times.

When I was younger, I worked in a grocery store that played the local oldies station, which cycled through the same 25 Christmas songs each year. In a six hour shift, I would hear the same songs multiple times each. I developed a small distain for poor Alvin getting scolded because he was little flat. Get over it Dave...

As I have grown older, I have come to appreciate most Christmas songs, even the ones that used to drive me a bit crazy. But where I have grown the most is in my love for the many Christmas hymns we get to sing this time of year. It is odd to me that we relegate a whole collection of great songs, only to be sung for less than 10% of the year. So, that is why I will occasionally play my mix of Christmas hymns, even in the middle of July.

So, while I agree that singing about Rudolph's nose, or how I saw mommy kissing santa should be limited to small number of days, I am happy to whip out the Christmas hymns much earlier than Thanksgiving. Why do I love Christmas hymns so much? Let me explain.

Jesus Came

I love to sing Christmas hymns, because they celebrate one of the most important and pivotal moments in history. After sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, all of creation has been groaning for God to redeem what had been broken. Over centuries, God's people had established a nation, walked away from him, returned to him, escaped oppression, wandered in a desert, walked away from him, returned to him, were taken into exile, walked away from him, returned to him, rebuilt their treasured city, and all the while... they waited. Waited for God to fix the mess that had been made.

And God chose to enter into his creation as a baby. In a world where kings and rulers are concerned with being mighty and strong, posturing themselves against one another to establish their authority, God came as a fragile little boy. He didn't have a kings welcome into the creation over which he reigns, he had a humble and meek entry into the world he created. Jesus is what God's people were waiting for.

So, each Christmas we celebrate that Jesus, the light of the world, broke through the dark landscape to bring a new dawn. The sun is rising on God's creation thanks to Jesus coming to earth.

Jesus, the light of the world, broke through the dark landscape to bring a new dawn.

The hymns that I love

There are so many great hymns that have been written about Christmas, and over the next three weeks of advent I will write about one each week. It will be hard to choose just three, but I am confident that I can do it. And to make it easier on myself, I will not write about O Holy Night this year, because I wrote a short post about it last year.

In the meantime, allow me to recommend a few artists and albums I really enjoy listening to around Christmas.

Rend Collective - Campfire Christmas Vol. 1

Sara Groves - O Holy Night

Folk Angel -  All their albums

Shane and Shane - Glory in the Highest

There are only a few weeks between now and Christmas, so enjoy all the Christmas music you can. And my prayer is that when you listen to the hymns, they are not just background music, but that you listen to the lyrics and consider Jesus.

Bonus

I recommended Falk Angel above, because I love their music. Their albums are all Christmas music, and they are all great. Here is one of their songs in a video format. Enjoy!


The Weary World Rejoices

On the eve of Christmas, we are invited to consider Jesus. As the sun rises tomorrow, it will bring with it the anticipation of presents, family and celebration. Many will gather around their tree, sipping coffee and opening presents. Others may pack the car to drive to a family member’s home. Whatever and wherever we find ourselves as dawn breaks tomorrow, there will be many things to consume our minds and attention. The family, gifts and festivities of Christmas are worthy to enjoy and celebrate, but let us not pass through the day without remembering Jesus.

The old Christmas hymn O Holy Night has impacted me in a new way this Advent season. In particular, portions of the first verse.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

The breaking of a new and glorious morn is a compelling phrase. The sun rising on a new day elicits many connotations and imagery. The night is a dangerous and scary time for the most vulnerable and oppressed. Whether it be a city under siege, a man or woman living on the street or a traveler on a journey, the rising sun brings fresh heat, light and hope. In the same way that the sun brings the hope of a new day, Jesus has broken into our weary world with a new and glorious hope. Long lay this world in sin and error pining. Long have people felt worthless and hopeless in this life. Jesus has brought something new. Jesus has brought worth, value and dignity to the human soul. Jesus has brought hope to this weary world.


As the sun rises on Christmas day, before we think about the presents, the festivities or the warm coffee brewing downstairs, may the breaking dawn bring Jesus to our minds. Jesus, who has brought a new day to our world. Jesus, who invites us to follow him, removing the stain of our sin, bringing dignity and hope to our weary soul.