Nothing has the ability to communicate a message as powerfully as music. In fact, Martin Luther wrote, “Next to theology I give music the highest place of honor.” It is the music that we hear that lets us know that Christmas is right around the corner. There are more songs written about Christmas or the Christmas season than any other holiday on the calendar. Everywhere we go the songs of Christmas can be heard. It almost seems impossible to escapes the sounds of the season. We should all be able to agree that at Christmas there is definitely a song in the air. Out of the hundreds of Christmas songs that have been written I asked you to help me pick the top five. This new message series will examine the history and message of the top five picked by you. Today we are going to look at the most popular song on our list, “There’s a Song in the Air.” Originally this was a poem that was written by Josiah Gilbert Holland in 1872. For the longest time Josiah was known to his friends as a failure at just about everything he tried. He failed as a doctor, a photographer and a newspaper editor to name a few. Later in his life it was discovered that he had a great talent for writing. Perhaps his greatest claim to fame was that he published the first major biography of Abraham Lincoln. “There’s a Song in the Air” is a four stanza poem originally published in a collection of Gilbert’s poems entitled “The Marble Prophecy and Other Poems.” However, these words will not be put to music until after Gilbert’s death in 1881. Karl Pomeroy Harrington a Latin professor and amateur musician will put these words to music in 1904. Today, I would like us to examine the three things that “There’s a Song in the Air” tells us about Christmas.
I. The shepherds were the first to hear the song in the air.
A. The significance of the shepherds in the Christmas narrative.
1. Over the years we have romanticized the shepherds to the point that we fail to understand how they were view in first century Jewish society.
2. Shepherds were dirty, smelly and viewed as being dishonest by society as a whole. In regard to the Law of Moses they were viewed as being unclean.
3. The Shepherds are more than likely full of fear as the angel appears to give the announcement, but soon the angel would reassure them and calm their fears.
4. The angels announcing the birth of the Messiah to shepherds rather than to the rulers and religious of the day reinforces the idea that Jesus came to reach even the outcast of society.
5. Every image in this account reminds us that God is concerned about every person regardless of their past, their social status or their occupation.
B. As the heavenly host began their song the message was that of Good News, this Savior was for the entire world including the Gentiles.
1. If you were God, how would you have announced the birth of your son to the world?
2. The angels did not leave Shepherds in doubt the assured them that the long awaited Messiah had been born. The shepherds responded by hurrying down to Bethlehem to investigate what they had been told.
3. This angelic proclamation brings joy to the hearts of each and every person, because the very event the people were waiting for had come to pass.
4. The angels praise God which is the expected response for all that God has done. There are two aspects of their praise that should be mentioned.
a. Glory to God in the highest refers to the “highest heavens” not to the “highest degree.”
b. Peace refers to the fullness of blessing that Christ brings. In this case it would literally be a synonym for salvation.
5. Luke uses the term “praising” quite often. It appears a total of eight times in the New Testament. Luke uses it six out of those eight times.
6. We are told later in this passage that the shepherds join in the praising of God after they had found everything just as the angels had told them.
II. There was a song in the air in a stable in Bethlehem.
A. The song resulted from some of the unexpected circumstances surrounding the birth of the Messiah.
1. Bethlehem was a small village five miles south of Jerusalem. According to Jewish history Bethlehem would have had a population of less than 300 when Jesus was born.
2. When the shepherds were told that they would find this newborn king lying in a feed trough wrapped in strips of old cloth, you would have expected some disbelief.
3. How many would expect the greatest king who will ever walk the face of the earth to be the son of a young peasant couple?
4. From the description of the angel, this baby was to be the most exalted kind of person ever heard of. How could a common ordinary person hope to get close enough even to see Him?
5. Everything the angel announces goes against the way one would imagine that it would be.
B. No one could have imagined that this stable would be filled with the sounds of a young mother singing to her first child.
1. It would be hard for any mother to imagine giving birth to their child in a dirty stable and using a feed trough as a bassinette. To complicate things even more this new mother was a virgin.
2. Conventional logic tells us that the odds of things happening this way are extremely small.
3. Undoubtedly, this was a lot for Mary to take in. Mary probably silently meditated on everything she had experienced since Gabriel made the first announcement to her.
4. We need to realize that Mary did not understand all the details of God’s plan. She is obvious left wondering about the meaning of all that has taken place.
5. Mary treasured in her heart what the shepherds told her that night. After all, she had a right to expect something special when her son was unique, the only Son of God.
C. The Song reminds us of the fact that God doesn’t always work in the ways that we expect Him to.
1. Too many times we are guilty of putting God in a box. We believe that God will only work in certain ways and only do certain things.
2. However, everything about this account tells us that God does not operate according to what we consider to be conventional human logic.
3. Let’s return to the shepherds once again. Not only were the first to hear of this event, they were the first messengers to share the news of this event. This is definitely unexpected.
4. Maybe we fail to see God at work many times because we fail to believe that God will work in unexpected ways using unexpected people.
III. Christmas put a song in the air throughout all of history.
A. This child that was born was Israel’s long awaited King.
1. The announcement that a special child was born in the town of David was quite significant.
2. All the prophets had pointed to the fact that Israel’s Messiah would be of the line of David and would be born in Bethlehem.
3. The angel’s announcement confirms the words of the prophets and fulfills the hope of the people.
4. The angel be joined by the great company of the heavenly host lets us know that this was not just an ordinary child.
B. This child that was born was the world’s promised Savior.
1. The Messiah is born. He is called not only Savior (one who delivers a people from their enemies) but also Christ (Greek for “Messiah”) and Lord (master, implying his followers are his slaves). These terms and many others will be needed to explain the significance of this Messiah who is more than Messiah.
2. While the Jewish people were only expecting a national Messiah, the angel’s announcement establishes that this child would bring salvation to all the peoples of the world.
3. The announcement also reinforces the idea that this peace could not be achieved through human means, it only comes through the favor of God.
4. The army of angels gave the glory to God, a glory that required the companions of respect, honor, submission, and obedience.
C. The birth of this child changed the course of mankind forever more.
1. Nearly 2,100 years have passed since this announcement was given to these ordinary shepherds and the impact of this announcement is still being felt.
2. The calendar has been radically altered because of the birth of Jesus. His birth divided history into two eras.
3. “I am a historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.” –H.G. Wells
4. Only God has the ability to use the birth of one child to significantly alter the course of history.
Nearly two thousand years ago in an obscure village, a child was born of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village where He worked as a carpenter until He was thirty. Then for three years He became an itinerant preacher.
This man never went to college or seminary. He never wrote a book. He never held a public office. He never had a family nor owned a home. He never put His foot inside a big city nor traveled even 200 miles from His birthplace. And though He never did any of the things that usually accompany greatness, throngs of people followed Him. He had no credentials but Himself.
While He was still young, the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His followers ran away. He was turned over to His enemies and sentenced to death on a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – the simple coat He had worn. His body was laid in a borrowed grave provided by a compassionate friend.
But three days later this Man arose from the dead – living proof that He was, as He had claimed, the Savior whom God had sent, the Incarnate Son of God.
Nineteen centuries have come and gone and today the risen Lord Jesus Christ is the central figure of the human race. On our calendars His birth divides history into two eras. One day of every week is set aside in remembrance of Him. And our two most important holidays celebrate His birth and resurrection. On church steeples around the world, His cross has become the symbol of victory over sin and death.
This one Man’s life has furnished the theme for more songs, books, poems and paintings than any other person or event in history. Thousands of colleges, hospitals, orphanages and other institutions have been founded in honor of this One who gave His life for us.
All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the governments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned have not changed the course of history as much as this One Solitary Life.