Summary: The angels--a song of glory; Simeon--a song of promise; Mary--a song of trust
The Songs of Christmas…a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service Meditation—Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
One of my favorite things about Christmas is the music. I love Christmas songs. My favorite thing to do at Christmas is to sit in the living room with my classical guitar and play familiar carols. Each year I try to learn new songs, and I’ve discovered some obscure ones that few have heard. A music critic observed, “One of the wonderful things regarding this time of year is that there is an endless treasure of beautiful music for it, touching all moods and telling the central story in many different ways” (Paul Hume).
There are 3 songs of Christmas in Luke’s Gospel. Tonight, as we sing carols, I’d like us to reflect on the songs of: The Angels, of Simeon, and of Mary.
1) The Angels, forming a Heavenly choir, offered a song of GLORY. They sang out over the shepherd’s fields, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors” (Luke 2:14).
“Glory” is a difficult word to explain. Paul speaks of the “weight of glory” (II Cor 4:17). John testifies, “We have beheld His glory” (1:14). To glorify God means to state that He is a Being of immense substance. The word implies splendor, majesty, dignity, and brightness. The Greek word for glory is doxa, from which we get our word Doxology. When we sing, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow”, we’re glorifying God and acknowledging all He has done for us.
Jesus deserves our full attention and devotion. The angels praised Him, He will receive future glory, and we glorify Him now. It’s easy to find secular substitutes, to focus on anything other than Jesus, to the point where He becomes the forgotten Son. A popular TV show, The OC, proposes “Chrismukkah”, combining the non-religious aspects of Hanukkah and Christmas into a meaningless, non-spiritual holiday. Let’s not water-down the significance of the season. We need to put the glory back into Christmas, and then concentrate on being to others what Christ has become for us.
2) Simeon was a righteous man who was given a unique prophecy, that he would see God’s promised Messiah before he died. He was led by the Spirit to the Temple, and there saw the Baby Jesus with Joseph and Mary. He took the Child in his arms in a priestly fashion and sang a song of PROMISE:
“Lord, now I can die in peace! As You have promised me, I have seen the Savior You have given to all people. He is a light to the nations, and the glory of Your people Israel!” (Luke 2:29-32). Simeon saw in this tiny Babe the fullest expression of love; the love of God who cared enough for us to enter into human life in His one and only Son. Watching and waiting patiently for the promise is part of Christmas, and the Name of the Promise is Jesus. The time of messianic salvation has come. The word “patience” comes from a Latin verb patior, which means “to suffer”. If you hate to wait, like children waiting for Christmas to come, you know patience involves suffering! We wait for God’s blessings, even though at the moment we may not feel especially blessed! We look for ways to turn from fatalism to the liberating power of faith.
3) Mary, the mother of Jesus, when told of this wondrous birth, offered her song of TRUST, which we call the Magnificat…”My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He has been mindful of His humble servant girl, and now generation after generation will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and His mercy goes on from age to age…holy is His Name” (Luke 1:46ff).
As we consider the obedience of the Virgin Mary, her trust ought to lead us to sing with her, “Let it be with me according to Thy word.” She did not choose her unique role, but she chose to accept it, knowing she would share in her Son’s sorrow. Mary has been called “the culmination of a prophetic family line of trusting mothers”: Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, and Ruth--included in the royal genealogy. Mary is called blessed, because she was chosen as the vessel where God’s glory would enter into the human story. Mary is highly praised by Elizabeth, a family member and mother of John the Baptist: “You are blessed, because you believe that the Lord will accomplish what He said” (Luke 1:45).
I sometimes wonder if the carols we sing will be sung in heaven, or if far better songs await us. Perhaps the songs yet to be sung will make Handel’s Messiah seem like a nursery rhyme. In the midst of troubling times, God has put a song into our hearts, a song of praise for our deliverance from the power and penalty of sin.