Summary: This is the first of a series of messages based on some of the most popular Christmas hymns.
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.