Monday, December 09, 2019

Christmas songs

Whether we like them or not, Christmas songs are pretty much inescapable at this time of year. The top three seasonal songs in the UK are 1. Fairytale Of New York, 2. All I Want For Christmas Is You and 3. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday. According to Google, anyway. You might have other ideas for your festive favourites. I think it’s fair to say that the songs listed are of the secular variety. They have little to do with birth of Jesus Christ. If that’s what you’re after,  Classic FM’s annual poll to discover the nation’s favourite carol reveals all: 1. O Holy Night, 2. Silent Night and 3. In The Bleak Midwinter. Again, your preferences may differ. In my opinion Hark! The Herald Angels Sing was robbed in not making it into the top three.

The very first Christmas song wasn’t by Bing Crosby, or even Cliff Richards. It had a more heavenly origin. According to the account of Jesus’ birth in the Gospel of Luke, the angel of the Lord had been sent to tell some shepherds that the long-awaited Saviour of the World had been born. This was his message: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” Suddenly, a heavenly host of angels appeared in the night sky. We hear them sing,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”

Shepherds in the ancient world were the last ones on whom God’s favour rested. At least that’s what people thought. Shepherds had a reputation for dishonesty and their work kept them away from worship in the temple at Jerusalem. Yet the angles sing of God’s undeserved favour towards sinners, his grace. That’s what the message of Christmas is all about; God’s grace towards human beings revealed in the birth of Jesus Christ. We can have peace with God because Jesus was born into our world, lived a perfect human life and died for our sins upon the Cross.  That is good news for you and me.

In a recent book, The Madness of Crowds, Douglas Murray issues a warning to a society that is breaking loose from its Christian moorings. Without Christianity there is no Christ, and without Christ there is no forgiveness. “We have created a world in which forgiveness has become almost impossible”, writes Murray. Witness the angry arguments on social media and personal rifts in real life. Convinced of our own righteousness we are quick to pounce, but slow to pardon.

That is why we need to listen afresh to the very first Christmas song, a song that speaks of grace, forgiveness and peace through Jesus Christ. All to the glory of God.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the new-born King!
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled."

See our website for info on Carol Services at Providence Baptist Church, Dilton Marsh, Westbury and Ebenezer Baptist Church, West Lavington.

* Written for local publications, Trinity Magazine, News & Views and White Horse News. 

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