As soon as December came, Christmas music has been all around. Michael Bublé crooned holiday tunes as I strolled through a clothing store. “Jingle Bell Rock” came on at the restaurant that served me a steaming bowl of laksa. A choir practiced snippets of “Silent Night” from the mezzanine of a dimmed church I stopped by one afternoon.
From my own computer, it’s the “Advent 2021” playlist released by The Gospel Coalition. I go about my tasks with Spotify streaming through the 100 titles, many of which are familiar Christmas songs. Every now and then, delightful surprises like an organ piece, a rap rendition and ethereal choral music would draw my attention.
When it comes to Christmas carols, the one I’ve grown to especially appreciate is “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” We often sing it at St Andrew’s Christmas services. Originally penned by Charles Wesley, the lyrics combine poetry with theology. Take these lines for example:
Veil’d in Flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail th’ Incarnate Deity!
Pleas’d as Man with Men t’ appear
JESUS, our Immanuel here!
(Given the variations over time, the last two lines may be more recognizable as “Pleased as man with man to dwell / Jesus, our Emmanuel.”)
That is Christmas: God became incarnate; Jesus, Immanuel, is God with us. Wesley’s carol continues with the significance of Jesus’ birth:
Born—that Man no more may die,
Born—to raise the Sons of Earth,
Born—to give them Second Birth.
I don’t know what state you’re in this Christmas season: cheered by the festive displays across the city or feeling life and the world not so up to the glee and glitz. Maybe you’re relieved for some downtime and content to be with loved ones. Maybe you’re unsettled and preoccupied. More likely, it’ll be a mix of all that to varying degrees.
“[T]he weary world rejoices,” we often sing from “O Holy Night” during our church’s Christmas program. Whether we approach Christmas in strength or weakness this year, let us hang onto this Christmas truth: Jesus, Immanuel, is God with us. As we join our voices in song, let us also be encouraged by the voices of faith from fellow believers who surround us in the congregation.
The world is weary, but Christmas brings us “[a] thrill of hope” as we look forward to the “new and glorious morn,” the light and life from Immanuel.