Hail, the Incarnate Deity

Sometimes I think lyrics to most songs go in one ear and out the other. This, of course includes our hymns and songs of praise to God. Too often, I think we read and sing off the lyrics to the songs we sing in church, or even at home or in the car, without really thinking about what those words really mean. I may sound like your high school choir teacher, but let’s really think about the words to some of these songs, especially this Christmas season.

This struck me while driving in my car tonight, listening to a Christian Christmas station I had found. Like usual, I found myself singing along to the ones I knew when “Hark, The Herald” began to play.  I have always loved the line of that song “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see. Hail, the incarnate deity,” but I found myself thinking carefully about all the words of that song and what they were saying about the birth of Christ.

Not only was it humbling to realize that I have so often sung the words to this classic Christmas hymn and not thought about them, but it was also awe-inspiring to feel the power in those lyrics as if it were the first time hearing them. Most of us have heard these Christmas songs every year for our whole lives, and the same goes for many other religious hymns. When was the last time you let the words wash over you and feel the meaning of the words God speaks to us and through us? Let’s do that this Christmas!

Negatively, we need do to be careful that we don’t do this with secular songs as well. It’s so easy to learn the lyrics and sing along to the songs we hear on secular radio every day, but here again, we should be thinking about the lyrics to those songs. Often worldly music has dangerous and spiritually harmful lyrics that we should not be overlooking and singing along to.

Positively, we should think about the words to the Christian songs we sing regularly. This includes the songs we sing in church, choir songs at school or church practices, or programs and CD music we may listen to. Songs we all know well like “Amazing Grace” or “Be Thou My Vision” have incredibly powerful lyrics that we would do well to take to heart. It’s amazing to realize what some of these songs are saying!

Over the next week or so, church and Sunday School Christmas programs will be taking place. Here’s my challenge. Since those programs are often a time when we hear many of these classic songs we often sing without thinking about, really listen to the words this year. Watch and be awestruck as your son, daughter, cousin, niece, nephew or other relation sings out the amazing lyrics of these songs like “Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever,” or  “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.” It really is a beautiful time of year, isn’t it?

Suzie Kuiper

 

Messiah

The Messiah. Christ. The Anointed One. These are all synonyms for our Savior that remind us of His kingly role in God’s plan for our salvation. This name should bring us hope and joy in God’s grace in giving us a Savior, and at this time of year, this name may also remind us of the famous oratorio, Messiah, by George Frideric Handel.

I recently had the opportunity to listen to Handel’s Messiah performed by the Zeeland Civic Chorus. Although I have heard it several times in the past, this year I was particularly struck with the beauty of the message. The choir was full and harmonious and the soloists had beautiful voices that filled the church even without microphones, but more than that, the words resonated with the promise of the gospel. Handel’s Messiah takes its words directly from about 50 texts concerning Christ found throughout scripture. Although it is traditionally sung around Christmas and its most familiar pieces concern the birth of Christ, Handel’s Messiah actually tells the whole message of Christ including the Old Testament prophecies of his coming, his birth, death and resurrection, the spread of the gospel, and the glory of his second coming. Handel actually wrote the piece to be performed in celebration of Easter, but its beautiful choruses about Christ’s birth became a popular part of the Christmas tradition. Regardless of when it is sung, Handel’s Messiah beautifully draws together the entire story of Christ found in scripture. Consider some of the words sung in Messiah:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9: 6)

“And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will towards men.” (Luke 2: 13-14)

“Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows! He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.” (Isaiah 53: 4-5)

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 5: 12-14)

These words, taken from the inspired Word of God, are familiar to all of us, but Handel’s Messiah allows us to consider them in a new way using the gift of music that God has given us.  Now, when I read these texts in scripture, I cannot help but hear the melodies of Messiah in my head, and this gives them new beauty and meaning. Handel’s Messiah also gives us an important reminder about the significance of Christmas. During the Christmas season, we celebrate the joy of Christ’s birth, His becoming flesh for us. This is certainly the focus and wonder of Christmas, but it is also beneficial to consider the whole gospel message of Christ at this time from the promise of his coming to his final glory. Christmas finds its meaning in the entire life of Christ.We can be thankful for the gift of music that helps us to celebrate our salvation in Christ and that God, in his providence, used a man from Germany to write this beautiful oratorio that is still performed to praise his name after more than 250 years.

If you have never listened to Handel’s Messiah in its entirety, now is the perfect time to find a performance or even begin listening now online. You can find hundreds of Messiah performances on YouTube, including some pieces by the Zeeland Civic Chorus found at the link below.

Elizabeth Ensink

A Holiday of Redemption

There are dozens of stories, shows, and advertisements around us telling us to find the “meaning of Christmas.” Unfortunately, most of them miss the mark, illustrating that “true meaning” as appreciating your family and friends, finding some sort of inner peace and contentment, being a good and caring person, or enjoying one’s self in the excitement and pleasures of the holidays.

As Charles Schultz, via Charlie Brown, wrote, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus does well in his answer,

“Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about. And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born in the City of Bethlehem, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men’ (Luke 2:10). That is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

What is the reason for this holiday? It is the birth of our Savior and the promised salvation that He brought. Articles 1 through 5 of the first head of the Canons of Dordt illustrate the true blessedness and joy of Christmas.

 

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. –Romans 3:19

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; -Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. –Romans 6:23

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. –1 John 4:9

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. –John 3:16

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! –Romans 10:14-15

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: -Ephesians 2:8

That is what Christmas is all about.

 

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