Last Sunday morning’s worship was different. You noticed, right?
I have pastoral friends who insist that the worship for Sunday morning not be the same two weeks in a row. They don’t mean different songs or Bible texts; they mean a wholly different worship order. As a matter of preference, I desire more structure.
For us, only rarely will our worship pattern surprise us. When you settle in at 10:30 each Sunday morning, you know the routine – call to worship, private prayer, congregational singing, pastoral prayer, offering, more congregational singing, sermon, and response. Sunday after Sunday that’s how we approach God, and it’s a good way to approach Him.
Maybe the biggest change to our worship comes during the Christmas season when we sing hymns and songs that we do not sing at any other time of the year, as we did last Sunday morning. That can be a problem.
Because we are not familiar with the seasonal text or tune, our singing can become less than inspiring. Let’s face it; some of these Christmas songs are hard to sing. Who besides a hungry newborn has the lungs to sing the Gloria in Angels We Have Heard on High? Or how difficult to sing is that first line in It Came Upon a Midnight Clear?
But we do sing them anyway because that’s what we are supposed to do at Christmas time.
Maybe we should think a little differently about Christmas singing.
Christmas hymns serve us by teaching us amazingly deep doctrine. Think of a line from a favorite Christmas hymn, and it likely contains a doctrinal truth critical for Christianity.
From O Holy Night, “Long lay the world in sin and error” teaches the depraved condition of humanity.
In Angels from the Realms of Glory we sing, “God with man is now residing” and proclaim the incomprehensible, the full deity and complete humanity of Jesus Christ.
The text of We Three Kings tells of “sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying” in anticipation of the cross.
A challenge with some really good Christmas hymns is actually singing them. The tune is just difficult for American voices in 2018. If the tunes are challenging and the texts unfamiliar, why sing Christmas hymns in public worship? Here are some answers.
Christmas hymns offer unique worship opportunities. Charles Wesley penned the words Come Thou Long Expected Jesus in 1744 as he pondered Haggai 2:7 and considered the plight of his fellow Brits from orphans to outcasts. In two brief stanzas he connects Israel’s promised Messiah and the promise of Christ’s second coming. The thought of Christ’s return when he will right all wrongs might inspire worship in your heart. You might even find yourself worshipping by singing a Christmas hymn.
Christmas hymns offer unique evangelistic opportunities. In our pluralistic society, the overt declaration of the person of Jesus Christ through the texts of Christmas hymns makes me giddy. I love to hear Christmas hymns in our schools, at public events, while walking through the mall, and on normally secular radio stations. Places that prohibit “solicitation” by gospel workers unapologetically sing the gospel.
When unsaved family and friends are in your home or car, Christmas hymns in the background may open a door for a gospel conversation. Stopping at the mall rotunda to listen to community choir can lead to discussions about Jesus. “Did you hear the line of that song? Do you know what it means?” may lead you to a chat you’ve been praying for and anticipating for some time.
Christmas hymns offer unique learning opportunities. As a general practice, I hope you have Christian hymns playing in your home and car as a matter of habit. If children romp around your house or when you share in your grandchildren’s world, I hope you play Christian music. During the season, play and sing Christmas hymns, not just Frosty, Jingle Bells, or I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.
Did you know the Christmas hymn Once in Royal David’s City was authored by a pastor’s wife as a way to teach the church children Bible doctrine? The use of Christmas hymns to teach your children great Christian truths will pay dividends far beyond the investment of playing the tune over and again. When they are old, they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).
In only a matter of weeks, we will put the Christmas decorations away until this time next year. While I won’t miss the garland, I will miss the Christmas hymns. I suspect you will too. Let’s make the most of the music during the brief time we have them.
As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.