What are some of your favorite Christmas songs? No doubt you have a few. I categorize my Christmas favorites into two categories:
The famous (with my current favorite arrangements in parenthesis):
- O Come all Ye Faithful (Jeremy Camp)
- O Holy Night (Eddie Kirkland — called “Hallelujah” on his album)
- Hark the Harold Angels Sing (Matt Maher)
The More Obscure:
- Go Tell It on the Mountain (James Taylor)
- Please Come Home for Christmas (Jon Bon Jovi)
- Babe in the Straw (Jars of Clay)
- Anthem for Christmas (Michael W. Smith)
Feel free to comment below and let me know what your favorite Christmas songs are . . . I am always looking for more great Christmas music!
Sometimes, we think that our love for music at Christmas time is a part of the commercialization of the holiday, but a closer look at the biblical account of Christmas reveals that the first Advent was also a musical. From Mary’s “Magnificat” to Harold and his angels singing, music/poetry was a key way heaven and earth welcomed the newborn king.
As you look at the albums first recorded around the birth of Christ, however, you will notice that both famous AND more obscure songs were recorded around the time of the manger. Right after Mary’s hit song, Zechariah records what some may see as the “B side” to her 45. You may have skipped this track in the past, but today, I want you to “press play” and read its beautiful lyrics below as found in Luke 1:67-79:
And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath that He swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Zechariah was the father of John the Baptist. John’s conception definitely took Zechariah by surprise, however, as both he and his wife Elizabeth were well advanced in age. Like Abraham and Sarah before them, God had special things in store for this elderly couple by filling their barren womb with joy and purpose. The song you just read above was sung by Zechariah at John’s circumcision ceremony on the eighth day of his life.
After waiting a lifetime for the joy of fatherhood, it is so striking that Zechariah spends most of the time at his son’s circumcision singing about Jesus, not John. As we saw in yesterday’s post, this shows that Zechariah “got it” . . . he understood that the real joy in his AND John’s life would be their connection to Jesus. Zechariah had waited a lifetime to be a father, but God’s people had waited a few millennia for the birth of Messiah. Therefore, the song centers around Jesus and His work.
At the end of the song, is one of the most poetic and beautiful statements about the work of Jesus in all of Scripture. “Because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
This week I have been able to see those I know and love celebrate life and memorialize death. I am so thankful that in Christ we have a hope that one day all death will be replaced with life eternal, and all darkness will be illuminated with His light. This is the reason Zechariah sings . . . and the reason we sing as well.