Editor’s note: Ornaments of Faith® are back and they’re better than ever! Today’s devotion accompanies the Joy to the World ornament. You may also enjoy the brand-new Glory to the Newborn King and Rejoice ornaments.
For millennia, music has been an essential part of Christmas. Can you imagine Christmas without Christmas music?! In fact, no event in human history has called forth the variety, the quality, or the sheer quantity of music that Christmas has evoked.
All this music has been written to fit dozens and perhaps hundreds of instruments—trumpets and banjos, clarinets and pipe organs, violins and drums, handbells and guitars. And of course, the human voice.
(If time will allow and it is appropriate in your setting, invite participants to name favorite Christmas compositions, songs, hymns, and carols. You might even pause to sing a few together.)
Have you ever asked yourself why? Why is there this great outpouring of music from the hearts and lips of God’s people, from all across the world and down through time? (Pause for a moment to allow participants to consider this.)
Of course, no one can say for sure. But let me propose one possibility. My proposal grows out of a clue found in the words the angel spoke to the shepherds on that very first Christmas night. As the shepherds stood, startled, on one of the hills outside the village of Bethlehem, the angel announced:
Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people (Luke 2:10 KJV).
Good tidings. Great joy. That’s it! That’s the clue! The great joy that grows from those good tidings simply demands musical expression. The joy is too big, too wonderful to be expressed in any other way.
When we are truly and deeply happy, we smile. We laugh. We shout. We offer up high fives and fist bumps. But most of all, we resort to music. We hum. We whistle. We sing! You know the expression, “Sing for joy!” That is what human beings do—even when we dare to do it only in the shower. Christmas is a season of exuberance, of extravagant celebration, the most extravagant celebration of the year for most of us.
So where does this exuberance come from? What creates a joy so great that even the most unmusical among us resort to song at Christmastime? The Christmas angel explained it:
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11 KJV).
A Savior. That is the source of our great joy! Rather, he is the source of our joy! Christ the Lord.
When we first hear that we need a Savior, we might take offense. We might find ourselves insulted. Saved? From what? But at some level we are all broken. We are all wounded. We are all desperate. We all have regrets. We all long for rescue.
The symptoms of the sin that entraps us vary from person to person:
- Some of us find ourselves lurching from one broken relationship to the next, and the loneliness of it all gnaws at our hearts.
- Some of us find ourselves eaten alive by worry, by life’s what-ifs.
- Some are overwhelmed by anger at the insults—little and big—that life throws at us.
- Some of us look up from our jobs and assignments, from our responsibilities and toys and busyness, and find ourselves wondering if any of it means anything.
- Some of us wrestle with guilt, with the knowledge we have done much that is wrong.
- Some of us struggle with shame, with the feeling that we ourselves are wrong, that we cannot do enough, that we cannot be
A Savior. Christ the Lord. This is God’s word of joy—to you! Today! He speaks it into your confusion, into your struggles.
- Are you lonely? Jesus is your Immanuel, God with us!
- Are you filled with fear? Or anger? Jesus is your Wonderful Counselor, your Rock of refuge!
- Are you baffled by the emptiness, the seeming meaninglessness of life? Jesus is your Prince of Peace. In fact, he is your peace (Ephesians 2:14), the one who picks up the pieces of broken lives and fits them together to form a meaningful whole—for now and forever!
Christ’s cradle and Christ’s cross cannot be separated. The Baby in the manger grew up to become the Savior. The One who died to bridge the gap between a holy God and a sinful humanity. In fact, he himself is that bridge. Unto us is born a Savior, Christ the Lord. These are glad tidings, tidings of great joy! Joy that puts a song in our hearts and on our lips! Joy that sets the trumpets blowing, the bells ringing! Joy that sings—in the shower and elsewhere.
May the Christ Child fill your heart with great joy, joy that hums and whistles and sings, joy that trumpets God’s forgiving love this Christmas and always.
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