The Beauty of Christmas and Advent Music
You know, I love Christmas music. I’ve been trying pretty hard to resist turning on those 24-hour Christmas stations before Thanksgiving. I love the peaceful sounds, the beautiful and heart-warming messages, the traditional strong voices. It is the time of the year that legendary voices like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby are regularly heard be all.
I even love the lesser known, newer Christmas music. While every year someone complains about it, I love the song “Mary Did You Know?”. I love songs like “The Christmas Shoes” or even the funny songs like “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”.
In the church we all know the “classic hymns” such as Silent Night, Joy to the World, or Away in a Manger. However, within our hymnal is also a number of the lesser known Christmas hymns. They don’t fall into the category of classic, but they are certainly old. Many of these hymns are rich in history, and carry a virtual Christmas sermon.
Take for example the hymn “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”. This hymn isn’t considered a “classic hymn” and yet be all accounts it is the oldest. This hymn served as the rallying cry of the council of Nicaea (early 4th Century). When the chief heretic “Arius” was professing the Jesus was less than God, this hymn which would’ve been sung be the real St. Nick inspired church leaders to maintain the Biblical confession.
A few years ago I was listening to the Colin Raye Christmas album and was surprised to hear the hymn “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”. This hymn is almost as old as “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”. The second verse in particular stands out as it confesses that the one who was born of Mary. The one who was laid in the manger. He is also the one whose body is in the bread and whose blood is in the wine, given to you for the forgiveness of your sins.
Martin Luther also wrote a great hymn known as “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come”. This hymn is 15-20 verses depending upon the hymnal. While very lengthy, it is a virtual sermon of the greatness of the Christmas celebration. If you have a hymnal in your home pull it out and read the words to this rich hymn. (If you don’t have a hymnal, I encourage you to purchase one from CPH.org)
With all of this great Christmas hymnody, let us not forget the great Advent hymns. During the month of December it is always so tempting to jettison the Advent hymns in favor of the Christmas hymns. But in doing so we lose the richness of the season and message that each these hymns teach us.
Take for example “Salvation Unto Us Has Come”. This hymn was originally written by St. Ambrose in 397 AD, and later adapted by Martin Luther. The hymn allows us to marvel at the fact that Christ chose to be born the way he did. That he was born into a poor family to such a young girl. That he made the womb of Mary his throne. The sixth verse we’d pray to be our anthem year round, “Brightly doth Thy manger shine, glorious is its light divine. Let not sin o’ercloud this light; Ever be our faith thus bright.”
This Advent and Christmas season, let us enjoy the wondrous Christmas music whether it be the good old classics, the hymns of ages past, or the words of today’s Christians. May we meditate and never cease to marvel at the how our Lord became human flesh to suffer and die that we may be his.
Pastor Neil Wehmas
Last Updated: 12/6/2018