Songs for the Whole Year

I gotta say, if you haven’t spent days hiking over mountain passes with “Jingle Bells” stuck in your head, you’re really missing out.
Kidding. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Everyone has a different relationship with Christmas music. As I was thinking about it, I’m not much of a fan, to be honest, at least most of what's out there. Singing about snow and bells and sleighs just doesn't hold that much appeal to me, at least at the moment.

However, I am a huge fan of incarnation hymns. So much so that when I was consistently leading music for Sunday services, it was not uncommon to very nearly put one or two on the set list in the middle of summer.

Sensitivity to our country's culture always won out in the end. You’re welcome, I guess.

But the incarnation of the Son of God is important year-round, and it’s kind of a bummer to me that we only sing songs directly about it a couple times a year.

The Incarnation

In the book Knowing God, J.I. Packer suggests that as Christians, we tend to gloss over the incarnation of the Son of God. For myself that’s true more often than I care to really, truly admit. I have a tendency to put it on a list of things I believe, and check it off without really steeping in the implications.

Packer writes of the incarnation:

This is the real stumbling block of Christianity. It is here that … many of those who feel the difficulties of the above mentioned (about the virgin birth, the miracles, the atonement, the resurrection) have come to grief. It is from misbelief, or at least adequate belief, about the incarnation that difficulties at other points in the gospel story usually spring. But once the incarnation is grasped as a reality, these other difficulties dissolve.

When I forget the incarnation, I’m forgetting that without the incarnation of the Son of God, the Gospel doesn’t work. Our sin and rebellion caused such division with God that only a perfect life lived and sacrificed could atone for it (Romans 5:12-21).

And that’s where the incarnation hymns redirect us. They remind us that without God adding humanity to His divinity, there is no Savior. Without a Savior, there is no peace between God and humanity, and no everlasting peace between humans, because peace between humans requires hearts and minds that only God can create in us.

Because I love these songs (and because it’s December, which gives me full license to write of them), I thought it would be fun to briefly explain some lyrics that are particularly impactful for me. And maybe when we’re through, you’ll see I listen to incarnation hymns all year long.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is one of my personal favorites. Compositionally, it jumps back and forth between longing and hopeful, which is how I constantly feel looking at this broken world and looking forward to Christ’s assured return.

The song is written from Israel’s perspective. The nation of Israel was God’s chosen people, whom He rescued from slavery in Egypt and led to the Promised Land, despite all their folly and wickedness. Israel’s longing for a good Savior-King and God’s answer to their prayer is found in Jesus.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse free

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny

From depths of hell Thy people save

And give them victory over the grave

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

shall come to thee O Israel

As a result, as God’s people, we can rejoice because we know that Christ has come, and He's saved us from Satan, sin and death through His perfect life, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection.

However, when I look around us, I don’t see justice. I don’t see peace. I see genocide, war, refugees, terrorism, violence, corruption, and division.

O come Desire of Nations bind

All peoples in one heart and mind

bid Thou our sad divisions cease

and by Thyself our King of Peace

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

shall come to thee O Israel

Jesus has promised to return, and as Christians, we long for His presence and the justice He will bring with Him.

As a Christian, these lyrics say it’s ok to be sad, to wish things weren't as they are and recognize and mourn brokenness.

But they also remind me to be happy.

There will come a day without tears of sadness, without suffering, where humans stop fighting and really truly fix their eyes on Jesus.

Remember His Coming, Look For His Return

Jesus has come once to bring reconcile God and sinners. And He’s coming again to remake all things as they were intended to be.

The songs that we sing are so important for us as we learn about God and grow in the Faith. Pay attention to the songs we sing, and listen to the words as you sing them.

Remember year round that Christ has come, the love that He's shown you, and look forward to His return.

Now that's a song we can all sing year round.

Brandon AdentComment