The Christmas Coin

“And so this is Christmas
what have we done?
Another year over,
A new one just begun.”

True confession: though I live in England, I’m not much of a John Lennon fan.  But every year from Dec 26 to Jan 2 this song echoes in my mind – “So this is Christmas… what have we done?”

Let me reset the above lyrics for some of us involved in worship ministries.

“So we’ve had Christmas – how have you gladly seized that opportunity?”

Every year, we have the opportunity of Christmas celebrations and services to highlight and celebrate the incarnation of the Son of God to rescue wretched sinners.  Do we seize that opportunity?  Are we thoughtful? Are we intentional? Are we joy-filled?  Or do we simply ‘do the thing’… sing well-known carols by rote or even with disdain? Or, do we jettison the wonderful Christ-exalting carols because the ‘new songs’ are more to our liking? Does the season fill us with a renewed sense of urgency to share the Gospel, or do we impatiently rush past it for the ‘more substantive’ part of the story?

I know some feel that Christmas only focuses on tender traditions, neglecting or skipping the heart of the message. I’ve heard some say, “no one in the Bible celebrated Christmas so neither should we.”

(Briefly, I would remind them of the angels and shepherds who worshipped upon Christ’s birth, Simeon and Anna in the temple who celebrated because the Messiah had been born, the magi who traveled an extensive distance to celebrate the birth of Israel’s new-born messiah-king, and even John the Baptiser who leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb when near the in utero Christ)

Music leaders and pastors – Christmas and Easter are two sides of the same coin.

You cannot have a biblical messiah without both. 

Let’s gladly adopt a Gal. 4:4-5 heart attitude! Celebrating both Christ’s coming and His works?

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of
a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that
we might receive adoption to sonship.”

and 1 Timothy 1:5 –
“This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’…”

A celebration of his incarnation and propitiation.

“But,” some may say, “the cross and the empty tomb
are where our salvation is found!”

A few things on this:
1.) We must remember that only a perfect sacrifice – only a holy life unblemished by sin – would be acceptable. And therefore, that life is a necessary part of Christ’s work – including his birth.

 His birth,
…. prophesied over centuries 
…. fulfilled. to. the. letter.
…. to be evidence that He was the Saviour of humankind.

• ✅ This messiah would be born – not just appear on earth – but come through part of his very creation that rebelled and needed rescue and restoration.
• ✅ Born to a virgin
• ✅ A descendant of Abraham
• ✅ Of the line of Jacob
• ✅ Born of the house and line of David, tribe of Judah
• ✅ Born in Bethlehem
• ✅ Important men from distant lands would come to worship him
• ✅ A slaughter of children near his birth would cause great weeping and mourning
• ✅ Called out of Egypt
• ✅ Called a Nazarene

These prophecies fulfilled are reason for great rejoicing.

Embrace Christmas carols to help your congregations see that God fulfills His promises exactly and that “no Word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37).  That his faithfulness to fulfill His promises demonstrates that all his future promises stand and can be counted on.

Explain what you’re singing.  Do they know the following about verse 2 of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”? 

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! (is based on Isa 9:6)
Hail the Sun of Righteousness! (is based on Malachi 4:2)
Light and life to all he brings, (is based on John 1 and other passages)
risen with healing in his wings.  (is based on Malachi 4:2)

and what those lines mean?

2.) His incarnation demonstrated the humility and extensive grace of YHWH God, and as such should elicit great wonder, love, and praise.

He was born in shame, hardship, and difficulty :
His righteous earthly parents were rejected and shamed because it was assumed they had sexual relations before marriage – or that Mary had been unfaithful
He was not born into a palace, or even into a family home, but in a space given to animals for lodging.
His cradle and kingly bed were an animal’s feeding trough.
He wasn’t wrapped in the finest of clothes but in swaddling clothes
He wasn’t born in a regal location, but a backwater town – “least of the clans of Judah”
His parents fled as refugees to Egypt – a land that didn’t look kindly on Jews
He wasn’t handsome (Isa 53)

The implications to share with your congregations should be glaringly obvious.  And this too should lead us to great rejoicing!  We do not serve some far-distant, impersonal deity.

He came to us lowly – to identify fully with us; to show us the heart of God toward His rebellious creation.

Not in exultation at that time. Rather,

“He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”

John 1:10-11

“…he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.

Isaiah 53:2-4

Here in the UK, Christmas is one of the last remaining times that unbelievers will accept an invitation to attend a church service for the first time – or even just turn up. 

Wherever we live – it is a season when we as ministers of the Gospel can take the familiarity and the comfort of tradition and shine a light on it from a new angle to help people see it’s not just some quaint relic of the past, but just as viable and necessary today.

Let’s joyfully show both sides of the “Christmas Coin.” Let’s see the Christmas season as a wonderfully open opportunity – let’s delight in it and prayerfully and intentionally plan our gatherings to highlight the grandeur of God.

Next year when it’s Christmas, what will you have done?

Consider just a fraction of the lyrics that we can sing to showcase the grandeur of the salvation plan of God and His character – helping unbeliever consider the God we worship, and the believer to grow again in wonder at the grace, mercy, and humility of our Saviour?  

Angels from the Realms of Glory
“Sinners wrung with true repentance bound by griefs to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence, mercy calls you – break your chains
Come and worship, come and worship
Worship Christ the new-born king!”

Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus
“Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a king
born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring”

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
“Fear not!” Then said the angel. “Let nothing you alright
This day is born a Saviour of a pure virgin bright
to save all those who trust in him from Satan’s power and might.”
Oh! Tidings of comfort and joy!”

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing – the whole song really …
“veiled in flesh, the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate deity!
pleased with man in flesh to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel.”

“Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth.”

In the Bleak Midwinter
“Our God, heaven cannot hold him,
nor earth sustain;
heaven and earth shall flee away
when he comes to reign:
in the bleak midwinter
a stable place sufficed
the Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ”

It Came upon the Midnight Clear
“For lo! the days are hastening on,
by prophet seen of old,
when with the ever-circling years
shall come the time foretold
when peace shall over all the earth
its ancient splendors fling,
and the whole world send back the song
which now the angels sing.”

O Come All Ye Faithful
“God of God, and
Light of Light eternal,
Lo! He abhors not the virgin’s womb
Very God!
Begotten – not created!”

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
“O come, Thou Rod of Jesse – free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o’er the grave.”

O Little Town of Bethlehem
“How silently, how silently,
the wondrous gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heav’n.
No ear may hear his coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him, still
the dear Christ enters in.”

O Holy Night – the original French lyrics translated below
verse 1
“Midnight! Christians, it is the solemn hour
When God as man descended among us
To expunge the stain of original sin
And to put an end to the wrath of his father.
The entire world thrills with hope
On this night which gives us a Saviour.
People, on your knees, behold your deliverance.
Christmas! Christmas! Here is the Redeemer!”

and from verse 2
“O mighty ones of today, proud of your grandeur,
It is to your pride that God preaches.
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!”

Once in Royal David’s City
“And our eyes at last shall see him
Through his own redeeming love
for that child so dear and gentle is our Lord in heaven above…”

“Not in that poor lowly stable with the oxen standing by
We shall see him set at God’s right hand on high…”

Silent night – the original German words.  Verses 3-5 translated to English below

3. Silent night! Holy night! Which brought salvation to the world,
From Heaven’s golden heights,
Mercy’s abundance was made visible to us:
Jesus in human form, Jesus in human form.

4. Silent night! Holy night! Where on this day all power
of fatherly love poured forth And like a brother lovingly embraced
Jesus the peoples of the world, Jesus the peoples of the world.

5. Silent night! Holy night! Already long ago planned for us,
When the Lord frees from wrath Since the beginning of ancient times
A salvation promised for the whole world. A salvation promised for the whole world.

We Three Kings – apart from needing some historical inaccuracies corrected….
“Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and sacrifice
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Sounds through the earth and skies!”

Wexford Carol
“Good people all this Christmastime
consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
in sending His beloved Son”

What Child is This?
“Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through
The cross be borne for me, for you
Hail! Hail the Word made flesh
The babe, the son of Mary”

2 thoughts on “The Christmas Coin

  1. That list of hymns is one of the reasons I remain ever thankful for the Anglican tradition in which I am privileged to lead worship – these are our common language. Legacy and heritage. And it’s just such a tender joy to sing these songs every year, knowing that for centuries these very lyrics, in some cases, have been sung and declared by those who came before us… which is why I’m so committed to making sure they’re also being sung by those who will come after us. ❤ Love you guys!

    Liked by 1 person

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