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11 Songs for Singing

December 28, 2011


About two years ago a friend of mine introduced me to a new Christmas album…Todd Agnew’s Do You See What I See? He gave it in hopes of inspiring my sermon on Mary’s magnificat in Luke’s gospel. As I listened to the songs I realized this wasn’t just another Christmas album, where the band gives a slightly updated beat to the typical carols we all know and love. No, these were all originals, and they took a look at each character of the Christmas story, and explored the great things that were taking place using deep and meaningful lyrics.

Listening gives you a chance to consider the story from many perspectives and remember that each story has several sides depending on whom you are and what information you are privy to. For example, the innkeeper, who is actually never mentioned in scripture, is often portrayed as cold and heartless to turn away a pregnant woman so close to her delivery date. But when you hear the story from the innkeeper’s side, you can imagine the pressure they were under to house so many extra people with the first census underway. They were just as much in need of a Savior as anyone else, but perhaps couldn’t recognize God’s presence in Mary before His earthly birth took place. We can’t really blame the innkeeper. I’m sure he was kicking himself once he realized he had turned away the unborn king. Had Jesus been born in the inn, imagine what it would have done for business!

A favorite of mine is the lullaby that Mary sings to the infant John (the future baptizer).  She tries to soothe the fussy baby, assuring him that God has been born in the form of his cousin. She offers him rest, because even now she seems to know that once he grows, John will need his strength to prepare the way for the Messiah. Imagine knowing such a heavy burden lies before a tiny child. But she too is singing with a heavy heart as she utters the line, “God has given us His Son, but why must he ask me for mine?”

Sure, these lyrics are just guesses at what each person was feeling, and the depth of knowledge they understood of what was happening. The scripture doesn’t give us enough details to truly know, so we fill in with our imagination the parts that we need to figure out. I think everyone wonders if Jesus knew from the beginning what he was born to do, or if he learned it as he grew. He was after all, fully God. But he was fully human too. This great mystery is part of what makes the Christmas story one that is so fascinating, and so incredible to hear anew each year. It is what draws us back into the scriptures to discover how they will speak to us this time and what new truths they will reveal.

The last song offers foreshadowing of Jesus’ teaching life as paralleled with his infancy. The lyrics speak for themselves… “As his mother held him closely, it was hard to understand that her baby, not yet speaking, was the Word of God to man.”

It is hard to understand. It’s hard to understand that God wanted to be so close to us that God was willing to come down in the form of a helpless child. It’s hard to understand the great depth of love God has for us each and every day. It’s hard to understand that the Word was with God in the beginning, and was God, yet was separate from God. We can simply use human words and phrases to help ourselves understand such a great and godly concept. But I believe it warms God’s heart when we take the time to ponder; when we wrestle with such powerful concepts; when we continually come back to worship even with our limited understanding a God that truly loves us so. 

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