I'm a fan of most Christmas songs, but the ten here are among my favorites because they mostly stick to the story yet offer intriguing ancient or new perspectives. There is nostalgia in my preferences, but I know that old songs stay alive because people have updated the lyrics and tunes. I hope these presentations originally used with the Surge kids' class have incremented your appreciation and joy in Christ Jesus our Savior.
"Joy to the World" is among the most loved of Christmas carols, but it quite lacks these proper Christmas markers and others like "baby", "sheep", "manger", and "star". The third verse claims that with the Lord's coming there will be no more sins, sorrows, and thorns. Is that the case? Jesus' words and work in Judea changed the world, but we still have sins, sorrows, and thorns. The fourth verse claims that, "He rules the world with truth and grace". We don't see this yet. To riff another Christmas song, "And in despair I bowed my head; There is no peace on earth, I said; For hate is strong, And mocks the song, Of peace on earth, good will to men."
Such shortages have led some to consider "Joy to the World" to be only a little about Christmas. It's more about celebrating Christ's next coming. Try that perspective as we now review the lyrics. It's also about his coming every day into the lives of all who will receive their King. It is a multi-dimensional song. "Joy to the World" is a song for all seasons.
The vibrant background images here are by our contemporary, artist John August Swanson.
We love "Silent Night" because a silent night is hard to find now.
Yet Bethlehem at Christ's birth was crazy loud compared to other spots of that time.
What was the noise in Bethlehem?
Mr. Bean shows how hard it is to have a Silent Night.
Any night in any little town two thousand years ago is bound to be peaceful compared to our noise of planes, trains, automobiles, alarms, heating and cooling machinery, and unceasing electronic encouragement.
Stop. Reflect. "Rest beside the weary road." We need a silent night.
Many of us had our first public performance with this carol.
Away In a Manger
"Shepherds were in the fields nearby watching over their flocks by night." But no creatures are featured at the Bethlehem location of Jesus' birth. If a shepherd shouldered a sheep to carry to Bethlehem, he likely intended to offer a sleepy sacrifice to the newborn King. Baaah! But lack of Biblical Bethlehem beasts has not stopped artists from including them. What's a manger without moos, or a cradle without camels? I sampled the oldest art to see which animals are most frequent. Get out your pencil and keep score in the following slide show.
Some have taken issue that although, "The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes", nevertheless "little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes." A non-crying baby? Is that a miracle or a mistake?
Be of good cheer. The song does not say Jesus never ever cried. The Bible notes that Jesus got hungry, that Jesus got thirsty, and that Jesus wept. Yet Jesus demonstrated extraordinary calm in a storm-tossed boat and before dangerous people. Psalm 50 has the LORD speaking:
Every animal of the forest is already mine.
The cattle on a thousand hills are mine.
I know every bird on the mountains,
and every living thing in the fields is mine.
As a farmboy, I heard cattle get excited and bellow. A cow that is lost, hungry, alarmed, or in love isn't afraid to say so. A lowing cow says, more than most reports I know, that, "All is calm, all is bright." Plausibly, there were cattle or oxen near their manger. Plausibly, baby Jesus found their words quite charming moo'd music.
Every kid should have a cow.
400 years ago, you might greet an agitated friend with, "God rest ye merry!"
Meaning: "Don't worry, be happy," or more expansively, "May God give you not just calm, but may the Almighty grant you happy and pleasant relief from your fears."
Assignment: Try greeting someone, "God rest ye merry!"
Diction: Two out of three Americans do not distinguish Mary, marry, and merry in speaking. Try it. "Mary, pledged to marry Joseph, could rest merry." That pedantic non-comformist show-off will use the same respective vowel sounds as in, "ask", "met", and "air".
Mary's Trust In God, From Luke Chapter 1
“Mary was shocked by the angel's message. She wondered what his words meant. The angel said to her,
‘Don't be afraid, Mary! God has been gracious to you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was. He will be the king of the descendants of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end!’
‘I am the Lord's servant,’ said Mary.
‘May it happen to me as you have said.’”
Luke chapter 2
“When the shepherds had seen him,
they spread the word
concerning what had been told them about this child,
and all who heard it were amazed
at what the shepherds said to them.
But Mary treasured up all these things
and pondered them in her heart.”
"So the shepherds went quickly
and found Mary and Joseph and the baby,
who was lying in a feeding trough."
The slides and videos in this series come from recent exploration of "The Upper Room Rockers" concerning classic Christmas carols. We touch on the often surprising origins of these songs, their use of what's in the Bible, and their guesses beyond what's in the Bible. Today's entry is: "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing".
Question: What is a "herald"?
In 1965, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" changed all the words to "loo".
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
- Paul, in his letter to the Philippians
What do you call these lines coming out of the sun?
Here is another name for them.
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.