“Christmas Carols Come Alive!” (Luke 2:1-20)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Tuesday, December 24, 2019

“Christmas Carols Come Alive!” (Luke 2:1-20)

Christmas carols are, obviously, very popular at this time of year. You hear them all over the radio these days–although that will probably stop after tomorrow. These secular radio stations start playing Christmas music back around November 1, and they stop right when the church begins the twelve days of the real Christmas season. But these stations wouldn’t be playing Christmas music unless lots of people liked to tune in and listen. The joy and warmth of the holiday season comes through when Christmas carols are played. What’s even greater, though, is when Christmas carols come alive. That’s our theme tonight, on this joyous Christmas Eve: “Christmas Carols Come Alive!”

First, though, I should explain what kind of Christmas carols I mean. There are several different kinds, you know. One is what you might call the “silly” Christmas songs. Often these have to do with what people want for Christmas: “Santa baby, I want a yacht, and really that’s not a lot.” “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.” “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas. Only a hippopotamus will do.” Funny what people want, isn’t it? Me, I want a hula hoop. Now I have no objection to these silly Christmas songs. I can handle silly. But these are not really Christmas carols at all.

Then there are the “scary” Christmas songs. At the top of the list is this terrifying tune: “You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town. He’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty and nice: Santa Claus is coming to town.” Now is this Law or Gospel? Law, no question about it! “He sees when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!” Yikes! I don’t have a chance!

And then is another kind of Christmas carol, the “sentimental” kind: “Dashing through the snow.” “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” “Silver bells, it’s Christmas time in the city.” “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.” These are the dreamy, nice, nostalgic songs of merry Christmases past. We all love these good old-fashioned Christmas carols. The familiar melodies, the vivid pictures they paint, the warm feelings, the happy memories–these Christmas carols are like a cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter’s day.

But even these sentimental favorites are not the Christmas carols I’m talking about tonight when I speak of “Christmas Carols Come Alive!” No, I’m talking about the Christmas carols that actually talk about the Christ of Christmas, like the ones we’re singing tonight: “O Little Town of Bethlehem”; “It Came upon the Midnight Clear”; “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing;” “Silent Night, Holy Night”; and “Joy to the World.” These are five of the most familiar and best-loved Christmas carols. Their tunes are lovely and enjoyable to sing. They fit the mood of the night: reflective, joyous, peaceful, quiet, or exuberant, as the case may be. The music plants the songs in our minds and hearts and memories. But it’s the words–the words are what make these Christmas carols so great and make them come alive for us.

In fact, it’s not just the carols that come alive. It’s the realities they sing of that actually do come alive and make all the difference for us. Let’s think about that a little bit, in three ways, using the carols we’re singing tonight as our guide.

First, these Christmas carols come alive because they tell of a Savior who really did come alive and was born on this night. That really is the central event, isn’t it? That’s what Christmas is all about: The birth of Christ himself. “And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger. . . .”

Our Christmas carols tonight proclaim that holy birth. In the little town of Bethlehem, on this silent night, Christ the Savior is born. “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the Incarnate Deity! Pleased as Man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel.” This is the great wonder and mystery of Christmas: God in the flesh, God with us, born as that Holy Infant, so tender and mild.

You see, these Christmas carols did come alive, when the holy Son of God came as a little baby to live among us. This was how Jesus Christ showed God’s love and mercy for us poor sinners. By growing up and going to the cross in our place, to suffer and die for our sin. Our Lord Jesus won forgiveness for you and for the whole world in this way. And then he rose from the dead to show that with this forgiveness comes eternal life! This is his gift to you!

But the birth of Christ–God in the flesh, in the person of this little child–you would not know anything about this, except that God told you about it. He announced it to you and told you what it all means. This is the second way in which these Christmas carols come alive: They make Christmas come alive, for you, by proclaiming what has happened. They preach the gospel to you. They announce the event that has taken place in the birth of Christ and what that means for you. The angel heralded the good news. “And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’”

The angels are still singing out these glad tidings through our Christmas carols: “Hark! The herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King; Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!’” The angels are God’s original messengers, and God has had the same good news sound forth through a host of messengers ever since: apostles, evangelists, pastors, hymn writers, fathers and mothers–everyone who has ever told you about the birth of your Savior. Brothers and sisters, God is determined to get this good news out!

Why? So you can believe it! So you can know what God has done for you in the birth of Christ. How that changes everything for you, now and for eternity! “Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die.” God wants you to know and to believe this good news. This gospel gives you hope even in the midst of sorrow: “All you, beneath your heavy load, By care and guilt bent low, Who toil along a dreary way With painful steps and slow: Look up, for golden is the hour, Come swiftly on the wing, The Prince was born to bring you peace; Of Him the angels sing.”

Yes, these Christmas carols come alive with the living voice of the gospel! The Holy Spirit works through these words to stir up faith in your heart. And through faith you take hold of that little baby and adore him as your Savior.

That brings us to the third way these Christmas carols come alive for us: We come alive when we hear and receive the good news! We really do! Without the gospel of Christ, we are dead, dead in our trespasses and sins. We may be walking around and buying Christmas presents and watching football, but apart from Christ we are dead men walking. Sinners by nature, dead to God, condemned to death eternally by our callous disregard of God and coldness to our neighbor. Dead men walking. But then the gospel comes into our ears and tells us of God’s gift of a Savior. The Holy Spirit wakens faith in our hearts, and you and I come alive! Really alive, new life now and eternal life forever, with Christ and with all God’s people. This is the power of the gospel at work, raising us from the dead and giving us new life.

Just like the shepherds, who came alive with faith and joy, when they heard the good news of the Savior’s birth: “The shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.” “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

And so tonight our Christmas carols come alive, because they express the living faith and joy we know and experience and want to sing about. Christmas carols come alive, and through faith in the Christ these carols sing about, we come alive too! We come alive literally, by faith in Christ and in what he has done. New life now and life everlasting! “Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King.” And so our hearts come alive figuratively, too. Alive with joy, joy that finds expression in our singing: “Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ.”

The songs we employ are these Christmas carols come alive. They come alive because at their heart and center is the living Lord Jesus Christ. He was born in Bethlehem on Christmas night, so that he could go to Calvary on Good Friday. These carols come alive, secondly, because they announce and proclaim the good news of his birth. They tell of the salvation Christ brings, so that we can take hold of it by faith. And these carols come alive, thirdly, because they express the joy and faith that now fills our hearts. And so, dear friends, whether you find a hippopotamus or a hula hoop under your tree in the morning, let’s continue to sing these Christ-filled Christmas carols that really do come alive!

Published in: on December 24, 2019 at 6:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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