Christmas would still be wonderful without the music, but the songs we hear and sing each year as we celebrate Jesus’ birth really accent the joy of Christmastime.
The Bible urges us to see that the word of Christ dwells richly within us (Colossians 3:16). With all wisdom, it says, we are to teach and instruct ourselves by using psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Music is a powerful tool for communicating spiritual truth. Music is not only helpful in learning Christian truth, it is commanded!
This should not be a surprise. In the pages of the New Testament careful students of God’s word have detected the presence of songs from the Early Church. In one place, lyrics from ancient Christian worship express the sweeping magnitude of Christ stepping down from glory to die on a Roman cross only to be exalted again to the highest place (Philippians 2:5-11).
Another apparent worship song appears in the first letter to Timothy:
Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:
He appeared in a body,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory (1 Timothy 3:16, NIV).
The ancient musical terms in Colossians refer to musical styles long forgotten, but one thing is clear: all types of music should be used in Christian teaching. Psalm 33 exhorts us to sing to the Lord a new song (v. 3). The mixture of both established and innovative songs is part of the wonder, reminding us that the one message of all Christmas songs is the real focus, not a particular style of chords, rhythms, and melodies.
The older Christmas carols that we still sing have stood the test of time. They are the cream of the crop, musically, lyrically, and theologically, expressing both the feelings and the thoughts of that silent night in Bethlehem with almost supernatural precision.
New songs that are well-written and performed infuse a fresh sense of wonder into the ancient story about the manger and swaddling clothes, shepherds and angels. The old hymns and the new choruses combine to tell the one profound account of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us.
The instruction in Colossians concludes by calling on us to sing with our hearts to God. Some of us may struggle to get the rhythm just right or hit the proper pitch as we sing the songs of Christmas. But the Bible does not mention anything about great musical performances; rather, it asks for something that comes from inside.
Sing the wonderful music of Christmas. Enjoy your favorites. Learn a new song. And may the word of Christ dwell richly within you. Merry Christmas!