I love singing Christmas carols, and the earlier in November the better! Music lifts our souls and expresses our hope. Though 2020 has been a crazy year, Christians have reasons to sing that no virus can ever take away, and the world needs to hear why.
Why do Christians sing with joy at Christmastime? Luke’s account of the night Jesus was born gives us something we can sing about at the end of every year, no matter what it has been like.
A Promised Savior
Two thousand years ago, the Roman Empire stretched around the entire Mediterranean Sea, and Caesar Augustus was on the throne. His empire established the “Pax Roma,” the Peace of Rome, and people sang songs to him as the savior of the world. However, Augustus was not the savior of Israel. Caesar could not bring the glory or peace God’s people were looking for. They longed for something greater.
To the surprise of humble shepherds watching flocks outside of Bethlehem, an angel of the Lord appeared and declared to them:
Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy… For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Lk. 2:10-11).
The angels announced Jesus’ birth to humble people in need of hope, and it was the best news in the world. It was the gospel—good news: God’s promised savior had arrived! While these shepherds were afraid under Rome and before the angels, this message brought the hope they needed. Their hope of a Messiah was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and his arrival turned their fear into faith.
God always keeps his promises to his people, and his promises can give us confidence in any circumstance. It was “unto us”—for God’s people—that Jesus came into the world, and he came to bring peace and blessing to all who love and follow him. God promises and delivers the best news, and he does it to give us hope.
Peace and Favor
God promised that Israel’s savior would also bring peace. When the Bible talks about peace, it refers to far more than just quiet and tranquility. The night of Jesus’ birth was anything but silent. After the angel’s announcement, a heavenly choir joined the solo angel, and together they sang:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth,
peace among those with whom he is pleased! (Lk. 2:14).
The hope of the gospel is grace and peace. Biblical peace comes from having a right relationship with God, and God shows blessing and favor to those who are righteous. Sinners cannot receive these gifts unless they receive grace from a savior. Jesus came into the world to establish righteousness in the hearts of God’s people across the earth, and he accomplished this on the cross. Though our sins were as scarlet, in Christ, we are pure as snow–– pleasing to God the Father. Christ suffered and died, then rose from the grave, to fill his people with all joy and peace in believing, that they would abound in hope (Rom. 15:13). These are gracious gifts of God’s favor, and through the Holy Spirit, God gives them “unto us”—his people—in every age. God came among his people, bringing grace and peace, so that he can show them his favor forever.
God with Us
The ultimate promise of the Bible is that God will dwell with his people. Though Jesus Christ is God in the highest heaven, the most glorious and majestic and powerful, he was born of a poor virgin and laid in a barn trough. He later submitted himself to the oppressive rule of a sinful, pagan empire. The wonder of Advent is this: God in the highest became the humblest, and he did so to unite his people with himself.
The irony of the angel’s song in Luke 2 reflects the prophecy of Isaiah, who said:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end (Isa. 9:6-7).
This child is Immanuel, which means “God with us,” and Jesus Christ, as God, is pleased to dwell with man. First, he came in humility, in order to give us his righteousness. In the future, Jesus will come a second time to fulfill this promise in its entirety. On that day, the heavenly hosts will appear again, and Christ Jesus will be with them in power and glory. His kingdom and everlasting peace will be established upon the earth, for the sake of his people, and he shall reign forever and ever.
The term “advent” means “coming,” and it applies gloriously to both times Christ comes to the earth. We can celebrate Christmas because we have living hope, joy, and peace now, even if it has been a tough year. Believers look forward to the day when our faith will be turned to sight, and when our joy and peace will be made full. But no matter the season or trial, Jesus is still the Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace, to whom we bow. Christians have hope, grace and peace because God is with us, and we will be with God forever.
Join Heaven’s Choir
No matter what the year has been like, Christians can rejoice at Christmastime because we have heard and believed the gospel. Though our best years are still ahead of us, we celebrate now! In Christ, we have everything we need. God is with us through the Holy Spirit. The Father’s smile shines on every Christian because Christ fulfilled our need for a savior. Jesus gives us the peace and righteousness we are longing for. One day, we will experience God’s favor in Christ’s presence. But for now, Christians have every reason to sing praise to God, and our world needs to hear it—especially in hard times.
In spite of all the changes COVID-19 brings to us this Christmas, sing anyway! Whether you’re wearing a mask in your church building or you’re worshiping each Sunday in your living room, stand and sing with great joy and peace! Even take your joyful voice outdoors, and share why you have such peace despite the struggles in this world. Remembering and proclaiming the birth of our savior is good news worthy of great joy for all the ages. Let the last word of 2020 be a song!