One of my favourite parts of Christmas celebrations is the carols sung. Did you ever stop to think that the song the angels sang the night Jesus was born would have been the very first Christmas carol?
I knew that the tradition of singing Christmas carols was centuries old, but never really thought about the fact that when we sing carols at Christmas, we are carrying on with a tradition of praise that started the day that Jesus Christ was born. No wonder these songs that we only hear for a short period of time every year hold such a special place in our hearts and memories.
How many of you have a favourite Christmas carol? I have several. I enjoy the traditional songs Oh Little Town of Bethlehem; Silent Night; While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night; and Joy to the World, because they tell the story of that night in a manner that all can relate to.
My heart soars as I picture the angels singing when they announced the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps that’s why “Angels From the Realms of Glory” is also a favourite. The very words take me back to that starry night.
Christmas carols were one of the ways of getting the story of Jesus birth to the common folk in days gone by. These people didn’t have the means to learn to read – or even to own a book if they could read. In order for the church leaders to get the Christmas story to these people, they had to find methods other than the written word. One of these was to write songs or Christmas carols.
So, when you hear Christmas carols this season, think of the deep meaning behind the words.
“At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.” (Luke 2:13,14 MSG)
Music has much to teach us about life. I didn’t realize how much until I heard a wise woman say that the rests in a piece of music don’t contain music themselves but are an important part of the complete piece. She went on to say the melody doesn’t end when you come to the pause; instead, you take the rest, carry on as if it hadn’t happened and hit the next note with confidence.
My life contains many similarities to music. I have times when all is smooth and steady, reminiscent of the whole notes. Then, there are the times when the tempo quickens like that of quarter and eighth notes.
The most interesting music has a combination of notes as well as sharps and flats. How I put these together in my life can create harmony or discord.
The part of the musical score I hadn’t thought about was the pauses.
Sometimes I have planned these into my life as a time of refreshment and renewal. Other times they are forced on me through illness, injury, or loss.
I had always thought of the unexpected rests in my life as interruptions. Now, I see they are not wasted time but actually help to make me who I am. It all depends on what I do with them.
Jesus was a perfect example of enjoying times of rest in the middle of the stress and demands of his busy life. He offers the same opportunity to me. I need to accept the full notes and the pauses.
When I spend quiet time with him I will be able to learn the melody he has set out for my life and hit the next note with confidence.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NLT)
My husband and I attended a performance by a symphony and chorus. The venue was small and we were seated behind some of the musicians. We had a side view of the singers and the conductor.
The perspective from that vantage point was very interesting. We were amazed by the variety of instruments the two percussionists played and how they shared duties with several of them. I was fascinated to watch as the kettle drums were struck and then a hand was placed on the top to stop the vibration.
The strings, brass, woodwinds and keyboards each layered on the tones of the other instruments to produce a rich sound. We observed the musicians turning the pages of their sheet music and watching the conductor for direction.
Then there was the chorus. The lyrics were stirring and the harmonies impressive. What caught my attention even more than these were the joyous expressions of the singers. They smiled, swayed to the music and looked like they were having the time of their lives. Throughout, all eyes were focused on the conductor.
I had the pleasure of watching the conductor as he directed both singers and musicians. His pride was evident as he continuously mouthed encouragement and praise.
As I watched this I had a sudden image of God, the conductor of my life. When I keep my eyes focused on him I am aware of his direction. He shows me when to bang the drum and when to silence the sound. His love and encouragement allows me to blend my notes with those of others so we can join together to make a joyful noise.
Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, (Ephesians 5:19 NIV)
With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD! (Psalm 98:6 ESV)
We enjoy music and every year attend a large gospel music celebration. The lyrics of the songs are wonderful and encouraging and lift the spirit. The music is a blend of harmonies. It is this blending of voices that creates the depth of sound. One voice may sound good, but when a few harmonize it sounds so much better. If everyone sang the same note, the sound would not be nearly as rich.
This is the way of life as well. I don’t have to be exactly the same as the person next to me. When I work together with others, our ideas and strengths are blended and a beautiful harmony is created. I am unique just as you are. God gave us each our own notes to sing. By blending my notes with the ones next to me, what is produced is something far more beautiful than anything I could create on my own.
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. Psalm 33:3 NIV
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Romans 12:16 NIV
It must have been part of a dream that I don’t quite remember, but I woke up thinking about dancing. The thoughts drifted in and out of my mind all day long. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that my life is like being at a dance.
Sometimes my life is in measured steps, like a technical dance routine. Everything seems to be choreographed and I need to pay careful attention to keep up with it.
Other times it is slow and sweet, as I move in perfect harmony with my partner. These steps need to be savored as the dance is ever changing.
Next I get to the dance of frenzied activity. The movements are energetic and enjoyable, but it’s a pace I can’t keep up for extended periods.
There are also times when it feels like I am out of step, and just not quite in synch with those around me. Do I stress about this or realize that perhaps this is a dance I need to sit out and just observe.
The music changes and a new dance begins. There are challenging new steps to master. It’s all part of the adventure. As long as I keep in step with God, my life will be a dance to honor him.
Praise his name with dancing, accompanied by tambourine and harp. Psalm 149:3 NLT