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The Carols of Christmas: Connecting Themes to the Scriptures

Once again the Christmas season is here, and the familiar carols of Christmas saturate our world, even for those who have no clue of the biblical truth the songs are communicating. What do you “hear” as you sing or listen to the songs of Christmas? How do these carols contribute to your celebration of Christ’s birth and adoration of your Savior? It is so easy for us to sing Christmas carols without giving any real consideration to what we are singing about. Songs were written to help God’s people remember the story of Christ’s birth and its significance so they could respond in joy or adoration; however, they can become nothing more than feel-good moments.

This Christmas, intentionally connect the Christmas carols you sing to the Scriptures that they portray. As we make this connection, the songs then become full of life and importance, moving us to worshipful responses. Think with me for a few moments of how these carols reflect some of the biblical themes surrounding the Incarnation.

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

Think of the faithful Israelites like Simeon and Anna who were waiting for the Messiah to come and bring redemption, and then they rejoice when Emmanuel, “God with us” arrived (Luke 2:25-38).

“O Little Town of Bethlehem”

The song reminds us of the fulfillment of the prophet Micah that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), bringing light and hope to our world of darkness (John 1:1-10).

“It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”

Weary ones are encouraged to “rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing” the message of peace that has come through Christ (Luke 2:14; 1:79). How we need to hear that message of rest and peace today!

“Silent Night! Holy Night!”

Reflect on how Christ’s birth was the “dawn of redeeming grace,” because “Christ the Savior is born” (Luke 1:68; Luke 2:11).

“O Come All Ye Faithful”

Believers are encouraged to come as the shepherds and wise men did, to acknowledge the “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing” and to “come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.” (John 1:14; Luke 2:15, 20; Matthew 2:11).

“Angels We Have Heard on High”

We get the opportunity to join in with the message of the angels the night Christ was born, “Gloria in excelsis Deo” (Luke 2:14). As we internalize the significance of Christ’s birth, we should be filled with great joy (Luke 2:10) and genuine worship of our God for the salvation He has provided in sending Christ to the world. Do we have a sense of this great awe when we sing this song?

“What Child is This?”

The song asks the probing question of who the “Child” is that was born in a humble place, and the refrains allows us to answer with conviction and adoration, “This, this is Christ the King” and “Haste, haste to bring Him Laud” (Luke 1:32-33).

“Go Tell It on the Mountain”

Like the shepherds, we are encouraged to spread the news that Jesus Christ is born (Luke 2:17). When we sing this song, we should ask if we are as eager to proclaim the message and significance of Christ’s birth.

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

Most would agree that Charles Welsey’s carol gives the most comprehensive Christological study of any of the carols, as it rehearses many biblical themes related to the incarnation of Christ. Here are some of them: kingship and peace (Isaiah 9:6-7), mercy (Luke 1:72), reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-18), joy of nations (Isaiah 9:3; Luke 2:32), celebration/triumph (Luke 2:13), lordship (Luke 2:11), virgin birth (Matthew 1:23), incarnate Deity (John 1:1, 14), Christ is Emmanuel (Luke 1:23), righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), light (John 1:5, 9), life (John 10:10), resurrection (Romans 4:25), spiritual healing (Isaiah 53:5), eternal life and second birth (John 3:16, 3). If only everyone who sings this song as part of holiday festivities would realize and accept by faith the biblical truth of salvation, what a difference it would make in their lives!

Hopefully as you have considered these biblical themes, you realize the living truths that are in these carols. I trust that as you sing or hear the songs of Christmas this year, you will be more than mindlessly going through the motions and filling time. Use them instead for times of reflection, adoration and worship of the One of whom the angels proclaimed, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10, ESV)

By Dr. Ken Pyne, Baptist Bible Seminary

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