“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,” (Isaiah 7:14)
One thing our church likes to do this time of year is to have an Advent and Christmas hymn sing. In place of our opening hymn we sing a couple verses of whatever hymns the people pick out.
Music is such an important element of this holy time of year. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in singing these beautiful hymns we forget that they also have great words.
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” which is probably the most well-known Advent hymn, is based on the passage above from Isaiah:
O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, shall come to Thee O Israel.
The name Emmanuel reminds us that Jesus is true God and true man. As Isaiah states, “the virgin will give birth to a son,” which points to Jesus’ human nature. And his name Emmanuel, which means “God with us,” points to his divine nature. There is no way people would have called Jesus Emmanuel if they didn’t believe that Jesus was God in human flesh.
In addition, God would not consent to be with us unless Jesus had paid for all of our sins. God is holy. We are filthy sinners. The only way God would consent to be with us is if Jesus had come and washed away all our sins, which he did when he died for us on the cross. In Matthew the Lord tells Joseph in a dream, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
As verse 7 of this hymn points out, since Emmanuel means God with us, we pray that we would get along with each other too:
“O Come, Desire of nations bind, in one the hearts of all mankind; bid thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.”
If Emmanuel can reconcile us with the heavenly Father, then surely, he can also reconcile us to each other. He can bind in one the hearts of all mankind. He can bid our sad divisions cease and be our King of peace.
Since we are talking about the name Jesus, the hymn “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds,” comes to mind:
1. “How Sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear! It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds and drives away our fear.
2. How weak the effort of my heart, how cold my warmest thought! But when I see Thee as Thou art, I’ll praise Thee as I ought.
3. Till then I would Thy love proclaim with ev’ry fleeting breath; And may the music of Thy name refresh my soul in death.”
The name Jesus can refresh our souls in death. Our Savior has gone before us into death and has emerged victorious, so we have nothing to fear.
“Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming” is a beautiful explanation of the meaning of Christmas. The first three verses talk about the meaning of Christmas and the last verse is a prayer:
1. “Lo, how a rose e’er blooming, from tender stem hath sprung! Of Jesse’s lineage coming as prophets long have sung,
It came, a flow’ret bright, amid the cold of winter, when half spent was the night.
2. Isaiah ‘twas foretold it, the rose I have in mind; with Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to us a Savior, when half spent was the night.
3. This flow’r, whose fragrance tender, with sweetness fills the air, dispels with glorious splendor, the darkness ev’rywhere,
True man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us, and lightens ev’ry load.”
Then verse four is the prayer:
4. “O Savior, child of Mary, who felt our human woe; O Savior, King of glory, Who dost our weakness know;
Bring us at length we pray, to the bright courts of heaven, and to the endless day.”
Many of our Advent and Christmas hymns have words that work well as prayers.
I’ve compiled some other random hymn verses that have great lyrics:
O Little Town of Bethlehem, verse 4
“O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel.
This verse from “O Little Town of Bethlehem” reminds us that Jesus needs to be born in us. Yes, Jesus was born in Bethlehem to be the Savior of the world, but has he been born in your heart? Yes he has. When you were baptized Jesus was born in your heart to live there forever.
Another great verse is verse 2 of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”:
Christ, by highest heav’n adored, Christ the everlasting Lord, late in time behold he comes, offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity! Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel!
Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King!
This verse again references Jesus’ virgin birth and his divine and human natures.
Finally, there is verse three of “Joy to the World”:
No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow,
Far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found, far as, far as, the curse is found.
When the world fell into sin not only were Adam and Eve cursed, the entire creation was cursed. The regular, constant evidence of that are the weeds and thorns that grow up all by themselves every year. But as this hymn verse points out, Jesus’ blessings flow, “far as the curse is found,” in other words wherever the curse of sin rears its ugly head, whether it’s in our hearts or in the ground, Jesus is there to change the curse into a blessing.
It’s hard to imagine celebrating Christmas without our beloved Christmas hymns. It is not only a blessing to sing them, they teach us as well. Jesus is true God and true man, our perfect Savior. He was not only born in Bethlehem he was also born in our hearts through the blessed waters of Holy Baptism.
(Hymns taken from the Lutheran Service Book hymnal)