In our Advent music service yesterday, an 1871 hymn asked what kind of child is this? Several answers emerged in a set of two songs that we sang. First, this is Christ the King, a most basic assertion of William C. Dix, the author. Also, we sang that this child is the Word made flesh and the King of kings.
In the next hymn, we sang more answers to the question about what kind of child this is. A child of hope is the way John Morison began his 1781 hymn. His name shall be the Prince of peace, the Wonderful, the Counselor, and the great and mighty Lord.
This child, we read in Revelation 3:20, is the one who stands at the door and knocks. This child is the one who conquers, who sends the Spirit to comfort us in our struggles.
A worship scene in Revelation chapter four reveals the heavenly worship setting for praise to the child, the one born in a manger. It is fantastic imagery of a heavenly host in praise to God. To get to that scene of praise, we begin with an affirmation of Christ the King, an answer to the question, “what child is this?”
Simeon and Anna were prophets who rejoiced when they learned about the birth of Jesus. Simeon had waited many years to hold the baby that Mary and Joseph brought to him. Simeon praised God for bringing “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Israel” (Luke 2:32).
Last evening I joined a group of carolers from church who visited the elderly and shut-ins in our community. At their doorways, standing in the brisk wind, we sang the traditional songs of Christmas, including “Joy to the world.”
This favorite song of the season could have been Anna’s song when she realized that the redemption of Israel had arrived. A godly woman of prayer, fasting, and worship, Anna had dedicated her life to the temple and holy service.
We sing Joy to the world; let earth receive her king. Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing. Whether in the first century with Simeon and Anna or on a chilly twenty-first century December evening with carolers going house to house, we offer up to the heavens, Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Several years ago, Chris Tomlin wrote a song that updates Mary’s Magnificat for our times today. “Noel,” Tomlin wrote, “Come and see what God has done!”
After her initial perplexity at the angel Gabriel’s visit, Mary acted by visiting Elizabeth. Then she committed herself to bear the Son of God. Finally, Mary worshiped God in what’s known as the Magnificat.
“Come and see what God has done,” Mary’s song seems to invite. “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
Tomlin’s soaring chorus line invites all to come and see what God has done, to know the story of amazing love. Finally, Christ is acknowledged as the light of the world, given for us. To me, the swelling Magnificat of Luke 1:46-55 is like Tomlin’s stirring contemporary musical composition of “Noel, come and see what God has done!”
Yesterday we sang a powerful Advent hymn with a tune that dates to the Reformation, and lyrics that come from the prophet Isaiah. The hymn inspires hope, comfort, and courage for the days we live in today.
Elizabeth and Zechariah waited for God to break into their world. They lived holy and God-honoring lives, serving while hoping for a child to be born into their home. Finally, after years of waiting, the angel of the Lord visited Zechariah and promised a son.
When John was born, Elizabeth and Zechariah rejoiced in God’s providential care in their lives. We too can rejoice in God’s care and love in our lives today.
I like the phrase in this well-known hymn that “the kingdom now is near.” Whether we wait endlessly like Zechariah and Elizabeth or seek to find common ground for differing voices in our own world today, we can rest assured that God’s kingdom is here and now, and that brings me great comfort.