Mary Kate and I have an established rule that Christmas music is forbidden until Thanksgiving, but stop by my office from the end of November through December, and you’ll hear Christmas carols and hymns blaring loud and proud - just ask Pam and Teresa and the office volunteers! I enjoy the secular songs of the season, but I love the sacred Advent and Christmas hymns.
As a wannabe hymnologist, and the son of a minister of music, I am drawn to the poetic beauty and the theological richness of sacred music. I am fascinated by the history of some of the great hymns of the faith. For instance: The “Great” or “O” Antiphons were series of plaintive, chant-like Latin carols written in the 800s. They were eventually restructured into verse form in the 1100s, but weren’t published until 1710. It wasn’t until John Mason Neale, an English minister, discovered the Great Antiphons, and translated them into English and finally produced the first draft of this great Advent hymn in 1841. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is an ancient carol that we still sing every December.
I also love discovering new hymns that add new spice and new flavor to our Advent and Christmas worship. Now the Heavens Start to Whisper is a newer Advent hymn that I have just recently discovered. I encourage you to look up this text and listen to the music as you are able, but for now I invite you to meditate on one line from this Advent hymn.
In the lonely, in the stranger, in the outcast, hid from view:
Child who comes to grace the manger, teach our hearts to welcome You.
These words remind me of the convicting words of Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46. The hammer meets the nail in verses 41 and 45: ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ … ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
May the Child who comes to grace the manger teach our hearts to welcome the stranger, and thus welcome our Lord.
May your Advent journey be filled with hope, peace, joy, and love - May your Advent journey overflow with Christ.