Sunday, July 21, 2024
Sunday, July 21, 2024
HomeAll The NewsSTAND FIRM: The Expanded Gospel Narrative in Christmas Hymns

STAND FIRM: The Expanded Gospel Narrative in Christmas Hymns

      With all our technology and the availability of resources, one would think we’d have a greater grasp on biblical truth today than those in the past, but I’m not sure that is the case. I believe Sir Isaac Newton would disagree according to his second law of thermodynamics. His law dealt with energy, stating entropy would always increase, or in another words, things would always move from order to disorder. Though energy was the intended target it applies to the reality of life — our homes never clean themselves or we can’t unscramble an egg.

      Undoubtedly, this applies to the perpetuity of truth — the further a narrative or teaching moves from its origination the more likely it will change. Fortunately, because of God’s provision of the Bible and its sustaining throughout history, we can always go to the source, but we continue to move further from the original intended audience. We’re nearly 2,000 years removed from the final writing of the books in the Bible, and we’re nearly 3,500 years from the giving of the first five to Moses.

      This is why we’ve had to have reformations and revivals. We must constantly make sure we’re getting back to Scripture. That’s clear for erroneous teaching, but I believe sometimes there is an overemphasis or underemphasis on aspects of the Bible being taught now that weren’t originally. I see this in understanding God’s continued plan for Israel, as I have written about over the last several articles. I believe we can see it when it comes to the end times. I’m sure there are other areas that are overlooked or forgotten in modern teaching.

      We’ve placed many matters that were once important to the church and made them peripheral as we’ve move to emphasize only a sliver of the biblical narrative. We know that the first followers of Christ saw a larger picture of the biblical narrative from the New Testament writings.

      One example is found in Acts 1:3, where we read that for the 40 days Jesus remained on earth after His resurrection, He taught about the kingdom of God. This would be more than what we would include in our telling of the gospel today. There is no doubt that teaching on the kingdom would have included His return, the Millennial Kingdom and the restoration of Israel. In II Thess. 2, Paul reveals that he taught the new believers in Thessalonica about the Antichrist, the return of Jesus and the restoration of Israel. That in itself doesn’t seem that earth-shattering, but when we come to understand that Paul was likely there less than three weeks, it becomes interesting.

      Not only do we see a far more expanded gospel narrative in the New Testament writings, but it is seen throughout history. Possibly unknowingly, you will be singing that evidence over the next few weeks. Many of the most popular Christmas hymns do not merely talk about the coming of the Messiah as a Savior, but also as the promised eternal King of Israel to bring about their restoration.

      One of the first times I came to the realization wasn’t a song, but a verse I remember being read in nearly every Christmas choir cantata or children’s play — Isa. 9:6. You will recognize it, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…” This may be one of the most quoted verses at Christmas, but the context is completely about the Messiah as the promised King of Israel that will bring about their restoration. Check out the immediate context, along with the first verse of the chapter:

         “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali (Israel), but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (Isa. 9:1, 6-7 NIV).

      The first verse, along with the end of the chapter, reveals that the focus here with the birth of the child is the restoration of Israel. The “government” that will be on His shoulders is His Kingdom in which He rules out of Jerusalem.

      Here are some lines from famous hymns to further express this:

      • “Glory to the newborn king” (Hark, the Herald Angel Sing)

      • “Born is the King of Israel!” (The First Noel)

      • “Let Earth receive her King” (Joy to the World)

      • “O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel” (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel)

      • “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel)

      • “O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny” (O Come, Come, O Emmanuel)

      • “O come, Thou Key of David, come And open wide our heav’nly home” (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel)

      • “O come, Adonai, Lord of might, Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height, In ancient times didst give the law In cloud and majesty and awe. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.” (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel)

      • “Adore on bended knee Christ the Lord, the newborn King.” (Angels We Have Heard on High)

      • “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever,” (Hallelujah Chorus)

      I would also add that every time “Christ” or “Messiah” is sung should harken us back to the promise of the descendant of David who would rule from Jerusalem because Messiah is the Hebrew word for “anointed one” and Christ is the Greek word for “anointed one.” The birth of Christ cannot be dissected from His coming reign as King in Jerusalem. We should rejoice for He is the Savior of the world, but we can’t disconnect that He is also the restorer of Israel and Zion.

         — Jake is a state missionary and would love to share about the work in Northwest Arkansas and encourage your church to stand firm. (