Beethoven’s ninth symphony ends with a much longer version of the song the orchestra just played – Joyful, Joyful. This song has been performed in many places and for many occasions. While not particularly a Christmas carol, the joy we feel during this season lends itself toward singing the “Ode to Joy” of Beethoven’s. When we begin to realize what Christ’s birth meant to the world, to mankind, and even to us today, we can’t help but be thankful and joyful.
I am truly happy to see all of you here and extend a warm welcome to each of you. This is our second annual Christmas concert, titled “The Glory of Christmas.” Christmas truly is a glorious season. There are many reasons this time of the year is so special – we gather with friends and loved ones, we share our blessings with the less fortunate and many other family traditions that warm our hearts. But the most important reason is remembering the sacrificial gift that an almighty God bestowed on a spiritually destitute world. When the eternal God became flesh on Christmas night, His everlasting love began to effect the redemption of all mankind. Angels came and announced that Christ the Lord had come as a babe and proclaimed peace and good will to men and glory to God. As we celebrate the Savior’s birth, let us give God the glory of Christmas.
As we express our joy and thankfulness to God, we don’t expect the applause of men. Please join with us in our joy and attempts to glorify the greatest Giver of Christmas. The next song is titled “Gesu Bambino,” and tells of the little baby Jesus who was Christ the Lord.
You’ll notice on the back of your program the words to “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” We are going to sing this together as we give the orchestra a chance to find seats in the auditorium. This would also be a good time to make sure you don’t have any potentially embarrassing disturbances on your person – like cell phones, watch alarms, or crying children – that may go off in the next hour or so. So let’s stand together and sing the carol “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
You would think that at the birth of a king the entire world would celebrate. Yet, when Christ was born, there wasn’t any room for him anywhere. His parents had to lay him in a manger in a stable. Our ladies trio is going to sing “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne,” which reminds us that it was the King of Heaven Who was born with no room for Him, and will someday return as a victorious ruler. Then the male octet will sing the Negro spiritual, “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” This rhythmic tune takes up the message of the shepherds who first heard of Christ’s birth from the angels, went to see the newborn babe and then spread the word abroad of God’s kindness to mankind. Then we’ll hear our woodwind/violin ensemble play the “Carol of the Bells.”
Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne
Go Tell It
Carol of the Bells
Angels played a prominent role in the first Christmas, and so we see them often in Christmases now. They are in our yards, our decorations, on top of our Christmas tree, and in our carols. The angels brought a glorious aspect to a quiet night in Bethlehem. There couldn’t be found a better messenger to deliver the news of the Savior’s birth. And so angels are asked to leave the realms of glory to proclaim the savior’s birth…, we’re reminded of the angels heard on high…, of the message those herald angels sang…, and of the first time “Noel” was spoken to the shepherds. Yet, while they gladly proclaimed the Savior’s birth, they can’t experience the joy and freedom His coming gave to mankind. Our brass ensemble will play an “Angels Medley” followed by “The First Noel,” sung by our mixed ensemble.
The First Noel
Next, the college mixed ensemble will sing “Joy, Joy.” The song tells the story of the message of joy and peace the angels brought to mankind on Christmas night – the message that God would dwell with mankind and bring light and hope and deliverance to the world. Then we’ll hear a song by some of our pianists and organist encouraging the faithful to adore the Lord who was born a king in Bethlehem. The college ladies ensemble will then sing an arrangement of “Angels We Have Heard on High.”
The Birthday of a King w/ O Come all Ye Faithful
Gloria in Excelsis Deo
The next title incorporates “Still, Still, Still” and “Away in a Manger,” to remind us of the nativity of our Savior. I’m sure it was a still, quiet night until the skies blazed brightly with the heavenly host singing “glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace good will toward men.” Once the piano-organ duet is finished, our ladies chorus will sing the words to this delightful carol.
Still, Still, Still
Hopefully, you have enjoyed the music so far, and in a few moments the choir and orchestra will come and finish the night out for us. While we enjoy music and praising God in this way, there are many other things our church does to help the community around us. Many of you may see our buses going through the neighborhoods each Sunday morning. We provide transportation to church for hundreds of people weekly. Every Friday evening our church hosts a chapter of Reformers Unanimous. This is a local church based program to help people break the strongholds of addictions in their lives. On a weekly basis we invite seniors to what we call “Jolly 60’s,” where they can interact with other seniors and participate in various enrichment programs. On Thursday evenings, while teens and adults are learning in classes programmed for them, our Master Clubs program is available for the children the be involved in. In the summer, Camp Fairhaven provides daytime activities, crafts, sports, and swimming to hundreds of children. Along with other activities we also hold church services in nine area nursing homes, and a local truck stop. If you are interested in learning more about any of these programs, we have a table in the foyer that has information available about all of these.
Both the words and music to the song “Silent Night” were written under unusual circumstances. The words were written at the last minute for Christmas services and because the church organ was broken, the tune had to be simple enough to be played on a classical guitar. These circumstances together brought forth a carol that is among the most familiar of Christmas songs. The words are on the back of your program. Please stand and sing with me as the orchestra and choir make their way to the platform.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is one of the most famous of American authors. He was from an important family of America’s founding and his parents determined that he would be well educated. By the time he was 22, he was a professor at Bowdoin College and writing textbooks. At 27, he was brought to Harvard College and everything seemed like it couldn’t go wrong. Within a year of moving to Boston, his wife of three years died suddenly. For seven years Longfellow worked and wrote until he married again at the age of 31. He had five children from this marriage and began to see great successes for his literary works. In 1861, his second wife burned to death in a tragic accident and the Civil war tore apart the country he loved and his family had helped to found. While tending to his nineteen-year-old wounded son and other wounded soldiers from the war, Longfellow asked God and others around him, “Where is the peace?” On December 25, 1963, he wrote five stanzas that showed the hopelessness of the world around him, and the song would not be happy if it were not for the last two which remind us that “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.” While we think of peace on earth, good will toward men, we remember that while the earth may be violent, our God is sovereign and watching, and will someday rule the earth in righteousness.
I Heard the Bells
How Great Our Joy
The “Messiah,” by George Frideric Handel, is an oratorio that is performed many times during the Christmas season. It was written to tell of the life of the Messiah, Jesus Christ and its text is taken entirely from Scripture. It is divided into three parts, the most familiar of which is the first part, which tells of the prophecy of the Messiah’s coming and the fulfillment of that prophecy when he came at Christmas. The second part tells of Christ’s passion on the cross and his eventual triumph over all the earth. The last part, in which the famous “Hallelujah Chorus” is included, tells of Christ’s work throughout eternity. The “Messiah” is appropriately sung anytime of the year including Easter and, of course, Christmas. The orchestra will play a suite of excerpts from the “Messiah,” then the choir will sing the “Hallelujah Chorus.”
As we close out the night, we’ll listen to a piano-organ duet of “What Child is This?” and then join the choir and orchestra at the end of the final selection. In our secular world of reindeer, santa claus, elves, and snowmen, many may wonder what the beginnings of this celebration is. Why do we do this at this time? When they learn it’s because of the birth of a child, they may wonder…what child. What child greeted by angels’ singing, watched over by shepherds, what child born in a stable where ox and sheep were eating, what child…? Oh, more than a child, he is the word of God made flesh. He is a babe, but also a Son. He gives us hope in this season, but more than that He is the only one that can give hope in any season. This is Christ the Lord. So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh… Come peasant, king, to own Him… The King of kings salvation brings… Let loving hearts enthrone Him! Joy, Joy for Christ is born… the babe, the son of Mary.
He comes and brings Joy to the World. The choir will close with an arrangement of this song that ends with Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” As it finishes, I will come and lead us through the final verse of Joyful, Joyful – the text is included at the bottom of your program.
What Child is This?
Joy to the World and Joyful, Joyful
All the world will see Thy wonder,
Hear the angels’ chorus raised.
All Thy people sing and worship,
Lifting up their endless praise.
Tiny Baby, gift of mercy,
Sent from heaven, Son of Love.
Come to give us life forever;
Take us to Thy home above!
Again, I want to thank you for coming, and I trust you were uplifted by the truths of the season around us. I invite you to worship with us every Sunday, but in particular on the 26th, when we’ll have a special Christmas Sunday service at 10:30 a.m. which will include a children’s Christmas program. Good night.