Christmas Joy and Glory
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
I am truly happy to see all of you here and I extend a warm welcome to each of you. Tonight is our seventh annual Christmas concert, titled “The Glory of Christmas.”
In 1855, William Cummings combined a melody from Mendelssohn’s tribute to Gutenberg, the man who was the first to print the Bible, with the text of a hymn Charles Wesley wrote and George Whitefield had published. This new setting for Hark! The Herald Angels Sing has since become one of the most recognized Christmas carols in the world. Each verse of the song end with the refrain reminding us of what the angels proclaimed the night Jesus was born, “Glory to the newborn King.”
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 there are 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. The 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. All of the selections you’ll hear tonight have been prepared for our worship services throughout the month of December. So it seems a little out of place to be clapping after each group finishes. Please join with us now as we express our joy and thankfulness to God, and attempt to glorify the greatest Giver of Christmas.
Angels are a significant part of our Christmas traditions. Their beauty and majesty contribute to the wonder of the season. And yet, while they could sing creation’s story, and gladly proclaim the Savior’s birth, they can’t experience the joy and freedom His coming gave to mankind. Christ’s coming makes possible the true peace and joy for everyone on earth. Christmas is not just about sentimental feelings; it’s about remembering when God became flesh, grew up and lived among mankind, and then died to pay the penalty for man’s sin. After His death he arose as a conquering king over sin and death. That’s why the song invites us to “Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King.”
You’ll notice on the back of your program the words to “Angels From the Realms of Glory.” 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, cameras, or crying children – that may go off in the next hour or so. Let’s stand together and sing the carol “Angels From the Realms of Glory.”
Angels From the Realms of Glory
The night of Christ’s birth has been the subject of many Christmas carols. This matchless night was made holy by the coming of the Messiah. “O Holy Night” is one of the most popular of all Christmas songs. Even though a poet who was not a regular churchgoer wrote the words, and a Jew who did not believe in Christ as the Son of God wrote the music, its message in text and music is so powerful that it has overcome opposition from organized religion. Because of its background, the Catholic Church in France banned its use in its services, but people recognized its value and still sang the song. It was also the first song ever to be heard over the airwaves of radio. On Christmas Eve, in 1906, as radio operators were expecting to hear dots and dashes, they heard the voice of Reginald Fessenden, a former chemist for Thomas Edison, reciting the Christmas story from Luke chapter two. When he finished, he picked up his violin and played the song “O Holy Night” – the first music to be heard over the radio. We’ll hear this song in the next selection of specials.
In the Bleak Midwinter
Infant Holy, Infant Lowly
Away in a Manger
Gesu Bambino and O Holy Night
In the next group of selections is one of the most familiar of carols. It invites us to come, worship and adore the Savior, Christ the Lord. The keyboards will play “O Come All Ye Faithful” for us and then our mixed ensemble will sing it.
Beethoven’s ninth symphony ends with a much longer version of the song we will hear between those numbers – 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. And 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.
O Come, All Ye Faithful
Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee
O Come, All Ye Faithful
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
We imagine a calm, quiet town outside Jerusalem on a winter night. But Bethlehem must have been quite busy, for all of King David’s descendants were there at this time. The emperor of Rome declared that all the world should be taxed, and all of David’s lineage were to appear and be accounted for in Bethlehem. Now it was lambing time in Bethlehem so the shepherds were out in the fields round about the town, and it’s a good thing, because if they weren’t out there, there probably wouldn’t even have been room in the stable below the inn where a poor couple who’d come to be taxed from Nazareth had to stay since there was no room upstairs.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. (Luke 2:8)
The flocks of Bethlehem were not just any sheep. The shepherds of Bethlehem were employed especially to supply lambs for the temple sacrifices in Jerusalem. God had taught His people to picture the covering of sin by shedding the blood of a young, innocent lamb and offering it as an atonement for individual sins. And so, the precious, innocent lambs born in Bethlehem would very soon be slaughtered to temporarily appease the wrath of God on a man’s sin.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)
It wasn’t just any couple that had to stay in that stable. The poor couple was recently married and the woman was expecting her firstborn, but it wasn’t just any child she was expecting. An angel had appeared to her and declared that she would bring forth a Son and call His name Jesus, because He would be a Savior. She would conceive this child without knowing a man; the Holy Ghost would overshadow her and this Son would be called the Son of God.
The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)
When this special child was finally introduced to the world, His spokesman did not call Him the Son of God. Rather, he called Him the Lamb of God. This reminds us that the precious Babe of Bethlehem, born with the temple lambs, and laid in a manger would also be sacrificed. But since He is the Son of God, His sacrifice would not temporarily, but would eternally cover the sins of every man who would place their trust in Him.
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)
…Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)
Joy to the World
Go Tell It/He Is Born
O Holy Night
Hopefully, you have enjoyed the selections so far, and in a few moments our church 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. Many of the children we bring to church will be participating in our annual children’s Christmas program on the 20th, Christmas Sunday morning. Every Thursday 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 anyone who’s retired can interact with other people and participate in various enrichment programs. Also on Thursdays, while teens and adults are learning in classes programmed for them, our Master Clubs program is available for the children to be involved in. During 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. Fairhaven is a wonderful place to serve the Lord who came to us as a babe at Christmastime.
On your program you’ll see the words to “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Let’s stand while we sing this carol and the choir and orchestra take their places.
O Little Town of Bethlehem
The author of “Good Christian Men Rejoice” was one who also believed the message of the gospel was for all men, not just an elite few. Heinrich Suso was exiled from his homeland Germany for writing books for the common man, conveying Christ’s desire that all men should come to Him. However, persecution did not hinder him. Each verse of this song reminds all Christian men to rejoice with our heart, soul, and voice. The individual verses tell us of Christ’s birth, and then of His purpose, and the last verse declares, “He hath ope’d the heavenly door / and man is blessed for evermore / Now ye need not fear the grave / Jesus Christ was born to save! / Calls you one and calls you all, / To gain His everlasting hall / Christ was born to save.” This message stands today; Christ still calls all men to salvation. The choir will now sing Carol of the Bell and then Good Christian Men, Rejoice.
Carol of the Bell
Good Christian Men, Rejoice
We have a tradition of playing some selections from the “Messiah,” by George Frideric Handel, each year. “Messiah” 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 part is the first one, 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 tells of Christ’s work throughout eternity. The “Messiah” is appropriately sung anytime of the year including Easter when it was first performed and, of course, Christmas.
Tonight the choir will sing “For Unto Us a Child is Born” from Isaiah 9:6 and the chorus, “Hallelujah.” The “Hallelujah Chorus” tells of Christ’s work throughout eternity when He will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords over heaven and earth forever and ever! When the oratorio was first performed, King George II, suddenly stood up at the beginning of the Hallelujah Chorus. Whatever the king did, everyone else would follow, so everyone stood. There is much conjecture as to why the king stood; some think he was just stretching his legs; he was hard of hearing, so some believe he thought he heard his national anthem; others like to think he stood out of respect for the message of the music; nevertheless, many still stand out of respect for the King of kings and Lord of lords today whenever this Chorus is sung.
Before the “Messiah” selections the Pianist and Organist will play a song entitled, “Gloria.”
For Unto Us a Child is Born
Our final selection, titled Canticle of Joy, or song of joy blends the song “How Great Our Joy” with the popular Christmas song “Joy to the World.” Isaac Watts wrote Joy to the World with the meaning for the text taken from Psalm 98:4-9. About 100 years later Lowell Mason took his text and put it to music he had written which was inspired by songs from Handel’s Messiah. The new tune breathed the Christmas spirit. And even though the text does not come from any of the gospel accounts of Christ’s birth, the truth, that the Lord is come, has inspired many for many years. And truly, there can be no joy in the world unless Christ, the Lord is recognized as our King who has come to give us peace with God and men.
Canticle of Joy
I would like to invite you to fellowship in the foyer of our recreation building where we have coffee, ice cream and other refreshments for sale in our snack shop.
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 this Sunday, when we’ll have a special Christmas service at 10:30 a.m. which will include a children’s Christmas program. Good night and May we all have a Merry Christmas!
Canticle for Instruments