I must admit that I can be a bit of a curmudgeon regarding the Christmas season. However, I think that I might just have sufficient justification for my grumblings. For instance, I am grateful that certain songs have a statute of limitation that basically extends from Black Friday to New Year’s. That is, there are certain abominations such as “Santa Baby” and “Baby It’s Cold Outside” which I consider a successful Christmas if I can avoid them completely. Many other songs could be named which have become a part of secular holiday culture that my wife would kindly describe as twaddle.
There are, however, a host of other songs which should be welcomed all year long. Those songs which most beautifully exult in the Incarnation of the eternal Son of the Father ought to be cherished at all times. Some would be the old stalwarts such as Isaac Watts’ “Joy to the World.” Never leave out that third stanza which says,
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings known
Far as the curse is found!
There are also some great modern songs worthy of the whole calendar canon. Some of my favorites are from Sovereign Grace Music’s latest Christmas contributions on the album “Prepare Him Room.” Perhaps my favorite song on that album is “The Unbelievable.” Perhaps my favorite stanza of my favorite song says this,
He will heal the unhealable
He will save the unsavable
God has come to dwell with us
Heaven’s joy will drink our bitter cup
Emptied out as He is lifted up
God has come to dwell with us.
Those songs that dwell upon the deep mystery of the Incarnation stir my heart to worship like almost no other. Consider another few lines from the song “God Made Low,”
As He sleeps upon the hay
He holds the moon and stars in place
Though born an infant He remains
The sovereign God of endless days
Songs such as these are bringing together the twin truths that Jesus Christ is both the all-sovereign second Person of the Trinity, and fully man who originated in time and space in the late first century BC in Bethlehem of Judea during the reign of Caesar Augustus. I absolutely love to ponder the fact that while Jesus was developing in his mother’s womb, it is also true that all things in the universe were held together in Him, as Colossians 1:17 states. Or that while He was a toddler learning rudimentary Aramaic, He was also upholding the universe by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3). Or as the song “Sleep, Jesus, Sleep” puts it in almost lullaby fashion,
You who never closed Your eyes
Watching over earth and skies
Now in frail humanity
Perhaps the passage of Scripture which most delightfully communicates these truths would be found in the prologue of John’s Gospel. In those first 18 verses, John gives explicit explanation of the divine nature of Christ as the eternal Word of God who is with God and is God. In verse 14, this Word “became flesh and dwelt among us.” The verb translated “dwelt” here is a rare verb and has all sorts of fantastic theological implications which I don’t have space in this post to fully flesh out (pun intended). The verb derives from a noun which means “tent.” Many have argued, then, that John intentionally used it to declare something along the lines that the Word “tabernacled” with us. The tabernacle, remember, was the tent at the very center of the camp of Israel in Moses’ day in which the very presence of God was not just represented, but visibly observed by means of the pillar of smoke which rested within it.
There is so much to say about this. Jesus Christ inaugurates a new era in which God once again delights to dwell among His people, and this time it is in the form of an eternal covenant of grace rather than a temporary conditional covenant such as the Mosaic Covenant (see Jer. 31:32). Now the Triune God delights to dwell amidst His chosen people. This is first demonstrated in the Incarnation, then in the glorious ministry of the Holy Spirit whose temple is the Church (1 Cor. 6:19), and finally in the eternal state in which the very presence of the Trinity– Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is fully known. Consider Rev. 21:3, which says, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people.” The verb for “dwell” is the same as in John 1:14, one of the few other instances of it in the NT.
This is me simply dipping a toe into the ocean of the glory that is the Incarnation of the eternal Son in the person of Jesus Christ. God, whose glory departed from the temple in Ezekiel, has yet again delighted to dwell amidst those whom He has chosen. God is able to condescend in this manner because in His grace, Jesus made the acceptable sacrifice by which His people can approach the Shekinah glory of God, because our sins have been fully paid. This is astounding, condescending grace. This is something worth singing about all year long. The Incarnation is much more than a baby in a manger; it is the very heart of the Gospel. Sing about this good news year around!
Alan Gomer is the husband of Sarah, who is awesome, and the father of Makenna, Korban, and Owen, who are also awesome. Alan is an elder at Faith Community Church and a PhD student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.