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The Music of Christmas: Heaven Meets Earth in Holy Sign

Mark C McCann


There is a beauty and blessing to Christmas music that enters anew into my soul each year as soon as the season of Advent begins. It summons within me a joyful longing that calls out to the Savior to pitch his tent within my heart once more. It announces itself softly in the holy words and moving melodies, building slowly to an unrestrained expectation of the joy to come. Like an evening snowfall that calls us to fireside reflection around the Christmas tree, the music of Christmas sends me inside my heart to contemplate the great mystery of our redemption:


And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only-begotten Son from the Father. (John 1:14. RSV)


Christmas is the time when heaven joins with earth, when the vertical and the horizontal natures of our faith come together in the little baby of Bethlehem. It unites my earthly past to my glorious future. The incarnation is the greatest sign, the purest sacrament, its grace falling down upon us and spreading out into our world as hope renewed. Such is the awe and wonder of Christmas I find in poetry and song. Like the passage in John, I am moved beyond the words to see the power and presence of Christ.


The Poetry of Christmas


Nothing stirs my soul quite like the music of Christmas, the traditional hymns and joyful songs the sons and daughters of God have composed over the many years since the birth of our Lord. They do for me what no theological text could ever do. The words that pour forth from the pens of these inspired poets raise me up out of time and seat me in that sacred space where my soul is truly satisfied with the message and meaning of the incarnation.

There, my ordinary life gives way to unimaginable possibilities. I see myself through the eyes of the One who looked out upon the plains of Bethlehem and cried tears so deep that heaven itself bent down to gaze in astonishment. Like the shepherds and the wisemen, I am called to witness the holy child before me: sleeping in a manger, nursing at the breast of his young mother, warmed by the breath of the animals on that cold and quiet first Christmas night. In the Christ child I see heaven’s perfect love flowing freely upon the earth:


The people who walked in darkness

     have seen a great light;

 those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,

     on them has light shined. (Isaiah 9:2, RSV)


The Sign of the Cross


As I listen to the music of Christmas, the majesty of heaven descends from the throne room and walks upon the weary road of this world. The light of truth bursts forth like the dawn upon the darkness of sin and despair. I no longer look at the manger scene, the sacred Word or the bread and cup and see something ordinary and sentimental. Instead, I see the Son of Maninvading our world, giving Himself to us to consume, and sacrificing Himself on the cross where heaven finds satisfaction and earth is redeemed.

The tiny shoot of Jesse becomes the righteous branch that spreads out to all the earth as the fullness of the Godhead comes to dwell among men. To Bethlehem, the House of Bread, comes the Bread of Life, the One who will give His life for the whole of humanity. Jesus becomes the Savior who fills the height and depth, the length and breadth, of creation with His perfect, sacrificial love. In Him, the promise of the Sabbath’s rest becomes a daily reality that fills my heart with unspeakable joy. He is God with us:


Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman'u-el. (Isaiah 7:10, RSV)


A Covenant of Coalescence


As I sit by my fire during this blessed time, listening to songs that celebrate the birth of Jesus, I am transformed by the salvation of Christ that came in the fullness of time. I can gaze upward to the heavenly realms, and yet look to the east and west to see a world still longing for what only Jesus can bring. In Him, heaven and earth are joined together at the cross, and I see my place in His marvelous plan.


The Wonderful Counselor reveals His truth to my heart and makes me wise. The Mighty God speaks His power into my actions and calls me to serve. My Forever Father shows me the heart that bled upon that cross and I surrender to my sin. The Prince of Peace fills me with contentment and sends me forth to bring harmony to my world. Through the poetry of God’s Word, I see what my senses fail to grasp.


For to us a child is born,

     to us a son is given;

 and the government will be upon his shoulder,

     and his name will be called

“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, RSV)


Prophecy and Profound Fulfillment


The Bible is the Word of God. It is a divine love letter, a song of hope sung into our hearts from beginning to end. We hear the prophets calling out through time to the One who will fulfill all their hopes and dreams of redemption. We hear it in the words of Mary as she rejoices in God’s favor. We see Jesus, the Word, the Suffering Servant, speaking and moving through this world with his profound purpose that ends with His death on the cross. And we experience in the writings of the New Testament the hope that is ours to the end.


I would like to end this brief sharing with some poetry of my own, written in love to the Savior who has spoken into my heart and helped me to see the power of the incarnation that has linked heaven and earth in the person of Jesus. These new “hymns” speak of the promises of old fulfilled in Christ, and the response of heaven and earth to His coming to our world as the little baby of Bethlehem. May God bless you as you take time to listen to the music of Christmas and experience the joy of heaven and earth coming together in redemption through the Christ child this Christmas.


Unto Us


Unto Us a Son is given,

To our Race a Child is born,

In Him all our sins forgiven,

Love fulfilled on Christmas morn.


Bethlehem of Judah’s numbers

Not among the least you be,

In you now your ruler slumbers,

Israel’s Shepherd God is He.




In the wilderness preparing,

Way made straight and hill brought low,

Broken reed His life repairing,

Seed now planted, soon to grow…

Our Messiah, King and brother,

Sinless Savior, One so mild,

Holy God alone, no other,

Born to us as lowly child.



Days are coming, branch increasing,

King from David’s royal line.

Righteous Judgment, never ceasing,

Sacred ever-living sign.


Holy Scepter rightly reigning,

Kingdom rule without an end.

Promised Land forever gaining,

Broken staff His law will mend.




Lo the Virgin, hour nearing,

Calls His name Emmanuel,

King of kings in flesh appearing,

Saves us from the pow’r of hell.




Unto Us a Son is given,

To our Race a Child is born,

In Him all our sins forgiven,

Love fulfilled on Christmas morn.



Hymn for the Holy Child


In the fullness of the ages,

Word of God in flesh was born,

God from God, the light of Heaven,

Came to earth on Christmas morn.


Hope for man, our sinless Savior,

Infant child at mother's breast,

Sleeping still in straw-filled manger,

Holy Lord and Sabbath's rest.


Shepherds in the wasteland watching,

First to hear the angel's call,

Hasten now to lowly stable,

To their knees in reverence fall.


Host of Heaven now united,

Mighty chorus, hymn of praise,

Yahweh’s presence shining brightly,

Blessings ‘till the End of Days.


Star shines brightly, Sacred Godhead,

Fills the sky with radiant light,

Perfect peace and Holy Power,

Bringing day to darkest night.


Wisemen seeking, search the heavens,

Follow star to House of Bread,

Bowing low to new King rising,

At his feet their gifts they spread.


Men rejoice for your salvation,

As our God breaks into time,

Fall before the child in worship,

Pure transcendent truth sublime.


Sing with joyful hearts surrendered,

Praise the babe on manger throne,

All creation in submission,

He is God and God alone!

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A real blessing to read this, Mark.   Thank you for sharing.  The last 12 lines of "Hymn for a Holy Child" soar

in their praise. 

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