In our Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany celebrations at Berea (Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota) we have been singing and scrutinizing the songs of the season–our beautiful carols and cherished hymns which lyrically and musically set forth the story and significance of our Savior’s birth.
From David’s Psalms to Mary’s Magnificat to Simeon’s prophetic prelude; from Luther’s “cradle carol” to many of our traditional and beloved carols, we of the CLC remain a singing church–giving expression to our deepest faith-feelings through music and song. All who have been privileged to hear the Immanuel Lutheran College choir over the years know just how beautiful God’s music can be–in every way!
In terms of popularity and longevity many man-made songs flare across the cultural sky in a meteoric blaze of glory, only to disappear as quickly as they came.
Yet much of our great Christian music and many of our hymns have captured the hearts of God’s people for generations, even centuries. And it should come as no surprise. While many songs have limited cultural significance or historical value and become outdated, our great Christian hymns speak to the hearts and faith of God’s children of every age and time and place. Timeless and limitless is the joy they bring.
A New Year’s Song
Outside of “Auld Lang Syne,” one is hard put to remember many secular New Year’s songs. Yet the sobering realities of this holiday (the passing of time, changing of life-seasons, and approaching end of all things) drive us to even greater spiritual realities–the timeless stability and blessing of our God, His Word, and our Gospel-Savior, all of whom are the same yesterday, today, and forever. And they put an eternal New Year’s song on our lips.
Not a few of our hymns allude to the “sacred” and “eternal song,” and to the “nobler strain” when we “join the angelic choirs” in “hymning Thy praise” and singing “loud alleluias to our King”! (TLH hymns 30 & 360).
Such a heavenly concert is described in the book of Revelation. In response to the Lamb for sinners slain opening the scroll of salvation, all the angels and company of heaven burst forth in a litany of praise: “Worthy is the Lamb to receive honor and glory and praise . . . Hallelujah! For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!” (Revelation 5 & 7)
One can hardly think of this eternal song without remembering how George Frederic Handel put these words to such fitting and powerful music in his epic masterpiece, The Messiah. They form a double-forte crescendo and climax to his tracing of the story of salvation. One of our hymnwriters refers to this eternal melody as “the distant triumph song” that strengthens our hearts and uplifts our spirits in the face of the sin-struggles and life-uncertainties that comprise life this side of heaven (hymn 463:5).
All of us enjoy songs of victory and triumph–our Christmas and Easter chorales surely reflect that. Lively, joyous, and confident they are! No matter how difficult life is nor how uncertain the future looks, no matter how much Satan seeks to drag us down, we in the church have a victorious song in our hearts that resounds in faith now and in glory hereafter.
Like a child who wants his mother to sing the same beloved song over and over, we will never tire of hearing or singing the Lamb’s praises. Eternity’s song will be forever new, beautiful, popular, and enduring.
Oh, sing unto the Lord this new (year’s) song!
–Pastor David Schierenbeck