“…with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God.”—Colossians 3:16

Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her king; let ev’ry heart prepare him room and heav’n and nature sing, and heav’n and nature sing, and heav’n, and heav’n and nature sing.—ELW 267

Respond, ye souls in endless rest, ye patriarchs and prophets blest: “Alleluia! Alleluia!” Ye holy twelve, ye martyrs strong, all saints triumphant, raise the song: “Alleluia! Alleluia!” Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!—ELW 424

Rejoice, rejoice, believers, and let your lights appear; the evening is advancing, and darker night is near. The bridegroom is arising and soon is drawing nigh. Up, pray and watch and wrestle; at midnight comes the cry.—ELW 244

We’ve been thinking a lot about Advent and Christmas as we prepare this year in a whole new way. This got me thinking about music that might be familiar to the seasons and include the words: receive, respond, rejoice. So, above are three examples. I’m sure we can find many more hymns that speak of receiving and rejoicing but the above hymn “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones” is the only hymn in our hymnal that contains the word respond.

The music and hymns we sing shape the way we think about God. The Advent and Christmas hymns speak to the longing we have for the coming of the Christ child and the joy we experience at his birth. There is excitement in the air from the Angels on high to the lowly shepherds in the fields.

This year we are going to break tradition some and put our focus more towards Christmas. We will even sing some Christmas hymns before Christmas! (Don’t get used to this. I’m still more of an Advent purist.) The last several months for many have felt like a long Advent. A long time of waiting for what will come next. One author writes, “Advent is the celebration of the promise that Christ will bring an end to all that is contrary to the ways of God; the resurrection of Jesus is the first sign of this destruction of the powers of death, the inauguration and anticipation of what is yet to come in fullness.”

It’s the same author’s description about Christmas that seems to fit this year the best, “The marvel is that the creator of the cosmos comes as creature for the purpose of setting right all that has gone wrong on this tiny planet. The wonder is that the Eternal One who can be neither created nor destroyed willingly becomes subject to both birth and to death.” If ever we need a reset, it is this year.

As we move through Advent and Christmas listen for the imagery of “receiving, responding, rejoicing” in the music you hear. Let your heart be shaped by God who reaches out to us as a child and promises to come again. I’m reminded of a song from my childhood, ‘Love came down at Christmas. Love, all love, divine.”

God’s Peace, Pastor Steve