I love Christmas. I love all the music, the traditions, the decorations, the gift-giving…all of it.
When we lived in Missouri, one of our favorite traditions was to bundle up, get in the car, go through Starbucks drive-through for hot chocolate, and drive around looking at the Christmas lights. Our kids’ eyes were lighting up at the massive displays of holiday cheer, Ooooh and aahs coming softly from the back seat. We would play Christmas music and sit in the warm car while the kids would chatter about all things Christmas.
There was one particular song, that when it came on, would hit me right in the heart! O Holy Night. And it was one specific part of that song, that no matter how many times I hear it resonated in my being.
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.”
For all the wonder that Christmas still creates, we can’t miss that…till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
Sin and Error Pining
Our world is broken. We all feel it.
Yes. There is much beauty and much to celebrate, and yet there is still brokenness. Turn on the TV, and you’ll see it. You don’t have to walk very far, and you can experience it; homeless men and women on so many street corners, people being trafficked in our city, students being arrested for massive fights.
Just the other day, two of our neighbors got into a screaming match, dropping all kinds of words. They said some horrible things to each other, and now their kids aren’t allowed to play together.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining. The early church leader Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:22) Creation itself longs for reconciliation. It feels that separation and waits for the day when God rights all the wrongs. It, like us, waiting for the day that God wipes every tear from our eyes.
Christmas calls us to yearn for that day.
Christmas calls us to the hopeful pains of childbirth.
A Thrill of Hope
The song continues and says:
“A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn.”
I know that you’ve felt that. Maybe you feel it now.
The thrill of hope.
In our culture, hope means that we wish for something to happen. I bought a lottery ticket, and I hope I win. Wish and hope are almost interchangeable. But this isn’t the case in Scripture. When you read the word hope in the letters to the early churches, it means:
“The confident expectation of what God has promised and its strength is in His faithfulness.”
Have you ever been thrilled by something? For me, I think about watching the Gators scoring a touchdown after a long drive. The quarterback is releasing a perfectly thrown spiral, the ball seemingly in slow motion, the outstretched hands of the receiver, the building of the crowd as we see what’s about to take place and the inevitable roar as the ball lands in his hands and we score.
Man, I love that.
400 years. 400 years of silence. 400 years of waiting.
That’s how long God’s people waited to hear his voice again. He had not spoken since the ministry of the Old Testament prophet (spokesperson) Malachi. His people yearning, hoping for his voice.
On that night, on that holy night, creation waited with bated breath. Heaven was at a standstill waiting for the arrival of the Messiah. The confident expectation of what was coming, the building as they see what’s about to take place, and the inevitable roar as 400 years of silence was suddenly broken by the cries of the infant Savior.
Sin and death don’t know it yet, but they are defeated. Heaven splits wide open, and a legion of angels sing out his praises. Lowly shepherds are the first to receive the good news, and they run to celebrate.
All of this to communicate to us our souls’ worth. All of it so that humanity can, once again, be in community with our God.
The thrill of hope, indeed.
Like I said…I love Christmas. The music, the traditions, the decorations, the gift-giving…all of it. But most of all I love the why. I love that God loved me so desperately that he sent his son into my world, piercing the silence and darkness so that I would know of that desperate love.
“O holy night the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine o night
O night divine”