Yesterday afternoon I took Julie and our two youngest daughters to see The Nativity Story. Although the movie has mostly received not-so-great reviews (too slow, not very creative, etc.) I thought it was very well done and enjoyed it. Mary and Joseph were well chosen for their parts and did a credible job capturing the differing emotions that would accompany their unique situation. Although I wondered if 21st century parent-teen relational conflict was read back into the story…
I’m always affected when I see biblical characters and stories believably portrayed in movies. I understand that except for the creative license taken with certain elements, the story is based on truth. It’s not simply a nice kid’s story that adults can enjoy. More to the point, this particular story offers hope to every person in the world. I’d recommend it for your family or seeing it with some friends.
People can be affected by different aspects of Christmas. The twinkling lights, the parties, the smell of holiday cookies, the prospect of snow, the gift giving, the gift getting, the general feeling of good will towards others, the helping of the hurting and downtrodden. But both as as individual Christians and as churches, we have the privilege, joy, and responsibility of sharing the greatest reason to celebrate this time of year. God has taken on flesh. The almighty God has become a baby to redeem us. What better news do we have to offer? What better hope can we bring? What better solution can we offer for the suffering, problems, and confusion in the world?
A Savior has come. His name is Jesus because he will save his people from their sins (Mt. 1:21). That’s why when I’m looking for songs to sing this time of year, I seek out songs that clearly portray the meaning of the nativity. I don’t want people to walk away from our meetings with simply a "good Christmasy feeling." I don’t want people to think that the church is just like the world, only a little more religious. Nor do I want the folks in our church to be more affected by sentimentality than the greater and more joyful reality of what Christmas means. We have amazing news to share. Christmas is one more opportunity to consider along with our family, friend, and neighbors that God has provided a way for us to be forgiven for our sins and know him.
I’ve mentioned that Sovereign Grace released a Christmas CD this year called "Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man." We’ve been playing it at our house, and it’s a regular reminder of why we celebrate. Here’s one of the songs, composed by my good friend, Mark Altrogge. It’s called "Emmanuel."
We have come today to worship
We have come to praise the One
Who came down into our darkness
Born a lowly virgin’s son
You who did not come with splendor
Pomp and strength and majesty
You who came to us in weakness
Born to us in poverty
Emmanuel, Emmanuel, Emmanuel
In You alone we hope and trust
Jesus, Savior, God with us
We were blind and lost and godless
Wandering a trackless waste
Then hope arose, a glorious beacon
Like the star the wise men chased
Down from heaven came a Savior
Born a child, so small and frail
Taking up our pain and troubles
Conquering where we had failed
You who with a word created
Sun and moon and seas and sand
Lay there sleeping in a manger
Cradled by Your mother’s hand
You who made the mighty forests
Would lie down upon a tree
Fastened there with nails for sinners
Would bleed and die to set us free
Emmanuel. God with us. How gracious God has been!
By the way, if you’re interested in more songs that proclaim the amazing and joyful truth of Christmas, song samples, lead sheets, accompaniment tracks, piano scores, and guitar charts are available for all the songs from Savior here.