Where Christmas music originates

Christmas songs are among the popular music in the world. Music historians believe the first explicitly Christmas hymns were composed in Rome in the 4th century.  However, in Luke 1:46-56 we find a story culminating in Mary’s song, the first Christmas music on record.

The angel of obstetrics had just delivered to Mary the startling news of maternal expectation and paternal mystery.  This angel had informed Mary that she was about to have an in vitro visit from the Holy Spirit, and bear a child that would be the Son of God.  As she processed this mind-boggling news, Mary took a hurried trip.

Not long after the foretelling of Jesus’ birth, Mary hurried to a mountain town to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was already wearing maternity clothes.  As news was exchanged, Elizabeth pronounced God’s blessings on Mary and Mary replied with this ancient song, a poem of praise, often called the Magnificat.

Perhaps we could learn from Mary’s song to sing our own unique songs of praise and response to God.

Are you a good singer?  Do you sing  in the car?  In the shower?  Even in front of other people?  Do you sing the blues when you feel melancholy?  Do you sing pop when you are happy?  What would you have sung if you were Mary?  “Why Me Lord?”  “Your Momma Don’t Dance and Your Daddy Don’t Rock and Roll”?  “The Answer My Friend Is Blowing In the Wind”?

Pediatric psychologists encourage mothers to sing while they are pregnant as well as after the birth of the child.  At minimum it introduces a child to a mood.  At best it introduces the child to a positive message. Did Mary’s song become a messianic lullaby?

Some observers criticize many contemporary genres of music as lacking originality.  Everyone seems to be imitating someone else.  As we continue our Advent journey and as we eventually celebrate Christmas, perhaps we need to sing our own song of response to God, a song inspired by both the labor and delivery of our own commission from God.

Sing a song that prepares your heart: Mary’s song aligns her soul and spirit with God and with God’s agenda.  In her genuine praise song Mary declares God’s previous achievements, accepts God’s current assignment, and anticipates God’s continuing guidance.

Sing a song that prepares your hands: Mary’s song pledges service to God.  Mary offers herself as an instrument in God’s service.  Mary refers to herself as “the handmaiden of the Lord.”

Sing a song that prepares your mind: Mary’s song vows to remember God. Remember, as in not forgetting? Obviously, she will never forget this unique and unusual maternity experience. The word “remember” in this context seems to refer to an ongoing engagement of your mind, to pledge your powers of cognition and recognition, to reflect perpetually on meaning as you experience mystery.

Like Mary’s song, our songs can reflect an humble yet growing faith in God.  As you hear God’s call and as you experience God’s grace, respond melodically with willingness and praise.

One unusual phenomenon arising in the music world a few years ago is called lip syncing.  Rather than actually singing, an individual or a group plays a recording of someone else singing while they just move their lips and pretend to sing.  Some lip sync their religious faith.  They just move their lips and pretend.  Don’t be content to play someone else;s song.  This Christmas, sing your own unique song of praise and response to God.

What song are you singing these days? I tend to think that significant music emerges from our interaction with God.  Why not let a little Christmas music originate in you?





Barry Howard

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Barry Howard serves as senior minister of the First Baptist Church of Pensacola.

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