By Brandon Lemons
Believe it or not, Christmas is the most difficult time of year for me to create a new sermon series. I think this is because we obviously want to focus on Jesus’ birth at Christmastime, yet the amount of Scripture dedicated to His birth is very limited. To be sure, there are other parts of the Bible that relate to His birth, such as Old Testament prophecy. Yet despite how amazing Jesus’ birth was, if we are seeking to have sermons rooted in Scripture, it feels like there are a limited number of angles from which to view His birth. The difficulty increases because I strive to make sure the series has something in the right chronological spot that will work well on Christmas Eve.
For this Christmas season, we are doing a different type of sermon series. It is called Hark! (The Herald Angels Sing). Can you guess what it’s about? If you guessed the song, you’re right! I believe Charles Wesley’s classic song Hark! The Herald Angels Sing has some of the richest lyrics theologically of any Christmas song. When we sing it in worship services, I always smile in my heart (if not with my mouth) because of how much theology is packed into its lines (especially verse 2 when it sings “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see / Hail the incarnate deity / Pleased as man with man to dwell / Jesus, our Emmanuel”).
Music is powerful. Tunes and lyrics get lodged in our mind. I bet we’ve all had times when we hear a song for the first time in years, and we can sing right along as if we heard it yesterday. And whether we know it or not, music teaches us. Perhaps you’ve heard the criticism of a lot of hip-hop music, how it celebrates violence, denigrates women, and teaches its listeners to do the same. (That being said, I have listened to Christian hip-hop that led me to deep and passionate worship; lyrics make a world of difference.)
Did you know the songs we sing in church teach us about God? They teach us theology. (“Theology” literally means “words about God.” “Theos” is Greek for “God,” and “logos” is Greek for “word.”) This is why it’s important for the songs we sing in church to be biblically accurate, because we learn about God from the songs we sing. Even if we aren’t actively reflecting on the lyrics, they get lodged in our minds and shape our view of God.
This December at Friedens, we will be walking stanza-by-stanza through Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. More precisely, I will let the song shape the theme of each sermon, but Scripture will be what is really teaching us, and I’ll show how Scripture is reflected in the song.
Each sermon will be designed to lead us into a spirit of worship. After all, that is the direction of the song, for each stanza concludes: “Hark, the herald angels sing / ‘Glory to the newborn King.’” If you’re wondering what “hark” means, it means “listen up!” or “pay attention!” So in this series, we will be listening in on the message of the angels, and the message communicated by Charles Wesley, to hear fresh angles of the glory of Jesus and His birth.