THE Spirit of Christmas
Two Christmas concerts featuring sacred choral music. Both presented in local cathedrals. Both using similar music from throughout Western history right up to the present day. Both included music that was accompanied and a cappella. But something was substantially different about one of these concerts, and as a result of that difference, the TRUE Spirit of Christmas came through.
I am drawing a comparison between these two concerts intending to bring specific attention to the reality of Jesus, as the Son of God and the Word became flesh. In other words, THE Spirit of Christmas is the Holy Spirit revealing this reality to us, and reminding us year after year that this one event – the coming of the person of Jesus Christ – changes everything for everyone, regardless if any acknowledges it or denies it.
The music of the first concert was, in many technical aspects, exceptional and the presentation was well-planned and executed. As I noted, the music was sacred in nature. In fact, there is no doubt that some of the conductors and students knew the deep meaning of the lyrics they sung as they described the coming of Christ to earth, as the Word made flesh.
Yet, I left feeling that something was missing. Thinking that I was just not “in the Christmas mood,” I dismissed my thoughts about the concert and went my merry way. Then we attended another concert at a later date.
I have had the privilege of hearing the Grand Rapids Choir of Men and Boys for a number of years. The Director, Scott Bosscher, is colleague from many years ago, and I have appreciated his devotion to this group and passion for seeing the tradition of this kind of musical style continue. The annual presentation of Nine Lessons and Carols is a highlight of the Christmas season.
As we sat in the crowded cathedral, we knew the program would lead us through the story of the birth of Christ. This is what is referred to as the “Nine Lessons.” These are Scripture readings (nine of them) from both the Old and New Testaments that describe the story of Christ’s birth. Each lesson is followed by a “carol,” or song that reinforces the specific message from that Scripture. It is a musical journey that leads us along the story of Christ.
I would be justified in reviewing the quality of the music in this article, since it seemed to me that Mr. Bosscher had raised the level of the performance this year to new heights. Simply put, this was an overall high quality presentation in both planning and execution.
However, what really struck me was THE Spirit of Christmas that was present, beginning with the opening remarks from a member of the board for the organization. She pointed out that this concert was not just a nice musical presentation, but was intentionally focused to be a spiritual reminder of the truth about Jesus Christ. In addition, the program notes had the following comment:
“Tonight the choir will offer its’ art…music. But, in fact, each one of us is God’s work of art, and we cannot be faithful to His design without believing in this child born in a Bethlehem manger.”
And herein lies the difference in my experience at these two concerts. In submission to God’s purposes, Jesus came as a baby and later died on a cross. In humble recognition of this life-changing truth, the GR Choir of Men and Boys proclaimed that message. They did so with musical excellence, but the music was not the primary focus. Rather, the music was the vehicle for the message about Jesus Christ, come as a babe for the salvation of the world.
As the Holy Spirit reveals this truth to the hearts and minds of people, then the true Spirit of Christmas is understood. We may describe the spirit of Christmas in many other ways – gift giving, family gatherings, celebrating friendship – but the foundation of all those is that God showed His love for us in the person of Jesus Christ. We can only love as a reflection of the love He extended toward us. As we are reminded in 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.”
May you find THE Spirit of Christmas this year as He reveals Jesus to you!
Posted on December 21, 2015, in Arts, Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, theology, Worship Leader and tagged Mark Sooy, theology, worship, worship leader, WorshipThink. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.