...She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
Today's Reading: Luke 2:25-40 (NIV)
I’ve been involved in leading Christmas Eve and Christmas services for nearly all of my life and I’ve sung almost every carol in the song books. We love to sing at Christmas because singing is one of our deepest expressions of emotion. Just as weeping sometimes accompanies sadness, singing is a twin sister of joy.
In almost every church or family gathering this Christmas Day, the joyful melody of “O Come, all Ye Faithful” will be sung. The words are so familiar that hardly anyone needs printed lyrics. In the stanzas, we find a bold invitation to worship. The song crescendos as we repeat the refrain “O come let us adore Him,” for emphasis’ sake. The thought evokes images in our minds of the worship that surrounded the birth of Christ. It is a classic Christmas carol, dear to the hearts of people the world over.
John Francis Wade penned “Adeste Fideles” in the mid-18th century. “Adeste” means “come to” or “toward” and “Fideles” means “faithful.” Wade was a poor refugee looking for a way to put food on the table. Because of his musical skills and love for poetry, he became one of the finest music copyists of his day, providing printed copies of hymns to churches and families alike. No one is quite sure if he actually wrote the above-mentioned hymn, but seven original copies of “Adeste Fideles” have been found with Wade’s signature and most music historians ascribe the song to him. Almost one hundred years later, Rev. Frederick Oakeley translated “Adeste Fideles” to English. Their combined efforts from two different centuries and two separate countries became one of our most favored Christmas carols, “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” I would guess that by now you are humming the tune…
Think for a moment about the opening phrase of the song, inviting faithful believers in Christ to come and worship. J. Oswald Sanders once said that “worship is giving God the best He has given you.” I really like that simple definition. Anna, in worshiping while she waited for the Christ child, was giving God the best He had given her. When people sing songs of praise at Christmas, they seem to give their best and most heartfelt offering of worship because of what God has done for them. Why? Because God’s gift to us in Christ should make us “joyful and triumphant.” We are triumphant because death would be conquered through the mission of the Messiah.
Wade invites worshipers to come to Bethlehem and adore the newborn Savior. In our imaginings, the thought of 1st century Bethlehem is quiet and serene until a host of angels appear in the night sky and burst forth in praise. Well, Bethlehem is not such a happy place in this century; it is dark, poor, and dangerous at times. But there is still hope there. I was able to share this truth with a group of Palestinian students a few years ago when I was invited to speak to them in Bethlehem. One young girl stated to me that “the world hated them.” I assured her that there were many people, like me, who held no room for hate in their hearts because of the love of Jesus. She seemed comforted that an outsider would express such unconditional love so openly. See, that’s what Christ does… He shines light into the darkest of places and brings hope to the hopeless and peace to those weary of strife and pain. This is why we celebrate Christmas and sing songs about His birth! Which brings us to the refrain…
“O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!” What an appropriate ending to Wade’s carol! The next time you sing this song and come to the refrain, sing the first phrase softly, then the next a little louder. Then, on the last phrase, sing it with all your heart in adoration – “Christ, the Lord!” And remember Anna, the 84 year-old woman who found her greatest joy and satisfaction worshiping night and day in the temple. She never tired of worship. God rewarded her and Simeon with the gift of meeting the Messiah face to face. And because He came, one day, we will too. O come, let us adore Him!