The First Carol of Christmas

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As we enter Christmas season, I anticipate singing some of my favorite music ever written. Thinking through the Christmas carols, it is difficult for me to choose just one favorite.

The triumphant Joy to the World, where we praise Jesus’ coming to earth as a tiny baby, evokes feelings of love and comfort . I have such a sense of peace while singing Franz Gruber’s Silent Night, especially when gathered around my closest friends and family. And a carol that ranks high on my list is In the Bleak Midwinter. Although it is obscure and not sung in Baptist churches very often, I love the simplicity of the poem and the image it creates of a peaceful winter’s night.

While listening to Pastor Rick’s recitation of Matthew 1 recently, I was reminded of the very first Christmas carol ever sung. Part of the excitement of the narrative of Jesus’ birth is the understanding and revelation of the term “heavenly host.” Before jumping into the full meaning of this term, let’s remember the sequence of events that happened when Jesus was born. First, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she was going to bear the Son of God (Luke 1:26-38). Then an angel appeared to Joseph and told him Mary was going to give birth to a son who would be named Immanuel (Matthew 1:18-25). After Jesus was born, an angel appeared to shepherds near Bethlehem and told them about the birth of their Messiah (Luke 2:8-12).

God sent his heavenly host to the lowly, hard-working shepherds who were going about their everyday calling. I challenge each of us to lean hard into God’s calling on our life, especially as we celebrate Christmas.

Now we come to the term “heavenly host.” Luke 2:13 tells us, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God.” Meyers’ New Testament Commentary defines these angels as the host of angels that surround God’s throne. I am in awe just thinking about that scene! Shepherds were in a field, doing their job (the same as every other day) when not only one angel, but the host of angels that surround God’s throne appeared to them. These shepherds had no choice but to believe!

Since we know the scene, now let us read the words of the first Christmas carol ever sung:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

Can you just imagine the multitude of angels that worship God continuously now singing where these lowly shepherds could hear them? What a sight! Meyers goes on to state that the angels were worshiping the Messiah God glorified in heaven and on earth through the birth of Jesus. I imagine that the shepherds were overwhelmed in hearing the heavenly host roar with praise to God.

The power of this narrative has so many layers. But there is one thing I want us as women to focus on and remember during this season. God sent his heavenly host to the lowly, hard-working shepherds who were going about their everyday calling. Matthew Henry says in his Concise Commentary,

“We are not out of the way of Divine visits, when we are employed in an honest calling, and abide with God in it. Let God have the honor of this work; Glory to God in the highest.”

What is the everyday calling God has placed on your life? Outside of your family, who is God sending you to help? Are you supposed to take a meal to a family in need? Is God asking you to volunteer in a ministry at church? Is God asking you to give sacrificially to further his kingdom?

I challenge each of us to lean hard into God’s calling on our life, especially as we celebrate Christmas. Allow God to lead you where he wants you this season. Abide with Him and work in your calling daily. Then, join with the heavenly host in singing, “Glory to God in the highest!”


 
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Meet the Author!

Kim Arnold has been a church member of Council Road Baptist Church for nearly 25 years. She teaches private piano lessons in her studio and at Mid-America Christian University. Her passion lies in training up the next generation of worship leaders. Kim and her husband Jason have been married for 17 years and have a 12-year old son, Nolan.

 

Kim Arnold

Kim Arnold has been a church member of Council Road Baptist Church for nearly 25 years. She teaches private piano lessons in her studio and at Mid-America Christian University. Her passion lies in training up the next generation of worship leaders. Kim and her husband Jason have been married for 17 years and have a 12-year old son, Nolan.