Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Sounds of Christmas: An Outreach Concert Devotion

The following is a brief devotion given on Sunday at Redeemer's annual Christmas Outreach Concert.

Good evening and welcome to Redeemer Lutheran's Christmas Outreach Concert: The Sounds of Christmas. It is a joy to see you all here as the we celebrate the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. Advent means coming and this is a season where we look forward and anticipate with joy and hope, Christ’s coming.
Christ’s coming at his incarnation, to bear our flesh and be our Savior

Christ’s coming again in glory and the joys of a new heaven and a new earth.

And Christ’s coming here in his Word and Sacraments.

And the one thing that ties all of Christ’s Advents together is music. This afternoon we've heard the many gifted voices and musical talents our Lord has given us at Redeemer. From our daily work and leisure to Christ’s work for us in His Church, music is a vital part of life – so much so that in The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S Lewis depicts Aslan creating and singing his magical world into existence with his life-giving voice.

Maybe you’ve seen the t-shirt: music is life, the rest is just details. When God's Word of life is set to tune, music really is life. Which reminds me of something the famous Helen Keller once said. As you may know, she was both deaf and blind. Someone once asked her, if given the choice between receiving her eyesight or her hearing back, which would she rather have. “I’d rather be blind,” she said, “That way I could still be connected with people and I could hear music.”

Helen is right, Music connects people. It is a language all its own and yet it is a also vehicle for the greatest message language can contain: the Gospel. Martin Luther once said that music is a handmaiden to the Gospel. Through the lips and the vocal chords, the trumpet and reeds, the bells and symbols, the tympani and strings – we sing the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. In Advent, at Christmas, and all year round, music is connecting people to Jesus here in his Church. Every bar, line, and key, every note from A to G, points us to the Christ child in the manger and the Christ on the cross. Singing hymns is like praying, it is the voice of faith proclaiming the gospel for all to hear.

Unlike our world’s demands, there is no copyright protection on this song, this message of hope and comfort. Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection are free; Christ has done all things well for you and your children. For your family members and neighbors. Jesus comes in Advent for you. To save you, heal you and bring you hope and joy. There’s no lengthy iTunes contract agreement needed (like we'd read it anyway). The Gospel is free. Unconditional love. No strings attached. The only strings we have here are the ones that point our song to Jesus.
There are many songs you can listen to this Advent and Christmas season. The world is full of music this time of the year – much of it is commendable. Much of it, however, tempts us to sing a solo that is in dissonance with our Lord and his Word and his ways. And so if you’re tired, overwhelmed, in need of joy and hope this year; if you’re ears are ringing from the sirens song around you; and if you're in need of a song that puts to rest your guilt and sin and answers the pains and sorrows of death; if you need a new song to sing – one of peace and eternal consolation – one that doesn’t end; well then, you’ve come to the right place. In the Church, we sing with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.

Here at Redeemer, music will not overwhelm you with sadness and sorrow – although it may with joy and gladness at Christ’s salvation for you. The Gospel has that effect: it changes our hearts and minds and fills our lips with songs of joy.

To paraphrase one of my other favorite authors, J.R.R. Tolkien,“If you don’t already do so, make the habit of singing the hymns and the songs of the Church. I use them much," he says, “For if you have these by heart you will never need for words of joy ” (Letters of Tolkien).
Christ opens our lips that our mouths and fills our lips and hearts and minds with the joy of sin forgiven. Death conquered. He breaks into his creation as a creature amidst the songs of heaven for heaven has come to earth to save us.

We sing with Mary at the announcement of Jesus’ coming birth: My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior!
We sing with the angels as they visited the shepherds: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace on those with whom he is pleased.”

We have a lot to sing about here at Redeemer and we pray you'll join us. We hope you have enjoyed this concert, The Sounds of Christmas. Because it's really just another way of saying, come and hear the Good News of Jesus’ birth, life death and resurrection for you. And what else is there to do but sing – and enjoy the sounds of our Savior - the greatest sound of Christmas: your sins are forgiven.

So, on behalf of Redeemer Lutheran and all our musicians, good night; we hope to see and hear you again soon. Advent and Christmas blessings to you and your family. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

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