It’s that time again – when what could very well feel like a “have to” turns into a most treasured “get to”.
As I work on the Christmas Program for our church, I have the privilege of holding this story, these verses, these lyrics for a few months, of seeing our slide show images take shape on the computer screen, of lingering over fresh threads through a timeless, priceless story!
Our church family is a small but faithful body of believers who meet in whatever room the local Christian school can offer us. There is no stage. There are no lights. But we are honored to present this story – His story! – in as grand a fashion as possible (… and yet sweet and simple too). For He is worthy!!
More than once, I have needed to push back from the desk, overcome with utter gratitude for the GIFT of our Savior! GOD’s eternal plan of redemption, His love story unfolding through the whole of Scripture. It is deeply touching and powerful!
And this line in “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” … it gets me every time: “when PEACE shall over all the earth, its ancient splendors fling, and all the world gives back the song which now the angels sing!”
Yes, LORD, may it be so! The Father delights in our delight in the birth of His Son, His promise fulfilled! May all the world join the song the angels sing!
. . .
But, an even deeper longing of the Father’s heart is that each heart will join a song the angels can’t sing!
“No one could learn the song, except those who had been redeemed from the earth.” Revelation 14:3
Oh, that each heart would prepare room to receive the Savior, personally and individually! That the receiving would be accompanied with such JOY that those hearts would burst into song, joining the rejoicing of all of heaven, but adding a theme only the redeemed ones truly know!
The angels watch in wonder and rejoice in a grand chorus of praise to GOD when each and every sinner repents and turns to JESUS for salvation! But the angels will never fully know what it is like to be turned from darkness to light, from bondage, destruction and death to life everlasting, from despair to confident hope and joy!
Yes, we are invited to join the song of the redeemed! To trust JESUS as our own personal Savior and raise our voices even louder than the angels – from a rescued heart that cannot be silent!
“You love Him … you trust Him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.” I Peter 1:8
. . .
Sadly, there are times when we lose our song. When we feel silenced. We are journeying home to heaven, but in the not yet, in this sin-marred scene, battling our own sin-nature, the impact of it all can feel quite crushing.
Sorrow, loss, struggle, pain – it is all very real. It seems to rob our joy and steal our song.
What amazingly precious words! I believe it was no mistake that He brought these tender thoughts from George Matheson (the author of the hymn “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go”) across my path. Could it be that instead of losing our song in times of sorrow and struggle, we are learning yet another new song?
“Certain songs can only be learned in the valley. No music school can teach them, for no theory can cause them to be perfectly sung. Their music is found in the heart. They are songs remembered through personal experience, revealing their burdens through the shadows of the past, and soaring on the wings of yesterday. In this verse, John tells us that even in Heaven there will be a song that will only be sung by those “who had been redeemed from the earth.” It is undoubtedly a song of triumph – a hymn of victory to the Christ who set us free… In this life you are receiving a music lesson from your Father. You are being trained to sing in a choir that you can’t see yet, and there will be parts in the chorus that only you can sing. Your Father is training you for a part the angels cannot sing, and His conservatory is the school of sorrows. In the darkest night He is composing your song. In the valley He is tuning your voice. In the storm clouds He is deepening your range. In the rain showers He is sweetening your melody. In the cold He is giving your notes expression. And as you pass at times from hope to fear, He is perfecting the message of your lyrics.”
“Is the midnight closing ‘round you?
Are the shadows dark and long?
Ask Him to come close beside you,
And He’ll give you a new, sweet song.
He’ll give it and sing it with you;
And when weakness slows you down,
He’ll take up the broken cadence,
And blend it with His own.
And many a Heavenly singer
Among the sons of light,
Will say of His sweetest music,
“I learned it in the night.”
And many a lonely anthem,
That fills the Father’s home,
Sobbed out its first rehearsal
In the shade of a darkened room.”
– George Matheson* –
This isn’t the song the angels sing. This isn’t even the song of the redeemed that the angels can’t sing. This is a song that only we, uniquely and individually, can sing!
In the quiet moments of this season when nothing feels like a festive holiday, when the struggles and sorrows you have walked through, or are still walking through, engulf you like a flood, what new lyrics is He giving you in that tender place? How is the Savior coming close in fresh new ways to do for you what you cannot possibly do for yourself? What new part of His heart is touching your heart?
You may not feel the ability to squeak out a note. But can you take courage? Trust His process? (Can I?! … speaking to my own heart!!!) As Christy Nockels** would say, can you believe stronger than you can sing right now? That there is a song being formed on your lips. That it is powerful. That it is breathtakingly beautiful. That you are being given something priceless – a song to offer to Him that no one else can sing?
The Father delights in your song! From its sobbed first rehearsal to the full voice of confidence and praise. He is taking you by the hand, and step by step is leading you to your place in His choir – one that no one else can fill.
The symphony of praise will not be complete without your part. He will give you the notes, the words to tell your piece of His story, the heart and the courage… and the JOY of joining the song!
photo credit: @elizabethjanesnyder, Eagle River, Alaska
* Streams in the Desert, Zondervan 2016
** The Glorious in the Mundane Podcast #26, August 30, 2017