The Unifying Power Of Christmas Music
The Incredible Gift Of The Music Of Christmas: How Messiah Can Unite a Fragmented Church
To a divided church, we pray that the music of Christmas might bring some much-needed healing.
The other day a friend of mine said he believed the church—the evangelical church—did not know “where it was at,” to use his terminology. The reason? Many people have not returned to church since the pandemic. Some have become accustomed to staying at home and watching online; some are angry because their church shut down during the pandemic; others are angry because they think their church was negligent for staying open. Even though the controversy has died down, deep feelings on all sides have not gone away. And we can’t be certain that the worst is behind us.
This election cycle  has been contentious with accusations and counter-accusations across the aisle, along with ramped up, over-heated opinions expressed on social media and in the news. Christians taking sides have dug in their heels with deep feelings, willing to vilify their opponents and express rancor with those who differ. Ours is an age of rage.
Racially, we are move divided than ever. “Naming, Shaming, and Blaming” is heard and seen daily on the news and too often in our churches. We’ve all begun to wonder exactly how to apply the Scripture’s teachings so that we demonstrate all believers are “one in Christ” and are of equal importance in the body of Christ.
Thankfully, the Christmas season should provide a respite to these conflicts.
Long ago I gave up on the idea that we are all going to agree on everything. Whether we’re discussing COVID-19, politics, or race, believers have different viewpoints, different backgrounds, and deep convictions. But this season, let us pause and agree that Jesus came to Earth to be our Redeemer, our Lord, and our King. I am thankful we don’t have to agree on everything to celebrate our unity in Christ.
I realize, of course, that there are different tastes in music as well; some people are not inspired by classical styles and prefer some form of contemporary music. But I think all must agree that Handel’s Messiah has gravitas; that is, it represents the highest form of harmony. What is more, it’s closing words of praise, taken directly from the book of Revelation, transport us as close to heaven as we will ever get in this life! Since the song of Moses and the Lamb will be sung in heaven, we have good reason to believe that Handel’s Messiah will be sung as well.
For at least a few weeks, let us lay aside arguments about COVID-19, the elections, and race. Black, White, Democrat, Independent, Republican—let us all agree that the day is coming when “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). And with the twenty-four elders, let us fall down in worship!
My wife, Rebecca, has a great love of classical music, and so Handel’s Messiah is always heard in our home during the Christmas season. It touches our imaginations and lifts our spirits. It resonates with us—body, soul, and spirit.
The Unifying Power Of Christmas Music
Christians have taken sides on a number issues which, as Pastor Lutzer notes here, need to be addressed. But there is also a time for believers to lay aside their differences and come together to celebrate our oneness in Christ. Music can play a huge role in this celebration.
We invited Pastor Lutzer to discuss the article he had written.
Q: Before we get to the topic of music, let’s talk about the matter of strongly held differences in the church. Are such controversies God-honoring?
A: That depends. Not all controversies are of equal importance. For example, people are adamantly divided over the value (or non-value) of the COVID-19 vaccines. Such a difference can become a sin if we begin to vilify others because they don’t see it our way. The controversy isn’t wrong, the depth of importance we assign to it may be wrong. The same can be said for many controversies.
Q: What about the racial divisions within the church?
A: That is a huge topic I can’t completely address here except to say that in Christ, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11). The differences between Jew and Gentile were huge; so were the differences between slaves and masters, barbarians, and Scythians, etc. Paul did not say these various groups lost their ethnicity when they became believers, but he did say they were “one in Christ.” There is transcendent unity binding believers together as one body. And of course, that should be expressed in how we treat one another—bearing each other’s burdens, working toward biblical justice, and the like.
Q: Can you share more specifics on how Christmas music can transcend these differences and bring us together?
A: Well, actually, every Sunday when we worship together with people from various backgrounds, we are signifying our unity in Christ. But I think this is particularly true during the Christmas season. Perhaps I speak for myself, but it seems as if Christmas (and Easter) music touches my emotions more deeply than other songs sung during the year. And the “Christmas spirit” that we speak about gives us a respite from the controversies that swirl around us.
Q: I’ve heard you say that music prepares us for heaven. What did you mean?
A: Well, think of it. I’ve already mentioned that in heaven we will sing “the song of Moses…and the song of the Lamb” (Revelation 15:3). Christianity is the only religion which has singing as part of its worship. Islam has no singing at all; other religions have chanting, but we have something to sing about. And that begins on Earth and continues in heaven.
Q: You have frequently mentioned that your wife, Rebecca, is a lover of classical music, especially Christmas music. What are her thoughts on Christmas music in the Lutzer home?
A: (Rebecca) I am honored to be asked about this, so let me share a few words I wrote about Christmas music. Music gives life, joy, and sustenance to Christmas! Without it, Christmas would be rather solemn and empty. The glorious strains of Handel’s Messiah, and the gentle, sweet hymn, “Silent Night,” make the story of the incarnation real and meaningful. Singing enables us to extol and herald the promise of the ages. Our voices and souls are lifted in praise and wonder as we try to comprehend how a helpless baby could be God in the flesh. Christmas music explores all the nuances of the divine birth of Christ the Savior: the Virgin, shepherds, angels, Bethlehem, wise men, and the star.
I love hearing our grandchildren sing the carols and hymns of Christmas. It helps them learn the historical facts, and at the same time, begin to understand the true meaning of Christmas: that the baby born in the stable and laid in the manger was Jesus, Immanuel, who came to save us all from our sins. It is the most fundamental truth of our Christen faith—God humbled Himself and entered the human race so that He might die on the cross to redeem mankind.
When we sing Christmas music, it’s like joining “a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’” It is our opportunity to share with others the true meaning of Christmas—good tidings of great joy for everyone!
And Handel’s Messiah majestically enables us to do just that.