There is a dramatic story that has been told over and again. Yet it might be, that you may not have heard. If you have heard it, a reminder would be timely and stir your soul possibly.
In 1870-1871 there was a war between France and Germany. As the troops from each nation faced each other on Christmas Eve, suddenly a Frenchman boldly stood up from his battlefront trench and started singing the famous Christmas hymn “O Holy Night,” and that’s when the incredible happened! You may recall the words:
“O Holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
As the French soldier’s voice rang out echoing across the barren battlefield, suddenly German soldiers emerged from their trenches and started singing with him! Soon the spirit of that moment spread; unnumbered French and German soldiers stood together unafraid and sang together under a moonlit sky. Actually in that moment the war totally ceased temporarily and it was all because of the glorious fact of Jesus’ coming to our world. Someday Jesus will cease all wars permanently!
During this Christmas season could we not have bold expression from some true followers of Jesus, as that Frenchman? Will somebody sing that song aloud? We all who know the Lord love those familiar Bible verses:
“Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,’ they sang, ‘and peace on earth for all those pleasing him.’”
Calling friends and family together to imitate the angels in praising God could be the full evidence of honoring Christ at Christmas.
And believe me, we need that today maybe more than ever! We flew through London recently and learned a tragic fact. In greater London schools, among young children ages 8-13 years, fully more than one-half did not associate Jesus Christ with Christmas in any way whatsoever! We live in an untold world! So, somebody sing that song, please!
In fact, let us all who love Him sing out the Christmas story. As we do, let us all be reminded that Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus, did that too! Words of praise burst forth from Mary’s heart as she contemplated her role in the Savior’s arrival on the earth; the words rang out.
Let us all rediscover the joy of celebrating in song because of His birth. Like Mary let our praise reveal and reflect an understanding of the significance of God’s act and His works among us in sending Jesus.
Let me then repeat those words Mary spoke, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour … For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46-49) The word “magnify” is especially appropriate at this season when we remember that Jesus came as God’s gift. “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” (II Corinthians 9:15)
That French soldier who sang in the night on the battlefield was doing that: magnifying the Lord at Christmas. When Mary sang those words of praise, she used two expressions: She said, “my soul,” and “my spirit,” and by that she was saying, “I am wholeheartedly moved to praise God.” Nothing is superficial here, Mary is moved in the very depth and center of her being. Majestic praise is coming from the most vital part of her personality. The message of Christmas is meant to totally capture the very center of us in the same way. This is where true praise has its beginning and birth. When that happens, we will sense within our deepest heart the coming of Jesus is something incredible and profound. We will have a sense of awe and wonder and also outspoken amazement.
When Christmas fully dawns on us—that God invaded our world with His Son—it will cause us to say, “This is the most amazing thing I have ever heard of and known. I am overwhelmed in my soul and spirit!” We will find ourselves saying with the psalmist, “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” (Psalm 103:1).
You will agree that Christmas has been so abused, and that’s often true even in the church. In front of a church near me is a big, red and white banner, “Come Sunday and have breakfast with Santa!” It’s no wonder that often we turn to each other rather than turn to God. Like the little boy who boldly challenged his parents, “It’s Jesus’ birthday, when are we going to give Him something?”
And so, Christmas is so much more than a feeling of goodwill and outgoing friendliness and celebration that turns into reckless activity. Notice again, Mary said, “My soul doth magnify the Lord …” She was consumed in giving herself completely into the act of giving glory to God. Oh that we would do that too!
To “magnify the Lord” is the true spirit of Christmas. Mary comes to teach us to give God total adoration and pure praise. To be honest, how few of us do that at this special time? Do we sincerely magnify the Lord from our souls? Is it our innermost desire to give Him praise at Christmas? We should be saying what the psalmist said, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” (Psalm 34:3)
Learn from Mary to mix giving glory to God at this Christmas season with a spirit of rejoicing. It has been pointed out by Biblical scholars that the English word “rejoice” is too weak; in the original language of the Bible “rejoice” means to be “lost in boasting with joy about God.” Not just my celebration, but it was all centered on joyfully telling everyone how wonderful and glorious God is now and forever.
Again the words of that hymn sung on the battlefield speak to us: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till He appeared …” I enjoy telling people what Michael Green in England revealed to me. He said to analyze the word; “Immanuel” literally means “God has come to rescue us!” The Scottish Bible commentator William Barclay said it simply and sufficiently by declaring, “The fact of Jesus’ coming is the final and unanswerable proof that God cares.” Yes, and because He cares, He was willing to give His Son to us. So that, the blessedness of Christmas is all wrapped up in the person of Jesus, who is proof God is with us and God is for us. Here is the clear note of evangelism ringing out at Christmas.
Christmas really lives in us when Christ is alive within us. An old time preacher, John R. Rice, once said, “You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look up into the Father’s face and tell Him you have received His Christmas gift.” Make sure it is true, declare it openly, “I receive the first gift of Christmas, Jesus Christ, into my heart and for my life.”
And so then a Christmas blessing shared with you:
“God grant you the light of Christmas, which is faith; the warmth of Christmas, which is love; the radiance of Christmas which is purity; the righteousness of Christmas, which is justice; the belief in Christmas, which is truth; and the all of Christmas, which is Christ.”
Happy Birthday, Jesus—let us sing You a song of praise!