“Sing a new song to the LORD, for He has done wonderful deeds. His right hand has won a mighty victory; His holy arm has shown His saving power!” Psalm 98:1 (NLT)
As familiar as we are with the songs of Christmas, there are five songs recorded in the book of Luke to celebrate the birth of Jesus that most of us aren’t familiar with. The Bible doesn’t literally say that these were “sung” like in some Broadway musical or that these people suddenly burst into song like a flash mob singing in a shopping mall. But, the ancient church captured their words from Scripture and created songs known as the Christmas canticles. A canticle is a hymn or chant, typically with a Biblical text, forming a regular part of a church service. These five songs present a powerful dimension of the Christmas story. The back story on each character who sings them and their relationship with God, how they responded to what they were told and the applications to our lives today is practical, funny and convicting. Each song was given a Latin title that comes from the first words of the song. This week before Christmas, I want to share these songs with you and explore some insights we can glean from them.
The first song of Christmas was sung by Elizabeth, Mary’s close relative. The Latin version is referred to as Beatitudinem (or beatitude) and means “supreme blessedness or happiness.” It’s a happy song! It’s the song of a blessed woman who blesses her much younger relative with a profound sense of affirmation and encouragement. Luke 1:39-45 records her song:
“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!’” Luke 1:39-45 (NIV2011)
Although little is said in Scripture about Elizabeth, she had faith while her husband Zacharias, a Priest, did not. He was made unable to speak because of his unbelief when he was told they would have a son of their own, but Elizabeth was not. She believed God and received her blessing with great joy! Then, she encouraged and blessed Mary. As a much younger unmarried woman, Mary needed the encouragement of Elizabeth to strengthen her faith. Elizabeth had walked with God for many years, and she assured her that God would fulfill His promises to her. Rather than being envious of Mary, whose son would be even greater than her own, Elizabeth used her blessing to bless Mary with a supreme blessing of joy! Do you do that with others? It’s easy to envy others whom God singles out for special purposes. Elizabeth shows us how to overcome envy and jealousy. She knew she was blessed to be a blessing! Choose to rejoice in the blessings of others, realizing that God uses people in ways best suited for His purposes. Allow Him to be as original in someone else’s life as He is in your own. People around you need the blessing and encouragement that you can give. Give it with great joy! It may be just what they need to believe God in their own lives.