I love Christmas music. If you were to check my phone playlist, you would find Trans Siberian Orchestra, Peter Kendall Warren or Michael W. Smith Christmas music has probably been recently played. At any time of the year.
Of all of the Christmas music I own, the one record that I have played more than any other, is Christmas, by Michael W. Smith. Even at the age of 13, when the record was released, I was captivated. For those of you who are familiar with producer Greg Nelson, who I have had the good fortune of meeting a couple of times, I have heard him say that this record is one of the finest Christmas records ever produced in Christian Music. Smith self produced the is record.
I could put the whole record on repeat for hours, something that I tend to do with music I strongly resonate with, but the best song on the record, and my favorite Christmas hymn is “All is Well”. Give it a listen:
Not only does the music grab my attention, but the Gospel astonishment of the lyrics as well.
All is well all is well
Angels and men rejoice
For tonight darkness fell
Into the dawn of love’s light
There is a fascinating and astonishing claim made in the opening line. Things were not well at the time of Jesus birth. Wars, rumors of wars, political unrest, the people of God held captive by the Roman state, poverty, confusion, violence, injustice, crime. And in 2,000 years, not much has changed. Yet, in the Gospel accounts and in this song, men and angels are called to rejoice. On that night, darkness was dealt the first in a long line of fatal blows.
In Genesis 3, after our first parents sinned, God speaks to the serpent (think Satan), “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal.” (v15) This He God refers to is Jesus, who will crush Satan. Even in our first parents’ sin, God, in His great love for His people, makes provision for their salvation, and for ours. The birth of Jesus is God’s opening salvo into His war to see His creation set to rights, and His people redeemed. Truly a reason to sing Alleluia.
All is well all is well
Let there be peace on earth
Christ is come go and tell
That He is in the manger
Again, the astonishing claim that all is well, now with the invocation of Peace on Earth. The Old Testament uses the word Shalom. Shalom is related to the idea of peace, but has a far greater reach. When I think of peace, many times, I think of the absence of war. But Shalom is far more than that. Shalom has far greater implication and reach. Shalom is about the right ordering of all things. Not just the absence of war, and the presence of real justice, but the need for war to be at an end. For all eternity. Not just an ending of hostilities, but the renewing and restoration of all relationships. For all things to be as they were created to be.
With the first Advent of Jesus, an old world began to die, and a new one was birthed. One where peace, no, better than mere peace, but the Shalom of God begins to break through and reign. A new Kingdom, not of this world, brings light into dark places. Starting in an animal stall in a little town called Bethlehem. A Kingdom that advances, not by swords or legislation, not by electing the right people or party, not by doing or not doing a list of things, but by the transformation of hearts and minds in ways that can only happen and be sustained by the work of the Holy Spirit as He brings the Gospel to bear in every corner of creation.
All is well all is well
Lift up your voices and sing
Born is now Emmanuel
Born is our Lord and Savior
All is well
As I write this, I have had this song on constant repeat. I have a need to see the redemption of the Gospel. I need to be reminded that not only is the Gospel true, but that it has the power to redeem broken lives, hard situations, and damaged people. I need to see hope. I need to know that all is well, or at least it all will be well. The birth of Emmanuel, God with us, means that the Gospel can, and will comfort. There is a person I can take my sin to, there is One who will forgive, redeem, repurpose and restore.
I find the phrase “Lord and Savior” to also hold such hope and comfort. The One who is Sovereign over all things, that has ordered all things according to His good pleasure, who has the right to meet out judgment perfectly, is also Savior. He rightly judges our sin, and mercifully steps in as our redeemer. Not because we are good enough, or at least we are not as bad as I could be, not because we have anything that we can use to recommend ourselves to God, but because it is His good pleasure to redeem His people. It brings glory and honor to Himself. That’s one of the grand implications of being Sovereign Ruler over all of creation. What else can we do but sing. Alleluia.