Nativity scene with starry sky and Bethlehem in background

Luke’s Gospel and the First Christmas Music

BY Bill Fowler
Church Relations, Professor of Biblical Studies

December 2015 Inscribed

Dianne, my wife, loves Christmas music. If I were willing, we might listen to it year round. Over the years I have encouraged her to wait until Thanksgiving, and she does wait – until Canadian Thanksgiving, that is. So I get to enjoy Christmas music the second weekend in October until a day or two after New Year’s. It’s really not that bad.

Mary’s Song: Magnificat

Luke’s birth narratives are filled with the music of Christmas. First, we hear the “Magnificat” of Mary where she praises God to have been chosen to bear the Messiah. We sense her humble spirit and realize that Christ comes to those who recognize their need of a Savior: “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.”

Zechariah’s Song: Benedictus

Next we have the song of Zechariah, father to John the Baptist. This song recalls the wonderful promises of God being fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah. Waiting for Christmas can seem tedious, but Zechariah proclaims in his “Benedictus” that the wait is worth it. We are encouraged “to give the knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins.” There is no greater gift to share.

The Angels’ Song: Gloria

My favorite Christmas music in Luke’s Gospel is the “Gloria” proclaimed to shepherds in the fields. To folks who would have been the last to hear the news of a newborn King, the angels carried the message and punctuated it with praise: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.” Shepherds would have hardly imagined themselves as people “with whom He is pleased,” but Christmas is an expression of God’s smile over each of us and His delight over His children.

Simeon’s Song: Nunc Dimittis

Finally, Luke shares Simeon’s “Nunc Dimittis” when Jesus is presented to God in the Temple. Simeon saw God’s “salvation” in Jesus and declared that Jesus is both “light…to Gentiles” and “glory to…Israel.”  Christmas lights like no other! Let’s listen to all of Luke’s “Christmas” music, and let the message of the music prepare our hearts for all that God would do in us this Advent season!

Dr. Bill Fowler (Ph.D., Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary) is Provost and Professor of Biblical and Ministerial Studies at Yellowstone Theological Institute. He has taught at Howard Payne University, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (as a grad student), the San Antonio Center of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the San Antonio campus of Wayland Baptist University.