Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "O Little Town Of Bethlehem"1 (Lyrics)
Ephesians 5:14b – Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. (ESV)
Luke 1:46-47 – And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. (KJV)
During Advent season, I sometimes enjoy listening to the lovely plainsong music of Gregorian chants. One song in particular is known as the "Magnificat", Mary's wonderful hymn of praise recorded in Luke 1:46-55. In this lovely piece, Mary skilfully weaves together a beautiful tapestry of Old Testament themes in a poetic expression of sacred worship. While sceptics may doubt that a young peasant girl from the lowly village of Nazareth could have written such a beautiful hymn, believers continue to be inspired by Mary's powerful testimony and demonstration of faith.
I imagine that the first century church often sang Mary's Magnificat as part of their worship; other gospel hymns such as Zechariah's praise (Luke 1:67-79) and Simeon's song (Luke 2:29-32) were no doubt sung as well. Less recognized, however, are remnants of ancient melodies incorporated throughout the New Testament. For instance, based on its literary style, scholars believe today's verse in Ephesians is part of the lyrics of one of those songs. In any case, it appeals for real adoration; an awakening of the soul through Him who moves our hearts to sing.
Pondering Mary's song and the idea of spiritual awakening, I became intrigued by the prayerful mode and creative music of early Christians. The following is said to be one of the oldest non-Scriptural hymns, dating back to the third century, and entitled "O Gladsome Light":
- O gladsome light of the holy glory of the immortal Father,
heavenly, holy, blessed Jesus Christ.
Now we have come to the setting of the sun
and behold the light of evening.
We praise God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
For it is right at all times to worship Thee
with voices of praise, O Son of God and giver of life,
therefore all the world glorifies Thee.
More than two thousand years later, God is still looking to put a song in the hearts of ordinary believers who earnestly desire to worship Him. Therefore, as Paul exhorts us, Awake, O sleeper! Let us wake up to the magnificent rays of heaven's Sonlight, and rejoice in the creative power of God's Spirit working in us. Then we, too, will come alive, with hearts full of praise, to the glory of Jesus, whose miraculous birth we celebrate.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, quicken our spirits to sing Your praise and fill our hearts with the light of the glorious gospel of Christ. Put Your words in our mouths as we seek to proclaim the good news of our Saviour's first advent, even while we wait in joyful hope for the blessed promise of His return. In Jesus' holy name, we pray. Amen.
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