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Why Don't We Sing THOSE Songs?

If you use any hymnal written since the old “Sacred Selections”, then you probably can guess which songs the title of this article is about. “Hymns for Worship”, “Praise for the LORD”, and even the newer “Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs” all have the same 3-4 songs that are likely known by a clear majority of Christians in the U.S., and yet they are rarely (if ever) sung within a worship service.

I mean of course the songs that are commonly referred to as the “Christmas songs”, or the songs that are commonly sang/played worldwide during the Christmas holiday season. In the “Hymns for Worship” hymnal (which I will be using as my source for the remainder of this article) they are #0: “Sing and Rejoice”, #46: “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”, #440: “Silent Night, Holy Night”, and #495: “Joy to the World”.

A disclaimer is probably in order here: this article is not intended to be a discussion of the celebration of holidays or Christmas in particular. This article is also not intended as a discussion of whether Christians should discuss the birth of Jesus during/around the December holiday. This article is written to examine these songs in detail, and to try and determine whether Christians can, and then should, sing these songs as a part of our corporate worship.

When asking the question of whether a song should be sung as a part of our worship, at least three key questions need to be answered.

First, does the song praise and honor God? “Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him!” (Psalm 68.4) Twice in the New Testament Christians are instructed to sing (Eph. 5.19-20; Col. 3.16), and those songs must be offered in praise and thankfulness to God. There is no room nor place in the worship of Almighty God for songs that have little/nothing to do with God and His great deeds.

Second, does the song in question teach and admonish ourselves and others? “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col. 3.16) Paul’s instructions to the Ephesian brethren make this point even more clear with the phrase “addressing one another” (5.19). Our time spent in song together as Christians is one of the greatest opportunities for edification, encouragement, and even admonishment that we have. If we are singing a song that does not serve to “stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10.24), then why are we singing it?

Third, would singing the song in question violate the conscience of another brother or sister in Christ? This third qualification falls under a larger discipline that Christians must be willing to exercise with one another in all matters: consideration for the conscience of our brethren. Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10 clearly teach that Christians must be willing to take the consciences of their brethren into consideration when making decisions on matters of opinion, and if necessary restrict their own freedoms to protect the faith of others. This discipline must be applied to all areas of the Christian’s life, including the songs selected for singing during the worship assembly. Believe it or not, these “Christmas songs” are not the only songs contained within our hymnals that have at times violated the consciences of our fellow brethren when sung during worship services.

So, do the songs in question violate the first two requirements for our songs? Three of the four (“Sing and Rejoice”; “Hark, the Herald Angel Sings”; and “Silent Night, Holy Night”) are written explicitly about the birth of Jesus Christ, which is a very important event to Christians and is well-documented in the New Testament (cf. Matt. 1.18-25; Luke 2.1-21). The fourth song, #495: “Joy to the World”, is widely sang as a carol celebrating Jesus’ birth, although the lyrics are largely taken from Psalm 98, Psalm 96.11-12, and Genesis 3.17-18. A careful examination of these songs (or at least the versions found in “Hymns for Worship”) does not reveal any obvious issues or inconsistencies with the Biblical record of the birth of Jesus. None of them mention the word “Christmas”, nor do they mention His being born on Dec. 25th or any other widely-believed error concerning His birth. While I freely admit that there may be a scriptural issue in one of these songs that has escaped my notice (and if so I apologize), it does not appear that any of these four songs present a problem concerning their intent to praise and honor of God, nor in their ability to teach and edify our brethren in song.

The real question regarding these songs is whether they violate the conscience of a fellow brother or sister in Christ when sung within the worship assembly. It seems clear that these four songs are appropriate to be sung within a worship service based on their praise of God and their ability to edify brethren, but it is also likely that these songs could violate the conscience of a brother/sister in Christ. The association between these songs and the holiday with which they are associated with could cause a brother or sister to choose to refrain from singing these songs, which is a decision that, if known to other brethren, must be honored. The only real way to have a sense of this would be to speak with one another gently and directly about these songs prior to leading them during worship. If a group of the Lord’s people agrees about whether these songs should be used during the worship service, then their decision is valid whatever it may be.

Let us exercise godly wisdom and consideration in our decisions to use these songs in our worship services. If the singing of these songs can be done to the praise and honor of God, and to the edification and benefit of our brethren, let us do so with all our might. If doing so would knowingly violate the conscience of my brother or sister in Christ and as a result put their faith in jeopardy, let us take the opportunity to be humble and considerate out of love for Christ and for them. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil. 2.3)

Bulletin Article 07.01.18

Why Don’t We Sing Those Songs?

If you use any hymnal written since the old “Sacred Selections”, then you probably can guess which songs the title of this article is about. “Hymns for Worship”, “Praise for the LORD”, and even the newer “Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs” all have the same 3-4 songs that are likely known by a clear majority of Christians in the U.S., and yet they are rarely (if ever) sung within a worship service.

I mean of course the songs that are commonly referred to as the “Christmas songs”, or the songs that are commonly sang/played worldwide during the Christmas holiday season. In the “Hymns for Worship” hymnal (which I will be using as my source for the remainder of this article) they are #0: “Sing and Rejoice”, #46: “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”, #440: “Silent Night, Holy Night”, and #495: “Joy to the World”.

A disclaimer is probably in order here: this article is not intended to be a discussion of the celebration of holidays or Christmas in particular. This article is also not intended as a discussion of whether Christians should discuss the birth of Jesus during/around the December holiday. This article is written to examine these songs in detail, and to try and determine whether Christians can, and then should, sing these songs as a part of our corporate worship.

When asking the question of whether a song should be sung as a part of our worship, at least three key questions need to be answered.

First, does the song praise and honor God? “Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him!” (Psalm 68.4) Twice in the New Testament Christians are instructed to sing (Eph. 5.19-20; Col. 3.16), and those songs must be offered in praise and thankfulness to God. There is no room nor place in the worship of Almighty God for songs that have little/nothing to do with God and His great deeds.

Second, does the song in question teach and admonish ourselves and others? “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col. 3.16) Paul’s instructions to the Ephesian brethren make this point even more clear with the phrase “addressing one another” (5.19). Our time spent in song together as Christians is one of the greatest opportunities for edification, encouragement, and even admonishment that we have. If we are singing a song that does not serve to “stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10.24), then why are we singing it?

Third, would singing the song in question violate the conscience of another brother or sister in Christ? This third qualification falls under a larger discipline that Christians must be willing to exercise with one another in all matters: consideration for the conscience of our brethren. Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10 clearly teach that Christians must be willing to take the consciences of their brethren into consideration when making decisions on matters of opinion, and if necessary restrict their own freedoms to protect the faith of others. This discipline must be applied to all areas of the Christian’s life, including the songs selected for singing during the worship assembly. Believe it or not, these “Christmas songs” are not the only songs contained within our hymnals that have at times violated the consciences of our fellow brethren when sung during worship services.

So, do the songs in question violate the first two requirements for our songs? Three of the four (“Sing and Rejoice”; “Hark, the Herald Angel Sings”; and “Silent Night, Holy Night”) are written explicitly about the birth of Jesus Christ, which is a very important event to Christians and is well-documented in the New Testament (cf. Matt. 1.18-25; Luke 2.1-21). The fourth song, #495: “Joy to the World”, is widely sang as a carol celebrating Jesus’ birth, although the lyrics are largely taken from Psalm 98, Psalm 96.11-12, and Genesis 3.17-18. A careful examination of these songs (or at least the versions found in “Hymns for Worship”) does not reveal any obvious issues or inconsistencies with the Biblical record of the birth of Jesus. None of them mention the word “Christmas”, nor do they mention His being born on Dec. 25th or any other widely-believed error concerning His birth. While I freely admit that there may be a scriptural issue in one of these songs that has escaped my notice (and if so I apologize), it does not appear that any of these four songs present a problem concerning their intent to praise and honor of God, nor in their ability to teach and edify our brethren in song.

The real question regarding these songs is whether they violate the conscience of a fellow brother or sister in Christ when sung within the worship assembly. It seems clear that these four songs are appropriate to be sung within a worship service based on their praise of God and their ability to edify brethren, but it is also likely that these songs could violate the conscience of a brother/sister in Christ. The association between these songs and the holiday with which they are associated with could cause a brother or sister to choose to refrain from singing these songs, which is a decision that, if known to other brethren, must be honored. The only real way to have a sense of this would be to speak with one another gently and directly about these songs prior to leading them during worship. If a group of the Lord’s people agrees about whether these songs should be used during the worship service, then their decision is valid whatever it may be.

Let us exercise godly wisdom and consideration in our decisions to use these songs in our worship services. If the singing of these songs can be done to the praise and honor of God, and to the edification and benefit of our brethren, let us do so with all our might. If doing so would knowingly violate the conscience of my brother or sister in Christ and as a result put their faith in jeopardy, let us take the opportunity to be humble and considerate out of love for Christ and for them. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil. 2.3)