Introduction to “Songs of the Savior”
As a child, I remember hearing a haunting melody sung in church as we prepared for Christmas. The melody of that song,“O Come,O Come, Emmanuel,”stuck in my head, as did its confident chorus: “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” That song, I later discovered, is one of the oldest songs still sung regularly in churches today, drawn from a series of choral responses at least as old as the 8th century. Christians over the centuries have joined in singing it because it is a song worth singing. It tells our story.
There are many stories that animate Christmas in our culture: the story of finding joy through possessions, the story of finding joy through generosity, the story of finding joy with others in belonging, and the story of finding joy through belief in some abstract hope. The story of Christmas for followers of Jesus involves aspects of those stories, but something different. The focus is on finding joy in Jesus, who brings what we most need to possess, who shares out of divine generosity, who invites us to belong, and gives a hope that is sure for now and for eternity. All of that is a joy worth singing about.
The psalms in the Bible are a collection of prayer-songs that do two things simultaneously. First, they gather up the wide-ranging experiences and emotions of humanity, and bring that into connection with God through prayer. Second, they bring us into encounter with God, specifically through the Messiah promised and sung about in Scripture. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes: “If we want to read and to pray the prayers of the Bible, and especially the Psalms, we must not, therefore, first ask what they have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ.” The psalms are songs worth singing, all the while bringing us to Jesus.
This Advent we are going to journey through the psalms in a preaching series entitled “Songs of the Savior: Psalms for Advent” and through this devotional. Advent is the season covered by the four weekends before Christmas. It comes from the Latin word adventus, which means ‘appearing,’ and calls us to prepare our hearts as we draw near to Christmas. That preparation calls us to enter into the longing of God’s people, Israel, as they await the Savior who was promised, even as we enter into anticipatory waiting for Jesus’ second coming with a renewed focus on what matters most. Our preparation with the psalms this Advent should help us re-encoun- ter our Savior, putting new songs worth singing back into our lives.
This devotional aims to help in that journey, whether used individually, in groups, with housemates, or with families. Find more information about how to interact with the weekly readings below. May God draw us close again this Advent, so that our Christmas celebration might be marked with true joy.
Pastor Matt Erickson
USING THIS DEVOTIONAL
Each week of this devotional begins with a Sunday reading written by Senior Pastor Matt Erickson for older students and adults. There is also a version called “Family Talk” written by our NextGen Pastor Laure Herlinger, intended for families with young children. During the week, reflect on the “Choose Your Own Advent-ure” pages.
Since God speaks to each of us in different ways, you, your family, or even your small group may wish to mix and match a number of the spiritual disciplines listed. Choose between daily Bible readings, a prompt for deeper theological study, a serving opportunity, an invitation to sacrifice, prompts for small groups, practices of prayer and worship, creative crafts to get your hands dirty, and our always-popular nativity-building activity.
Although it is not necessary, this devotional is intended to be paired with an Advent Wreath. On Sunday of Week 1, when you open your devotional, light one candle on your Advent Wreath. Every Sunday thereafter, light an additional candle, so there are four on Week 4. On Christmas Day, light the final candle.