From my earliest memories, music filled my home. My parents enjoyed music and helped my older brother and me to both learn to enjoy and play music. When Christmas season would come around, we would often play and sing Christmas songs together as a family or when gathering with extended family. There’s nothing like hearing your aunts and uncles join in to sing in harmony with one another in beloved Christmas songs. Maybe you have memories like that with family, friends, or caroling around the neighborhood or in retirement communities. There’s something about singing songs of Christmas joy and glory with others.
As we journey toward Christmas this year, we want to enter the songs of the season. This doesn’t mean we’re going to simply pull out our favorite hymns. Instead, we’re going to step inside the songs that resound within the Christmas story. In the Gospel of Luke we encounter several songs that are traditionally known as “canticles.” A canticle is a hymn or psalm-like song, usually drawn from a biblical text, and the word is taken from the Latin canticulum, which is a diminutive form of canticum, meaning “song.”
These little songs pack a powerful punch. With Mary, we get a glimpse of surrendered faith and we magnify the Lord for His powerful work and kingdom breaking in through Jesus. With Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, we praise God for His unfolding purposes of God through John the forerunner and Jesus the promised Messiah. With the angels, we celebrate the glory of God that certainly is declared in the heavens but now comes to earth in Jesus.
Paying attention to these songs of praise, we want to join with God’s melody in Advent and Christmas. Advent, from the Latin word adventus (“appearing”), is a four-week preparatory season building toward celebration of Jesus’ nativity at Christmas. In Advent we look back with wonder at Jesus’ birth roughly 2,000 years ago, while also entering into the history of God’s chosen people, Israel, whose prophets anticipated Jesus’ birth in the messages. Simultaneously, we stand as the new chosen people, looking forward to Jesus’ future return at the end of human history. In a sense, we attune our hearts, minds, and ears to the song of salvation God has been singing with joy over His people since creation (Zephaniah 3:17).
In your hands is a devotional written as a sort of hymnbook for the canticles of Christmas, rooted in the Gospel of Luke and supplemental texts that augment the themes of those canticles in Luke’s Gospel. This devotional can be used individually, but is also intended for use in groups, such as housemates or families.
So, open your hearts and minds, perk up your ears and attune your voices. God is singing and He invites us into His song. May we have ears to hear and lives that sing back the glories of Jesus through Advent and Christmas this year.
Pastor Matt Erickson
How to use this Devotional
Each week of this devotional begins with a Sunday reading written by our Pastoral staff for older students and adults. There is also a version called “Family Talk” written by a member of our NextGen team, intended for families with young children. Each day Monday-Friday has a short devotional thought written by one of our Eastbrookers with questions at the end for deeper reflection. There is a weekly memory verse, and Saturdays are intended for small group discussion and for deeper reflection.
As a family, you may want to join in on our Nativity Building activity. Use your own Nativity figures or the Nativity Story Stones made during Family Advent Night for this activity that allows for slow, progressive building of the nativity scene. Look for this symbol (Τ) throughout the devotional to find each step. The gradual nature of this activity and the periods of waiting remind us of how God’s people waited years for the promised Savior to be born! “When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son…” (Galatians 4:4).
Finally, you can also interact with the digital version of this devotional in a variety of ways: on the Eastbrook App, on Instagram, via daily emails, blog, or PDF.