The Merriest of Songs

by Addie Zander, Associate Director of Student Ministry

Addie Zander, Associate Director of Student Ministry

I love Christmas music. It’s sentimental and nostalgic and always makes me feel the pleasant ache that comes with eager anticipation. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is a perennial favorite. “The Christmas Song” sung by Nat King Cole is played over and over on my phone this time of year.

And worship at Christmastime is especially meaningful to me. “Come and behold Him, born the King of angels… Oh come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.” How can we not joyfully sing these words? “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ’til He appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” I mean seriously—I’m about to start putting this in the worship rotation all year!

A while ago, I was introduced to a Christmas song called “This is War” by Dustin Kensrue. Sounds festive, right? Here are the lyrics:

This is war, like you ain’t seen
This winter’s long, it’s cold and mean
With hangdog hearts we stood condemned
But the tide turns now at Bethlehem

This is war, and born tonight
The Word as flesh, the Lord of Light
The Son of God, the lowborn King
Who demons fear, of Whom angels sing

This is war on sin and death
The dark will take its final breath
It shakes the earth, confounds all plans
The mystery of God as man

The song itself does not sound… “Christmas-y.” It has intense and almost dark instrumentation. With pounding drums, crashing cymbals, and lots of minor chords. It’s haunting.

But it’s about the merriest Christmas song I’ve ever heard.

I looked up that word—“merry.” It suggests celebration, gladness, rejoicing. And this song, which compares the nativity to the frontline of a war, reminds me to rejoice. Could there be any merrier truth than “The tide turns now at Bethlehem?” Or maybe it comes at the end of the song, “The dark will take its final breath.” Perhaps it’s the last line, pointing to the wonder that is the Incarnation, “The mystery of God as man.”

The Gospel should make us merry. Not in a trivial, superficial sense, but with a deep and abiding joy of heart. Because our eternity was secured when Jesus was born in Bethlehem and then walked the road of His life to the Cross. Because in the end, Jesus wins the war that we would have no hope of winning without Him. With stakes that couldn’t be higher, we’re saved from destruction and rescued to life. “This is War” reminds me of that truth.

And this song helps me wish people “Merry Christmas” in a better way—with weight and purpose. We rejoice with gladness at Christmas (and in every season) because in His birth, life, death, and resurrection, “the lowborn King” Jesus waged “war on sin and death.” And now, this Advent season, we eagerly anticipate Christmas. We ache with a pleasant longing to celebrate and remember His first coming, and with bated breath and merry hearts, we await His second.