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Grace Notes: Joy to the World
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It’s amazing what a song can do, isn’t it? Not that it’s stopped me, but it’s not politically correct anymore to say "Merry Christmas" in some places, you know. I have to admit a smile crossed my face at the store as the cashier told me to have a "Happy Holiday" even as my kids were singing along to the words of a very "Christ"mas song playing in the background of that same store.

Store management didn’t want their workers "spreading their religious beliefs" by wishing someone a "Merry Christmas" – which, when you think about it is exactly what we do when we use those words (which is why I say it). But, at the same time, the song seemed innocent enough to whoever gave the OK for that Christmas station to be playing in that store — after all, it was a famous song, it was being sung by what my guess is was a popular group, and it never actually mentioned the word "Christmas." So it played and while it did, it proclaimed quite a message.

So, I’ll say it again, it’s amazing what a song can do. Even in that supposedly religiously sterilized environment, that song carried the message of what Christmas is all about. "Joy to the World, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare him room and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven and nature sing."

The store didn’t want to say "Merry Christmas" but that song carried the message. Jesus came to defeat our sin, guilt and death and become our king. He wants us to be ready for him to come again — and so we keep his Word on our lips and in our hearts…partly by using song. And that is just what happened that day in that store for my kids, and for anyone else who paid attention to what might have otherwise been background noise. "Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns," the next verse begins. If you want to hear the rest of that song, and a whole bunch more that proclaim the reason for the season, come to our Children’s Sunday School Christmas Service this Sunday as the Sunday School kids wish you a "Merry Christmas" the best way they know how — by reminding you what Jesus has done with their words, and of course — with their songs. It’s amazing what a song can do!

So pay attention in these coming days. Listen to the power of those songs. Rejoice because you know what happened on that ‘O Holy Night’ Pavarotti is belting out, and you’ve loved and believed the message of those ‘Angels we have Heard on High.’ Celebrate Christ’s coming (that’s what Christmas means) when you hear the airwaves proclaiming ‘The First Noel,’ that song of the angels to the shepherds that "born is the king of Israel." Tune your hearts in to that background music when it asks "Mary, Did you Know…that the child that you delivered would soon deliver you?" And praise God because you feel the peace of the ‘Silent Night’ the children sing. It’s amazing what a song can do. God bless your Christmas celebration.

Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at