This time of year comes with its own unique soundtrack. A steady stream of carols and Christmas songs that are played on repeat in supermarkets and shopping centres. We hear them performed in concerts and Carols by Candlelight programs and sing some of them at church.
I love Christmas music. The familiar tunes and lyrics, and the sense of nostalgia and memories they evoke. Although I admit I often sing or hum along without paying too much attention to the words. “Walking in a winter wonderland” and “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” aren’t so relevant in the searing heat of a South Pacific summer!
However, I recently realised I might be missing a lot by dismissing the text of some of our familiar carols. Take for example my favourite Christmas song “O Holy Night”. Listen to these lyrics from the first verse:
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth
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
Doesn’t it feel like the world is pining? The war in Ukraine and armed conflicts in many other countries. The COVID-19 pandemic. Increasingly more frequent environmental disasters including bushfires and floods. Do you feel weary when you listen to the news? I know I do. It feels like now, more than ever, we need “a thrill of hope”.
But the phrase that really stuck out for me was this one—“‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth”.
What comes to your mind when you think of Christmas? Often for me it’s the practical—Will I get any time off work? Whose turn is it to host Christmas dinner? What gifts do I need to purchase? When I think about the Christmas story, I feel for a young Mary giving birth for the first time in a barn. I imagine the wonder the shepherds must have felt at hearing the angels sing. I recognise the fulfilment of many prophecies in Scripture. But my thoughts don’t often turn to my own worth.
Yet that is what Christmas is all about. Jesus came. As a baby. He who spoke the universe into existence “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing” (Philippians 2:6,7). Why? For me. For you.
You are God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). He knows the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7). He has your name engraved on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16). And before you were born, He committed Himself to coming to this earth and giving His life to pay the price for your sins, so that you can live forever with Him (John 3:16).
Ellen White tells us that “The soul that has given himself to Christ is more precious in His sight than the whole world. The Saviour would have passed through the agony of calvary that one might be saved in His kingdom” (Desire of Ages, p 483).
The last verse of “O Holy Night” goes on:
Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we
Let all within us praise His holy name
If you are of infinite worth to God, then so is every other person for whom He came to die. He calls you to recognise their value—and to act on it.
In His parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, Jesus asks you to give food to the hungry, water to the thirsty and clothes to the needy. He invites you to befriend the lonely, care for the sick and visit those in prison. Why? Because “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (v40).
I also believe that as His people, God calls us to “loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6). He asks us to use our voices, our votes and our influence to advocate for those who may not have a voice themselves. Refugees, the elderly, the disabled—there are many in our communities who are vulnerable and often overlooked.
This Christmas, if you find yourself getting frustrated by the extra long lines in the supermarket or the lack of available parking spaces at your local shopping centre, remember that each person you meet is of infinite value to God. Look for ways to show His love to them. As you plan your Christmas celebrations, ask God how you might share with those in need. Is there someone He is prompting you to invite to share a meal with you? Is there someone you could visit? Are you able to donate to one of the many charities helping to meet needs in your local community or around the world?
This Christmas, when you send your annual email to family and friends updating them on what has happened over the past year, remember that your value is not based on your achievements. It is not based on your education, your career, your relationship status or how your children behave. As you take family photos on Christmas Day, know that your worth is not found in your appearance or in the size of your clothing. And as you exchange gifts, recognise that you are worth far more than your bank balance. To God, you are worth the life of His Son.
Julie Finnegan is a physiotherapist and lives with her husband and three daughters in Brisbane, Qld.