If you follow any sort of liturgy for a worship gathering then Advent can either be a relief for planning or difficult. At Redeemer, we use a liturgy that is based off of Isaiah 6 and includes the following elements:
- Revelation (v. 1–2)
- Adoration (v. 3–4)
- Confession (v. 5)
- Expiation (v. 6–7)
- Proclamation (v. 8a)
- Dedication (v. 8b)
- Commission (v. 9–13)
And for the most part, we are able to choose songs that fit within this structure that match the sermon.
At Christmastime we tend, rightly and wrongly, to focus on the Incarnation and the birth of Jesus. It’s the start, kinda, of the plan of redemption being put into action. It’s good to remember and find yourself filled with awe at the Word made Flesh but that can’t become the entire focus. Because the purpose of the Incarnation was for Jesus to live a perfect life and die a death He did not deserve before being resurrected.
Which brings me to the problem: There aren’t a lot of Christmas hymns about expiation. As far as Redeemer’s worship leaders and elders are able to discern, there’s pretty much What Child Is This and that’s it. We have songs of expectantly awaiting the Savior, songs of adoration, songs of dedication and commission, but not really anything about expiation. So I made one of them work.
I’ve done this before, having added a couple of lines to the end of The Gospel Song so that rather than ending with Christ’s death, it ends with the hope of His second coming. My pastor wrote a post about that, if you’re interested.
This time around, I took God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and made it into a 5-verse song. We’ve traditionally sung four verses and this one goes right between the last two verses:
His blood would flow down the spear and stain the cross the same
While blameless, willingly he’ll take upon himself our blame
To make propitiation, saving all he calls by name
We sing songs of expiation to remember what Jesus did in our place and for us. By His life, death and resurrection, He didn’t simply wipe the slate clean and make us pure, the way I was taught to believe. When He died on the cross, He took our sins upon Himself, sins that He did not commit. This can’t be boiled down to wiping a chalkboard with a damp rag. While taking upon Himself those sins, He also put His righteousness upon us so that when the Father looks at us, He sees only the work of Christ. By dying the death that He died, He made propitiation meaning He satisfied the Father’s just and holy wrath upon sin.
It’s a lot to try and fit into a song that also acknowledges and celebrates the Jesus came to us at all. But my hope is that I’ve successfully made something that will be helpful and useful for our church and others to include as they sing of the Savior this Advent season.