Dr. Luke never met Jesus. So when he wrote his Gospel he had to interview those who were first hand witnesses. (Lk. 1.1-4) As he spoke with Mary the mother of Jesus, John the Baptists father, the shepherds and Simeon, he noticed something. Songs. The original Christmas carols.
When Luke tells the story of the incarnation, he organizes it around four hymns. They each have taken on Latin titles based upon their opening words.
- Magnificat (1.46-55)
- Benedictus (1.68-79)
- Gloria (2.14)
- Nunc Dimittis (2.29-32)
Christmas carols are called such because in 1888 a young girl named Carol Poles went missing in London. As the search party went on a house-to-house search, they found that no one would open their doors because they feared the infamous Jack the Ripper. They then decided to sing songs about the Christ child to let people in the house know that it was safe to open the doors. While little Carol was never found the tradition of singing the songs door-to-door remains.
If you haven’t read Luke 1 & 2 in a while then go check it out with jazz eyes. Ask yourself what it would look like for you to respond to the coming of the Christ in your life the way Mary, Zechariah, the angels and Simeon did. See these first Christmas carols as improvisational solo’s and let them speak to you this Advent season.
Perhaps they will convince us to open the door wide for the one who knocks is safe.