There’s something about Christmas songs that stir the soul. Although we’ve been judicious here at church with our Christmas songs during Advent, I know that lots of Christmas music has been in the air. Some of the radio stations have been offering nonstop Christmas songs since before Thanksgiving. There’s a reason for that – if you haven’t done all your Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving Day, after you've heard Bing sing White Christmas a few dozen times, then you know that you should get busy!
When it comes to Christmas music, we all have our favorites, from Jingle Bells to Silent Night, from Angels We Have Heard on High to Frosty the Snowman. When some of us went to Woodward Hills and Chester Street earlier this month to sing carols, we shared the more sacred carols, though we did sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” at the end of our time at Chester Street. Although we did provide songbooks, many of the participants sang at least the first verse of the songs from memory. That’s because we’ve been singing them all our lives.
Tonight we are singing a number of the best known sacred carols, but the Psalmist invites us to “sing to the Lord a new song.” This new song will “tell of his salvation from day to day.” With our songs we “declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.”
Although the message can get lost in all of our busyness, the message of Christmas focuses on the coming of the Savior into our lives. The songs we sing tell of this wonderful reality. Where there is brokenness, the Spirit of God carries the healing grace of Jesus to the world, bringing wholeness to our lives.
One of our family traditions at this time of year is to watch a version or two of Charles Dicken’s The Christmas Carol. Brett and I have already watched about four versions from Patrick Stewart to the Muppets. We still have several to go. When the Ghost of Christmas Past appears, Scrooge asks why the ghost was visiting him. The ghost first answers – “Your Welfare!” When Scrooge replied that a good night’s sleep would be more conducive to that end, the Ghost replied: “Your reclamation, then. Take heed!”
That is the message of the season – the Christ has taken flesh and dwelt among us for our reclamation. Well, you know the rest of the story. Three ghosts in all visit, and in the end Scrooge gets the Christmas spirit.
In the gospel reading for tonight, angels appear to shepherds out in the fields with their flocks. And Luke tells us that as the angels appeared in the night sky, “the glory of the Lord shone around them.” Of course, all of this glory frightened the shepherds. They weren’t used to experiencing such grand revelations of divine glory. As is true in the visit of the first ghost to Scrooge, the light is blinding. But the light gets their attention and ours. Having their attention, the angels declare to the shepherds that the Savior, the Messiah, had been born that day in the city of David.
As they proclaimed this message, the angelic choir began singing:
Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors. (Luke 2:14).
To get a sense of the power of the song, you might bring to mind the chorus “And the Glory of the Lord” from Handel’s Messiah. It might not be as well known as the Hallelujah Chorus, but it gets your attention.
There’s something about a new song that also catches our attention. We might have to listen to the tune a time or two, but if the tune is singable, you can’t help but join in. Even if the songs we’re singing tonight aren’t new, they can stir in our hearts new songs of joy and thanksgiving.
Now, maybe you’re a bit like Scrooge tonight. Maybe you want to join with him in forcing the cap down on the head of the Ghost of Christmas Past to put out the light that shines from this ghost, but as Scrooge found out, you can’t put out the light. You can try, but it will still find a way to break through to our lives.
So, let us join in singing the new song of our salvation. Let us give thanks because God is coming to judge the earth with righteousness and truth. Yes, God in Christ through the presence of the Holy Spirit has come for our reclamation. Let us give thanks and let the Glory of the Lord shine in us and through us as we gather in a moment at the Table of Welcome and receive at the Table the signs of our salvation and the light that reveals the love of God to the World. — Merry Christmas!