Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas It's Worth Singing About (Christmas Day 2010)

Christmas has always been associated with singing and song. In fact the Start of Luke’s gospel sounds like an old Hollywood movie or an Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway production... or an episode of Glee. Where people burst out in songs of joy.

It starts when Mary finds out she is pregnant she composes a song of joy that we know as the Magnificat. Zachariah an old man whose equally old wife Elizabeth gives birth to a baby, John the Baptist, and sings a song outlining God’s plan for a saviour and a light in the dark.

At Jesus birth it seems the whole of heaven was full of song. An angelic visitor woke shepherd’s tending their flock by night to tell them a child born, a saviour given, and then they were treated to the awesome singing by the hosts of heaven. Maybe not the wonderful and adorable angels we have in a children’s Christmas play, because the heavenly host is after all the angelic armies. Perhaps the shepherd’s could have identified with the All Blacks a few weeks ago in the Millennium Stadium when the Haka was responded to with a stare down and 80,000 welsh voices singing ‘Bread of heaven.” baying for all black blood. Enough to make the normal man quake in your boots.

Simeon a righteous and pious man who the spirit had said would not die till he saw the messiah breaks forth into joy on seeing Jesus in the temple. Content now to die and aware that this child will be a light to the gentiles and for the Jews alike. But also aware that Jesus would be the cause for many in Israel to stumble and fully aware of the pain and suffering that waited in Jesus future. Anna, almost, throws off her age and her sorrow filled life and dances and sings for joy at what God will do through this child.

We have a great depth of songs that we use to celebrate Jesus coming at Christmas time. Some that express the Christmas hope and message and others that just sort of express the joy of the season. You can’t get away from them really. You walk into a store and they are there playing in the background hopefully to get you in the mood to loosen the strings of your purse and make you happy enough to push the limit on your credit card.

For some Christmas really isn’t a time of singing. Because of memories or circumstances the songs cannot raise out of the dark shadow of sorrow or depression. Maybe its part of that year of first’s after the loss of a loved one or the continuing feeling of being alone over what is for everyone else a festive time. They find themselves feeling like those Jews in the Psalms

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion

On the willows we hung our harps

For there our captors asked us for songs,

And our tormentors asked for mirth,

Saying sings for one of the Lord’s songs’

How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”

Or in the midst of wrestling with the state of humanity we could find our selves joining in the U2 song Peace on Earth with its cry out to God in the face of inhumanity like the Omagh bombing where 29 men women and children were killed in sectarian violence.

Jesus and the song you wrote

The words are sticking in my throat

Peace on Earth

Hear it every Christmas time

But hope and history won't rhyme

So what's it worth

This peace on Earth

A song by the way not of losing faith in the Christ of Christmas but a prayer that the peace of the angels song would become manifest in our world.

The reason for the joy and the answer to the grief and questions come from the songs from that original Christmas.

Firstly because Christmas is a song of Love…

Maybe not the overt and deep lyrics of modern pop tunes ‘Oh baby I love you… baby. But a depth of love that is a light that shines in the dark.

The faithful love of God that God should keep his promises to his people and send them a saviour. A deep love that God should see Mary and humanity in our lowley state and show us his mercy and favour in Jesus Christ.. Become one us, dwell in our midst and offer us eternal and abundant life with him… God has shown us his extravagant over the top undeserved love in forgiveness and new life. It’s worth singing about.

It is a song of hope.

That God has been and is at work in our history and circumstances as a planet and individuals to bring his light and his justice and mercy to reign in the midst of our world. The hungry shall receive good things and the lowly shall be lifted up. Those who have exploited power and wealth in this world will not be stealing away more than their share of God’s kingdom. It’s worth singing about

It is a song of peace.

For the Jews Peace as not just the lack of conflict and war or a silent night peace with the child not crying at night or that feeling of wellbeing you get lazing by the pool or the beach during well deserved holidays. Rather for the Jews peace was shalom which meant wholeness living with right relationships. A right relationship with God: Because of the Child born at Christmas we can have peace with God. In Jesus life and death we can come to know God as our heavenly father. Also a right relationship with each other, loving one another as I have loved you as Jesus said and love your enemies. Simeon’s song proclaims that we would be bought together across the great divides of culture and race, in his day epitomised by the divided between Jew and gentile. In Christ to become brothers and sister adopted into God’s people.

Foremost Christmas is a song of redemption. A freedom song. That God will set us free from the bondage to sin and death. That God will restore justice and mercy to our lives and invites us to work with him to bring his love and peace into the world.

That’s why Christmas is a song of Joy. That’s why Christmas is worth singing about.

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