Why we can rejoice this Christmas!
A few weeks ago, I was in church practising some songs for a Christmas concert. It was a mixed group – some are from the church and others are not. After the practice, some of the ladies were comparing their various ailments and one in particular had really been going through the mill, so I offered to pray for her. This was met with a very quick and stern rebuff, ‘Oh no, I don’t believe in any of that stuff!’ ‘Fair enough’, I responded, and that was the end of that.
And yet later, on reflection, I couldn’t help but be astonished at the incredible irony of that statement. We had all just been singing a selection of Christmas carols – all bar one had referred to the birth of Christ. In particular, we had sung a rather lovely rendition of ‘O Holy Night’ where the different harmonies had created a beautiful sense of connectedness with the group – a feeling that there was indeed something bigger and greater than us all; that life isn’t just a random accident and that each and every one of us does matter, and that we matter so much that God sent His son to let us see that Love in the flesh. (Click here for a beautiful rendition of O Holy Night from Kings 2017).
This thought got me reading the words of this terrific carol in more detail:
O Holy night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appears and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees; O hear the Angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born
O night, O Holy night, O night divine!
Notice the world is ‘weary’ and ‘pining’. Is there anyone who doesn’t feel weary of the world and its never-ending nonsense? But there is hope – and this hope is Christ:
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
Christ is the Lord; O praise His name forever!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!
But here’s the thing: over two thousand years have passed since Christ was born and yet it often feels like nothing much has really changed, doesn’t it? In fact, the same old foolish behaviour seems to be continuing, as per normal, and throughout the globe people still argue and fight over (often) petty matters and oppression in all its many forms remains. Those reading this who are in their ‘twilight’ years, and anyone who has studied history will know that the phrase ‘twas ever thus’ really rings true, doesn’t it? Misunderstandings and miscommunications seem to be rife at the moment, and some of us, like Elijah, may even be at the point of thinking, ‘Am I the only one who actually believes’?
However, Christ’s birth really was the beginning of new dawn and yes, we can rejoice! Something seismic has just happened; Christ did indeed come to save us – but it is our spiritual selves. Christ works from the inside out and he comes to us as individuals. This world, therefore, is sadly doomed, but the Realm of God isn’t – far from it! This new way begins here on earth but will continue in glorious technicolour and beyond our wildest imaginings when we eventually ‘shuffle off this mortal coil’, so to speak. So as this song reminds us, through Christ we can be reunited with God and we will now start loving each other properly – even those we find difficult, and by doing so, reduce the amount of conflict in the world. Unfortunately, hostilities will never completely disappear in this world, because not everyone wants, or can even recognise, what Christ is offering, but in heaven the process will be finished – no more enmity and discord; all barriers between us will be gone forever!
So this is why we must celebrate! The last line of the carol declares, Christ is the Lord! Let’s praise his name forever. This night was holy; it was divine. And at the time, nobody but a few shepherds seemed to be aware of it! The birth of this particular baby means our lives can be changed forever, but only if we want it and can see it. And as the music of the chorus of this carol soars into a crescendo, it creates something transcendent doesn’t it? We feel the divinity of this strange and mysterious happening over 2000 years ago in a way we can’t quite explain – a greater power that is somehow binding us all together as we sing.
So this Christmas, despite what the media might be telling us, let’s keep in mind that we do have a real reason to rejoice. Have a lovely Christmas everyone!