Advent for this year has come and gone with the glorious ending being Christmas Day. I haven’t highlighted very much of this season because we were immersed in the moments. Hopefully, though, writing about this month-long celebration would be a joy…may the words find their place on the screen. Even as I write this Wednesday Worship following Christmas, it is New Year’s Eve…days later, that I will finish.
No rush, right? While many have their Christmas tree down and the trimmings of this Christmas stowed away…we are continuing to squeeze all the delicious good out of this season, now celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas (Christmastide).
In all the activities leading up to Christmas, some of the wonder escaped me…the post-Christmas quiet has been a second blessing…to reflect, not just on this past year, but, on all the beauty of Christ’s coming.
A couple of nights ago, we finally watched A Charlie Brown Christmas – a tradition every year. Charlie Brown expresses (to his friend, Linus) his exasperation in how Christmas has become so commercialized. Wondering at the meaning of Christmas. Linus comes to his aid, quoting from the Scripture, the wondrous account of the Christ child being born “unto you”. Unto you…to the world, but, in particular, to each one of us.
That short scene in the film is exquisite, cutting through all the clutter never meant for Christmas. Because of Linus delivering truth, dropping his blanket as he spoke, his friend Charlie Brown’s thinking cleared. Clarity was restored…even joy.
The film finishes triumphantly with all the kids singing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”.
In the intro to his beautiful book Hidden Christmas: the Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ, author, theologian Tim Keller‘s writes about this widely familiar song “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”:
Let’s ask some questions of the famous Christmas carol “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”…Who is Jesus? He is “everlasting Lord,” who from “highest heaven” comes down to be the “offspring of the virgin’s womb.” What did he come to do? His mission is to see “God and sinners reconciled.” How did he accomplish it? He “lays his glory by,” that we “no more may die.” How can this life be ours? Through an inward, spiritual regeneration so radical that, as we have seen, it can be called “the second birth.” With brilliant economy of style, the carol gives us a summary of the entire Christian teaching…One season a year hundreds of millions of people, if they would take the trouble to ask these kinds of questions, would have this same knowledge available to them. To understand Christmas is to understand basic Christianity, the Gospel….one moment of the year when our secular society and the Christian church are, to a degree, thinking about the same thing. – Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas: the Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ
As we prepare to enter the new year, we take the truth of Christmas along with us. In wonder at how God would draw so near to us…to reveal himself to us in ways we can understand…to demonstrate a love for us wholly unrestrained. Not surprising the angels filled the sky with song that incredible night.
- Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”
- Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.
- Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
- Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving pow’r,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.
- Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
Oh, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.*
Your burden is too great to bear?
Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season?
Your tears have no end?
You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
to ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance!
For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that a Savior is born this day,
One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone,
for He is born this day to you. – Ann Weems