by Tom Drewry
Luke 2:13-15 (The Message):
“At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him. As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over.”
For the last month or two, in our SALT Sunday School class, we have examined the theology, themes, and poetry in Charles Wesley’s hymns. Wesley’s words have inspired some rather intense and honest discussions about the nature of God our parent, what it means to worship Christ the king, and how we can love others amid a broken world.
It is hard to imagine that in the 1640s, a generation or so before Wesley, Oliver Cromwell and his puritanical perfection parade dismantled the practice of Christmas, banning carols as a popish excess and December 25th celebrations as worldly indulgence. For one Puritan grinch, the celebration of Christmas was complicit in rampant “wickedness” and various “fooleries” that filled beer mugs, crowded dance halls and let the dice roll. Perhaps the “war on Christmas” was initially a strike from Christians, not Starbucks baristas. For authorities who wanted to moralize their way to God’s good graces, Christmas celebrations mocked the bent knees and penitent hands worthy of the arrival of God’s Son.
While our Christmas season too often trades the “triumph of the skies” for the traditions of hearth, family, and gift-giving, this Incarnation needs exhilarating celebration—one filled with glorious song. In every season, we need a boisterous tune from Heaven to announce the arrival of our Redeemer in our world and in our hearts. If “heaven and nature sing,” it seems right for us to sing along. If the “choirs of angels sing in exultation,” surely we too should rejoice. Indeed, most of us, probably unintentionally, reserve the word Hark! only for the Advent season. To what better news could we ever attune our hearts and affix our ears?
The arrival of our Deliverer demands a glorious song, one exalted by heavenly hosts, discussed by lowly, illiterate shepherds, and pondered by a young teenage mother relegated to a humble stable out back. This song and all of our Christmastime celebrations are not parties to control with parliamentary decree, but expressions essential to experiencing the joy found only in adoring our Lord.
Lord, let the carols of this season remind us of the heart-fluttered memories of friends, family, and Christmases long, long ago. But better still, may our caroling point us to those heavenly hosts who sing over us right now, proclaiming the hope we have in a God who is indeed with us. Let us join that joyful refrain.