Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Eve 2014

Have you been listening to the Christmas radio these days?

I always have to smile during this season from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  In the midst of 24/7 Christmas music, with "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", you have other songs, - some of the ones we've just been singing.

And these songs are like messengers:

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 the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!

"Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son 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
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

It's actually a pretty clear presentation of the gospel.

During the season of Advent that finished last Sunday we've been talking about preparation of our hearts and homes for the advent of the King.  Tonight we enter upon that celebration, lasting for 12 days - the infamous 12 days of Christmas - leaping lords, gold rings and a partridge in a pear tree.

For the rest of the world most things return to normal on Friday.  The music is over and "regular" - real life resumes.  But for us who believe in Jesus Christ as the Incarnate Son of God, every day henceforth is Christmas Day!

And our prayer is again one of the songs we have been singing: "Cast out our sin and enter in ... be born in us today.

"O holy Child of Bethlehem,
'Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sins and enter in,
Be born to us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell:
Oh, come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!

In a few moments this evening we will turn our attention to the table here and the sacraments that communicate to us the grace-filled reality of our redemption.

As we sing another verse of that song, O Little Town of Bethlehem, we are reminded of the the gift given so long ago, of Jesus Christ.

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous Gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

As the story goes the writer of that hymn, Bishop Phillips Brooks, knew and was a friend to Helen Keller.  From the age of one and a half, Helen Keller, grew up in a world without words or colour, without friends or stories or any word of scripture.  But she later told her friend, Bishop Phillips Brooks, the Rector of Trinity Church in Boston, that even growing up deaf and blind and unable to speak with anyone, she had always known about God, even before she had any words.  She had no name for God.  She had no name for anything.  She had no concept of a name.  She was not sure what to call the feeling of love within her heart.  But even in her darkness and isolation, she knew she was not alone.  She felt within her the draw of a relationship with Someone who was always with her.  She felt God’s love.

Makes you wonder if Bishop Brooks was thinking of Helen when he wrote that verse:

How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given...
No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
the dear Christ enters in.

Sometimes I wonder if Helen Keller and others with similar impairment are not free of other impairments that at times block our own hearing and comprehension of the gift of God given to us in Jesus.

Even in this season where we are surrounded by the music with the Christian messages, our own hearing is sometimes overwhelmed and we need to hear one simple song.

I want to end with this 3 min clip from this year's Sainsbury Christmas commercial.  This was inspired by an actual event that happened on the fields of battle in 1914, when the entrenched troops of WW I called a local Christmas Day truce and met on the field of battle to share the peace of Christ.

{video}

As we commune together this night and sing the same song again, I pray that we can make room in our hearts for the Christ of Peace and for the salvation that He brings, so silently yet so pervasively into the midst of our struggles in this life.

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