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To Hear the
A Christmas Eve Sermonette
by the Rev. Lee Woofenden
Bridgewater, Massachusetts, December 24, 1997
Isaiah 9:2-7 The people have seen a great light
Luke 1:26-38 The angel Gabriel foretells Jesus' birth
Luke 2:1-20 The birth of Jesus
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will." (Luke 2:13, 14)
I think Luke was indulging in a little understatement here. Yes, he mentions a great company of the heavenly host praising God. But I can hardly imagine them simply saying "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will." Such a momentous occasion--the birth of the infinite God into our world--fairly demands to be sung forth by a huge angelic choir.
One thing is certain: whether those angels spoke the good news or sang it, ever since, people have had an irresistible urge to conceive of that great company of angels as a choir, and to put forth the glorious message of the Lord's birth in song. This very service celebrates the Lord's birth largely with music--and this is one of the reasons it is our best-loved service of the year. So many of our favorite songs are Christmas carols. . . . The human spirit longs to celebrate the Lord's birth in song.
Why this great symphony of music to celebrate this particular event? Why do words alone seem insufficient to express what wells up in our spirit at this time of year? It is not hard to see why. Words alone can express our thoughts and some of our feelings. But only music can express the full range of human emotion that surrounds the great events of our lives and of our history as a people--especially of our spiritual history.
The birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is certainly the greatest event in our history. It is the greatest event in our world's history--the turning point at which humanity ceased its downward spiritual plunge toward complete abandonment to materialism, lust for power, oppression, and cruelty toward our fellow human beings. The birth of our Lord Jesus is the great light that shone in the darkness, turning us away from our headlong rush away from God and spirit. It is that point in history when we began the long and arduous journey back toward God's heavenly kingdom--a kingdom ruled, not with an iron scepter, but by the law of mutual love; a kingdom that is not of this limited, physical world, but which brings the infinite love, compassion, and wisdom of God into contact with our finite human minds and hearts.
Yet we are not here simply to memorialize an important event in our distant past. If the Lord's birth had simply been an great turning point in our history, it would not be celebrated throughout the world with an outpouring of human emotion expressed in music, in gifts, in decorations, in family gatherings, and in hundreds of other ways that make Christmas so special to us.
The Lord's birth is more than a historical event. The Lord's birth is personal for each one of us. The angels were not only singing the Lord's birth two thousand years ago. They are still here with us, this very evening, singing the Lord's birth once again. Because the Lord's birth does not happen only once, nor only in history.
The Lord's birth happens over and over again, within each one of us. It happens every time we open our minds--and even more, our hearts--to the Lord's ever-new presence within us. It happens when we let go of old angers, old hurts, old jealousies, with our family, our friends . . . with those we consider our enemies. When we let these barriers to human love and understanding drop, and begin to build a new relationship with those around us based on mutual love and respect, the Lord is born within us. When we lay aside our prejudices and reach out to someone we formerly avoided, the Lord is born within us. When we stop punishing ourselves for sins long past, and begin building a new, more outgoing and loving life, the Lord is born within us.
Yes, the Lord's birth is ever new. It is ever new within us whenever we open ourselves up newly to the Lord's presence.
When we do open ourselves up to that presence, we will find that words alone do not do justice to the joy that wells up in our lives. We will find ourselves humming and singing to express our joy. And the angels will be singing a joyous song with us.
Angel and background courtesy of:
Thank you Anna! It's beautiful!