Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

In 1847, a parish priest in France asked a simple wine merchant in his church if he would compose a poem for the Christmas Mass.  He wrote the words to the music that became O Holy Night” and will be sung with great solemnity and emotion in many halls and churches throughout the world at Christmas.  It deserves to be.  This song is beautiful, and has one line inspired by God.
It says that when God came among us in the shape and form of Jesus, suddenly “the soul felt its worth! We cannot mirror ourselves; we all must be mirrored by another.  When God mirrored us through the entrance, invitation, and eyes of Jesus, the certainty of our redemption was once and for all given and accomplished.  We needed nothing further to reveal God's intentions toward us.  We were already saved by the gaze from the manger.
We sing further of “a thrill of hope” and a “new and glorious morn.”  Again, as poets and musicians so often do!  Much of the conscious or unconscious sentiment of this feast is that at Christmas, on some wonderful level, the soul finally and forever does feel its worth.

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul 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

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend!
He knows our need ~ to our weakness is no stranger.
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!

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 pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas memories

Some time ago, I went to Radio City Musical Hall’s Christmas Spectacular in New York City – and spectacular it was.  The Rockettes danced with precision, grace and rhythm.  The scenes of the child dreaming under the tree, of opening enormous gifts each with a dancing bears or rabbits or other adorable and marvelously costumed creatures, and Santa's workshop dazzled the audience.  The ice skaters emerged from the orchestra pit on an ice rink even!  Production numbers and stage effects drew continued audience responses of awe.
At the beginning of the show a stern voice warned the audience that pictures were not to be taken.  For the most part this was observed until Santa left the North Pole, the curtain came down and after a brief silence the orchestra began to play softly and reverently "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and a narrator reminded us all that the origin of our festivities was the birth in Bethlehem of the one called “Prince of Peace,” a child born during a journey by his parents to fulfill legal requirements of the time. 
What can only be described as a procession followed.  The actors in the tabloid moved with deliberate reverence to the scene of the birth of Jesus.  As Mary and Joseph and the shepherds gathered signaling the birth with the background music, "Angels we Have Heard on High," you couldn’t count the number of flash bulbs that went off.  It was as if the audience couldn’t get enough of this magnificent and simple scene.
As I saw this and felt my own heart moved once again; I realized that there was a real need on the part of those people flashing pictures and perhaps on those without cameras to freeze this moment in time.  It was as if the theater erupted in a moment of recognition that "the Word became flesh and lived among us," and at that moment the audience glimpsed his glory, "the glory as of a Father's only Son, full of grace and truth."
Everyone in that theater had become a child and through this extraordinary presentation of the nativity we experienced the profound invitation to become a child of God and the real power of this invitation to transform the complicated maze of life into meaning. 
The gift of this blessed season is the hope we give one another as we listen to the Word of God.  In places we least expect it, the divine presence breaks into our life.  May you and yours have a blessed celebration of Christmas as we remember the birthday of Jesus again this year.  Merry Christmas to you all.