Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hark! The Herald Christians Sing

Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
Isaiah 40:9

Christmas caroling is arguably the greatest of the Christmas traditions, and, regrettably, one of the least practiced. In the last two years we have gone caroling several times in December, usually on which seem to be the coldest nights of the month. In fact, we went caroling within a week of moving to Colorado. The way we have done it follows a pretty basic procedure. One family usually hosts it, and everyone invited meets at their house. We then go out, either in hay-ride fashion or in cars, going to neighboring houses (the houses are usually too far apart to walk from house to house, especially in the cold and wind). At each house we sing two or so carols, the amount usually depending on how cold the inhabitants are getting standing at the door. Some standards we usually sing are "Joy to the World," "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," and "Silent Night." We usually leave singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," singing the figgy pudding verses after we get out of ear shot. 

This tradition seems to be in everyone's consciousness. Everyone "knows" that this is supposed to happen, at least in the movies or the books. But yet few people actually do it. This is probably because our culture emphasizes listening to music more than singing it, and the Christian music that most people sing would require a moveable rock band to go door to door. But I digress...

What other tradition can you think of that has real people singing to their real neighbors solid and robust hymns of the victory and authority of Jesus Christ? When else do even unbelievers welcome the sight of people singing,
"Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing"
What a light this is among the hopeless, dark, depersonalized, lonely, and lost world we live in! How different this is from the groups of little zombies and firefighters looking for candy! How great a contrast to the earbud culture of individualistic escapism! And these carols are not only some of the most victorious and hope-filled hymns we have, but are also usually 150-250 years old, with rich harmonies and flow, some even going back to Medieval times. They have been pressed into the fading conscienceness of Christendom and it's high time we let people know that their beauty and hope is as true as ever. Let us proclaim the praises of our God who took on flesh, the Savior of the nations, the Light to the Gentiles, Jesus the Christ.

I sit here typing this at our kitchen counter waiting for the return of the carolers. Several families from church in the Elizabeth area are driving around, caroling for each others' neighbors in a long train of vans. They will end up here and this house will be full of joyous commotion. I had to stay home this time because my recent cold took out my singing voice for today. I sit here remembering that the colds and flus that frequent this time of year give us even more reason to celebrate and proclaim our Savior's birth. Our sicknesses are part of the curse that came upon our world because of our sin, but Christ came as the Lord who healed the sick. Indeed,
"No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found."
He took on our nature, kept the law for us, died on the cross for our sin, and then rose to new life, therefore death and sickness will not win! We are the ones with hope. The ungodly are those who are imprisoned by sin and death. They get sick and don't have a substantial reason why getting better is better. Let us not keep this hope to ourselves. Get out there and sing!

Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say: News! News! Jesus Christ is born today;
Ox and ass before Him bow; and He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today! Christ is born today!

Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye hear of endless bliss: Joy! Joy! Jesus Christ was born for this!
He has opened the heavenly door, and man is blest forevermore.
Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!

Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye need not fear the grave: Peace! Peace! Jesus Christ was born to save!
Calls you one and calls you all, to gain His everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Joy of the Light

See the house of days gone by, decked out in greenery fine 
The cold, sharp wind about it rolls with specks of glimmer and shine 
Outside is quiet, only the wind, and trees that are moved to and fro’ 
Stir gently the stillness that lays all around the valley now covered in snow 

Inside there is merriment, laughter, and joy–the sound of the fiddle and flute– 
The lads and the lasses are dancing a jig, their tongues and feet are not mute 
The companions of work, of worship and thought, they now enjoy what they’ve won 
Relationships firm, founded on time, now exalted through music and fun 

Oh praise the Lord Christ! He re-made us to show this joyful and most loving way 
Who, when we were in darkness, came as the Light and delivered us unto His day 
Though days be dark, sharp, windy, and cold, we dare not submit to their gloom! 
We strike up a tune and go gallantly forth, proclaiming Him ris’n from the tomb! 

Thus the darkest of days 
Will submit to this praise 
And become the sunrise of morn! 

The darkness takes flight 
This day, our delight! 
For Christ the world’s Savior is born!