Christmas Reflection

Sing to the Lord a New Song

  • Isaiah 52:7-10   Hebrews 1:1-6     Luke 2:1-14   The Message

 “Sing to the Lord a new song, for God has done marvelous things” (Psalm 98:1).

 At Christmas, we look at the manger scene, we sing songs about what happened long ago, we re-tell–again and again–the ancient story of the birth of Jesus. We celebrate at Christmas, filled with joy at what God has done. Our psalm reading for this day, Psalm 98, calls us to ‘sing a new song’ because of what God did in the past — but also because of what God is still doing today and will continue to do in the future. At the core of their religious observance, the people of Israel remembered God’s faithfulness in their history, but also recognized the presence of God in their midst at that moment, judging the people, judging the world God had created: in a sense, then, continuing to create and re-shape, to re-create it all over again.

We celebrate Christmas in many ways, among them gathering with family and friends, exchanging gifts, holding pageants, and sending cards. Perhaps the most moving and memorable way we celebrate Christmas, however, is singing Christmas carols. Our musical memory lasts through the years, from our childhood into our old age, the melodies familiar and comforting, the words hauntingly beautiful and instructive at the same time. The readings for this morning are like songs, too, and their lyrical celebration of God at work in the world, saving, vindicating, calling, and comforting, links us to our ancestors in faith who shared our common hope and longing. We sing along with them today.

The experience Mary and Joseph and all those in the Christmas story is not unlike the experience of millions of refugees and displaced people in our world today, of children born into poverty, of agricultural workers, called illegal, who have no land of their own, of the poor and the underemployed in the US who are losing their benefits, of those who are homeless, of those who are caught up in the terrible experiences of war and terrorist acts, of those whose lives are controlled by the power of large corporations and impersonal governments, of those who go on with their busy lives without any significant awareness of the presence and goodness of God in the ordinary things of life.

What’s the good news we are waiting to hear, or waiting to see fulfilled, on this Christmas Day 2014? Perhaps we’re waiting for a messenger who will tell us that the tide has turned, that the day of vindication and hope has arrived, that God is still with us. Or, maybe we’ve secretly, privately, given up hope, in spite of our best efforts at decorating, cooking, visiting, and even gift-giving. Worse, we may reached the point of assuming that it is all up to us to bring the peace our hearts long for, all up to us and our best efforts, with God not bothering to intervene at all. Can we even begin to make everything right? And yet, isn’t Christmas about God intervening in human history? Isn’t Christmas about God telling us not to give up hope after all, telling us not to believe that we are all on our own?

In some ways, we might experience ourselves, or at least our culture, our nation, the world, as ‘a city in ruins’, like Jerusalem so long ago. How does this image strike you? And yet, God is still speaking good news to us, today, in the “ruins of Jerusalem,” in every broken dream, every heartbreaking loss, every contentious public issue, every insurmountable obstacle….God is speaking still, God is bringing good news. What are the broken things, the malfunctioning systems, the things that need to be made aright? How does Christmas morning do more than remind us of what God has done but instead proclaims that God is active in the world today, in this setting of history? What is the new thing that God is doing in the life of our parish, in our own families, in the life of Catholic Church? In this day, how is God revealing God’s own self in the life of our community?

On this Christmas morning, what is the Word that we long to hear, that we long to feel anew in our lives? The baby is small and vulnerable and sweet, yet the God revealed in this human flesh is clearly–from our readings–a mighty God, above our imaginings or description. We can hardly begin to relate to such a Presence and such a Reality. And yet we can relate to a baby, a mother, and, strangely enough, the shepherds who came to give homage.

Maybe this paradox explains why singing the carols begins to express the inexpressible. We can’t put into words the incredible mystery of God-made-flesh, and yet we have known it in our bones. We have felt God with us even when we could never explain how that could be. Christmas is our communal recognition, our shared celebration, that God is with us still, God is still speaking, God is still acting in our lives and in the life of the world that God loves so much. God is still with us, and we celebrate, and we sing our songs this Christmas morning. But how will we continue to sing these songs, in the days ahead? How is this morning not only unlike all other mornings, but indeed like every other morning of our lives? Truly, ‘Sing to the Lord a New Song, for He truly has does marvelous things.’ Merry Christmas.

 

1 Comment

  1. Mike

    Tue 23rd Dec 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Nice.

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