Barbara's Random Thoughts

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Carols

A little belated. Some thoughts from Christmas Eve, so I've back-dated the post.

One of the drawbacks of growing up in church, I think, is that the sacred can become too familiar. Hymns rich with meaning become rote, commonplace--loved for their familiarity, but not for their meaning. As I got into college, I began to discover what it really was to worship, to think about the words I was singing. I discovered, in ways I’d never experienced, that I could truly mean what I sang--that I was singing to and about someone and something real, not just singing words to a tune.

Somehow that process took a little longer for me with Christmas carols. In the past couple of years, certain carols have come to mean more to me as I’ve taken more time with them. Last year, it was "Joy to the World" and "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." This year, it was "What Child Is This?" and "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." The latter is a carol I’ve always loved, and somehow this year, the longing it captures has been more compelling to me. I’m taking the time this Christmas to get a few of these thoughts down as I meditate further on these carols.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

As I’ve listened to this carol this year, I’ve been struck by the longing it expresses—the longing of Israel for the coming of a Savior. And the subsequent promise of the chorus—the promise that was fulfilled in Christ. It started me thinking about unfulfilled longings in my own life, and how trivial those can be. And how longing of any kind pales in comparison to a longing for God with us, Emmanuel. And that is a longing that can be fulfilled, if I will only turn my attention to the One who came to dwell among us.

What Child Is This?
...good Christian fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

These two small lines jumped out at me in worship at PBC a couple of weeks ago, so much so that I was compelled to scrawl them down on a bulletin so I wouldn’t forget to come back to them later. The image that so caught my attention is that of Christ as a baby, one too young to speak, called “the silent Word,” pleading for us. The idea of the helplessness of a baby, silently pleading on our behalf before the Father, pleading for our redemption, brought home to me the lengths to which God would go to redeem the children He loves—to make himself as helpless and as dependent as a baby in order to bring us to him.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Then in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor does He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

These lines evoke for me the faith and hope that things now are not as they shall be. That there is something better, and that one day, all shall be made new. They put me in mind of Sam’s Song from Return of the King:

“Above all shadows rides the Sun
And stars forever dwell
I will not say the day is done
Nor bid the stars farewell.”

The day is not done, the stars are not gone, and all will one day be made right.

Joy to the World

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love

It is the nations that prove God’s love and righteousness—it is the people God brings to His side who demonstrate the grace He offers us. It is through the nations that God proves his character and offers us assurance of his love. As one called to go to “the nations,” I think that’s a pretty cool thing.

Merry Christmas, all.
| posted by Barbara | 8:15 AM