Faces on Faith: Christmas wonder
I imagine Christmas has given birth to more music than any other holiday in history. If you go into any store selling CDs, you’ll find rack after rack of Christmas selections ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Side by side you’ll find recordings of Handel’s “Messiah,” Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” and “Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer.” (It happens every year – you’d think she’d learn to get out of the way!) There are more well-known Christmas carols and songs than you can list. There are purely sacred pieces, like the carols we are singing tonight, and purely secular ones like “Jingle Bells” and “White Christmas.” And then there are a few that fall somewhere in-between. One of those is “Christmas in Killarney.” Perhaps you know it:
The holly green, the ivy green
The prettiest picture you’ve ever seen
Is Christmas in Killarney
With all the folks at home
It goes on to talk about mistletoe and Santa Claus, as well as the parish priest coming by to offer a blessing on the household. I’m not sure if it’s a very accurate picture of Christmas in Killarney, or anywhere else in Ireland! But it is lots of fun!
Many years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful concert sung by the Moscow Boys Choir. Like so many concerts it was a blend of both sacred and secular seasonal selections. And to my surprise, one of the featured numbers was “Christmas in Killarney.” You couldn’t help but chuckle as boys and men with sturdy Russian accents sang lyrics like, “I’m handing you no blarney.” It was really a wonder, while at the same time, rather absurd!
If truth be told, the Christmas story itself, with its baby born in a stable, and heavenly angels singing to sleepy shepherds, is much the same. It is quite wondrous, while at the same time a bit absurd.
Think about it, for a moment. The same God who is said to have created the universe, the same God who is said to be all-knowing, all-powerful and ever present, chooses to be revealed to us in a baby – and not even a very special baby. This is no crown prince born in a royal palace. No, this is a baby born to a peasant girl in a no-account country. So unimportant that he and his parents don’t even rate a room at the local inn, and so he’s born in a barn. And his first visitors? The local dignitaries? The mayor of the town? No, the lowliest of men in the neighborhood – shepherds claiming to have seen angels.
But despite all the seeming absurdity, it is the wonder that we have hung on to for centuries. It is a story that has been told, and retold, and retold again. In simple words, and wondrous songs.
Might you be swept up in the wonder – the Christmas wonder. Might it carry you into the new year with renewed hope, renewed faith, renewed joy.
The Rev. Dr. John H. Danner is the senior pastor at Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ.