Thursday, December 24, 2009

What Will You Sing Tonight? . . . .

I love talking to youth workers about kids. What I don't like hearing are the seemingly endless stream of stories about churched kids. You know, the ones who have seen, heard, and done it all over and over and over again. Churched kids from Christian homes can be the most apathetic when it comes to understanding, engaging, and appreciating the great drama of redemption that is unfolding in them and around them. I know. I was one of those kids. Familiarity didn't breed contempt. It bred a "ho-hum" attitude.

I might still be one of those kids if it hadn't been for God's great gift to me of hurt, brokenness, and pain. My suffering hasn't been great. But it's been enough to show me how helpless I am in and of myself. Suffering is like an axe in the hands of God which He uses to chop away at the legs of the idols we worship known as "me," "myself," and "I." The brokenness I've experienced has been enough to show me how great and wonderful it is that the Creator of the universe became flesh and blood and - as Eugene Peterson says in The Message - "moved into the neighborhood." When life beats us down and leaves us looking and feeling like an old sea captain who's been thrown around over the years. . . well. . . that's a good thing. . . if we allow it all to force us to drop our arms to our sides and look to God saying, "Okay. . . I've got nothing." God wants us weak. I increasingly believe that this is what prepares us to see and understand and embrace what's great about Christmas.

Tonight at 10pm, my family will worship with other members of our congregation in celebration of the Incarnation. This will be my 54th Christmas. I will sing and hear songs that are way too familiar. And if I'm not careful, I will entertain the ghost of my Christmas's past by engaging in a sentimental reflection that is more about family memories than it is about thinking carefully and deeply about what it is that we sing and celebrate. I'm not sure what deep and great songs of the faith we will sing tonight. In year's past I have been blessed to focus on certain lines in certain carols that have come to have very personal meaning for me. Perhaps we'll sing some of these. . .

". . . He will give to all the faithful His own self for heavenly food."
-"Let All Mortal Flesh"

". . . come to earth to taste our sadness, He whose glories knew no end."
-"Come Thou Long Expected Jesus"

". . . the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight."
-"O Little Town of Bethlehem"

". . . pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel."
-"Hark the Herald Angels Sing"

And my favorite. . .

". . . He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found."
-"Joy To The World"

What will you be singing tonight? Do you have a favorite line?

I trust you will have a blessed Christmas filled with a deep knowledge of what God has done for us in Christ. . . and the resulting wonder and awe.

Don't be one of those kids.


jerlight said...

Thanks for the reminder of what Christmas really is and for helping me to focus on it. For me, it is the line you posted from Joy to the World: "he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found." We've been doing a series on the first 12 chapters of Genesis and I've been struck both by how wide spread sin and its curse is and how all encompassing God's grace is. Thanks!

tjaberle said...

Walt, good words. I too can relate to experiences of familiarity and apathy. And, I think it was last year one of my kids said "this is the same thing year after year", ouch!

"God's great gift to me of hurt, brokenness, and pain " I do not always see it as a gift --yet in it He reminds me of what you are saying --that I too am helpless alone, and powerless to "get it right". How good it is that He again and again comes and surprises us with His immense kindness and wonder, in little things, and big ones. Come Lord Jesus. He says "I am coming, even now"

I too will sing...

TSHusker said...

Very strong, Biblical theology in so many of our carols! I've highlighted some on my blog from Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

Joy to the World, Christ has come!


Jennwith2ns said...

I'm a new Christian Education director at a church in Massachusetts. A few weekends ago the youth group I lead and I offered to help babysit the younger children in the church, and I came up with a few activities to keep us busy. One of them was to tell and re-enact the Christmas story together. Not one of these children or youth was able to branch out of the structure and words of the annual Christmas pageant done at this church, to tell the story "in their own words."

I found this sort of disturbing; I can't figure out if it's a good thing that at least they have a solid grasp on the narrative, or troublesome that they can't seem to see how it can impinge on their lives . . .

Today is Christmas Day and I went to the church where my parents minister in Ireland. It wasn't so much the singing that impacted me as what one woman observed: that in the hustle and bustle of our current Christmases, we forget that Jesus came to a stable, which no one "had time to clean up," and so He comes to our lives as well.