A few days ago I heard a clip from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who was reflecting on the first verse of the gospel of St John – “In the beginning was the word”
The few words I caught were his reflection suggesting that maybe it was not so much that creation began with a word but with a song.
I have thought about this over the last few days in the run up to this morning, a song whose melody and echo reverberates through the ages and in the Christmas story a new harmony is created within the original score.
Christmas of course is a time of song – Carols have been piped in lifts, shopping malls and high streets since October, sung outside blocks of flats and in homes, remembered in the half light of churches amidst candles and accompanied by the aroma of mulled wine and warm mince pies.
The Carols of course tell the story, tell of that little town of Bethlehem, that Royal city where there stood a lowly cattle shed. Their melodies remind us of shepherds who watched their flock by night and three kings from orient far, their words speak of that midnight clear, that glorious song of old; and that amid the woes of sin and strife the love song the angels sing.
But as song, as the song we are reminded that Christmas is, amidst the tinsel and tea towels of a thousand nativities, a love song. A love story with a prequel that takes us not to a distant galaxy far away but to the very beginning of time when God spoke into the void of nothingness “Let there be light” - let there be love, let there be a wonderful and complex world in which all creation can hear the song of Gods love in the earth, land, sea and the very dust of our being. The Christmas story is another chapter in this amazing story, a central aria within this grand Opera where the center stage is Bethlehem and a stable in which God choose to be born, born of a woman.
So around the world the song is once again sung, but it does seem that more and more people are asking, as the psalmist asked long ago “ How can we sing the Lords song in a strange land”.
In a country as diverse as we now are it is a question that many are asking. Some think the answer is to reduce the wonder of Christmas to a winter fest; a winter wonder land of bright and shinny, but ultimately faux and false, promises. False snow, ever cheaper party food and even a channel on my sky package called The Christmas channel with back to back films with Christmas in the story line.
It was rather refreshing this year to see the advert put out by the Muslim Council of Britain this year
“Keep Calm it Christmas : Don’t panic Christmas is not banned”
Let us therefore not be afraid to join in this amazing love story, to become a part of its narrative to allow ourselves to be caressed by this love song from God.
let us rejoice that God so loved the world that he sent us his son, not out of wrath that needed satisfying, or out of some cosmic sense of duty but because of love – a love that knows each one of us by name if we are prepared to acknowledge the name of Jesus.
The past two thousand years since the birth of Christ can be viewed as a relentless round of greed and violence, fear and insecurity of greed and violence and death to the love song sung by the angels. But the truth of the matter is that there is still an incredible energy in the world that flows from generosity of God. I think we saw that acknowledged in the reaction of every nation and maybe every human being at news of the death of Nelson Mandela a few weeks ago.
The Christmas story, the Creators love song, cannot and will not be silenced, and the beauty of both is that even when we feel that we have no voice, or that we have lost the will to sing or cannot remember the words, others will lift their voices and sing and the song will touch us and inspire us as the Love of God revealed in that stable long ago continues to do so today.
May God bless you all this Christmas and may the message of the angels resound in your hearts…
with peaceful wings unfurled;
and still their heavenly music floats
over all the weary world:
above its sad and lowly plains
they bend on hovering wing;
and ever over its Babel- sounds
the blessed angels sing.