Thursday, January 04, 2007

That Glorious Song of Old

As children on the frozen prairies of Alberta we weren't often exposed to secular Christmas holiday songs. We sang the hymns/carols at church, often every verse of them. (I remember my excitement when the song leader would announce that we would only sing stanzas 1, 2, and 5! We went to a little country church with a little purple-haired lady who played the organ. Slowly.) My Mom loved O Holy night and I could never figure out why- it was the one that an older man always sang as a "special number" and it was a bit too operatic and long in my little mind. It was Silent Night that moved my Dad to tears.

Over the years I've grown to love these songs and the joy and hope they proclaim so eloquently. I especially love the ones that don't just focus on the birth of Christ, but on His mission to rescue fallen humanity. "Light and life to all He brings, Risen with healing in His Wings" gives me goosebumps. I spent Christmas of 2000 in Varanasi, India. Christmas Eve we joined a group of resident missionaries for a potluck and time of singing and celebration. When we sang Silent Night I cried, thinking of my family across the world, singing those same familiar words about our Holy Savior. I was in a culture that openly worships idols, living among a people who desperately needs to to see the Light and Life of Jesus. Too often I have sat through Christmas services with the tears rolling down my face. Why are we still so broken when One came to make us whole? Where is the peace on earth? The joy and hope that came to us in a tiny Baby stir up the longing that He will someday return.

As the Christmas season comes to an end I find the words of It Came Upon A Midnight Clear still floating through my mind. I love how it moves from the Holy Birth so long ago to the present time and then looks forward to the fulfillment of all things, to the new heaven and the new earth. Through it all we are reminded of the angels who worship the King Eternal and the hope we have of heaven. This verse in particular seems to draw me:

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

How often I feel like one of those whose form in bending low, who is toiling along in this life's journey. It is not that I've been given an unusually difficult path to walk. The joys have been many and the trials few, but there is a weight to this life. And I think I'm beginning to recognize it as something given by God, not to burden me, but to to make me long for heaven, something to remind me that all I know here is not really what I've been created for. As comfortable and happy as I seek to be here, and generally am, I will never be fully satisfied. I love the image of resting beside the weary road and listening to the angels sing. When I hear it I'm reminded that it's exactly what I need to do; sit, rest, listen, allow myself to be lifted above the cares of this life. And that brings me naturally back to a place of hope:

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Even so, come Lord Jesus!

1 comment:

  1. Last year, I was struck by how meaty most Christmas Carols are, especially the later verses - and we (in our current culture) often skip those verses.

    Giggling at the 1,2 and 5 I remember that from my growing up years as well.

    Christ is Born!


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