By Pastor Jeff Fox-Kline
1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Christmas in July! Thanks to our guest preacher Kerri Parker for having us read this passage in worship the other day. Last Christmas was a very different Christmas than I had ever previously encountered, quieter and more intimate, but also very outside of what I’m used to.
So now I’m thinking about Christmas music. Is Christmas music a genre? I’m inclined to say yes. Christmas is one of my favorite genres of music. Not just the songs you hear in the malls, but the ones we sing together in church. We didn’t sing them yesterday, but they were definitely in my head. I was talking to a group of folks about their favorite Christmas songs, and we had some wonderful answers: O Holy Night, Come O Come Emmanuel, Silent Night. For what it’s worth, I volunteered Joy To The World.
But the most special song from last Christmas was (as it often is) Silent Night.
Side note 1: My favorite lyric from a Christmas hymn comes from Hark The Herald Angels Sing: “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see/Hail th’incarnate Deity/Pleased as us with us to dwell/Jesus our Emmanuel”. Those are some incredible lyrics, both in terms of content and in terms of phrasing. Unfortunately it’s preceded by my least favorite Christmas lyric “Late in time behold him come/Offspring of a virgin’s womb”, which is fine in terms of content but I absolutely can’t stand the ‘rhyme’ scheme.
I sing Silent Night every Christmas with a congregation of people, a group who sit with a singular purpose and focus. And I love it. I love it so much. I’m in a privileged position that I get to sit up front and watch the candles light, and then held in the air. It’s a beautiful sight. But part of the gig means that I’m not really able to do this with my family. That is hard. But this year was different. In the privacy of my own home I was able to sit with my family and sing together. We lit the candles, raised them when the time was right, and worshipped as family on Christmas Eve for the first time.
I hope others had that experience. I know for some, Christmas was not intimate, but solitary. It wasn’t hopeful, but dire. I’m sorry. I look forward to Christmas in December, and I hope we’ll all be together for it.
But our God is stronger than any pandemic. The candles that would have been lit in the Sanctuary were instead cast to the four winds. The light of Christ was out in the world, and the world becomes a brighter place as the light continues to spread.
Side note 2: My child has no idea that I’m writing about Christmas as I’m sitting here working from home. Independent of any prompting, she got out a Christmas book that Santa got her (one of those annoying books that makes noise) and started playing Christmas music. Sometimes moments line up in such cool ways!