Christmas through Many Voices
The centrepiece of our service on December 17, 2017 was a fantastic musical presentation by our choir and musical ensembles called "Christmas Through Many Voices." It was amazing and I am so very thankful to everyone who made it happen and to our Music Director Corey Linforth. As a part of the program, I contributed a few musings from the perspectives of minor characters in the Christmas Story.
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
Some Reflections from the point of view of Gabriel:
People think that I came to visit her all decked out in my full kit. You know, the wings, the glowing halo, the bleached white robes. I know that’s what people think; I have seen the pictures. But it really couldn’t be further from the truth and you’d realize it if you thought about it for a little bit. I was sent by God as a messenger – to bring a message that it was my greatest joy to bring. But nothing in my orders said that I had to look like an angel. I came as a wanderer, a vagabond. I knocked on her door looking for a little bit of food and some shelter. And I knew that I had come to the right place when she opened her door so readily and begged me to come in.
Don’t you see, that is really what the story is about – it is about how we treat the strangers and outsiders who come among us. Everyone remembers the part at the end – when Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem as outsiders and strangers. They were in dire need of
someone who would welcome them and offer them a little bit of hospitality. But there was no place for them, but not because there was a lack of space. What there was was a lack of kindness and of hospitality. The strangers were shut out.
But what was lacking at the end of the story, was definitely present at the beginning when I knocked on Mary’s door. I knew she didn’t care where I came from, what I looked like or what I had done. She took me as I was and shared food and shelter on behalf of her family. So when I said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you,” it was because I truly felt that way. We angels have feelings too, you know, and it is good to have someone accept you as you are.
Say, here’s an idea, if you want to celebrate Christmas in a way that truly honours the Christ who came and the mother who bore him, try doing what Mary did. Don’t reject someone because they are different from you – because they don’t say Merry Christmas or celebrate the way you do at this time of year for example. Treat a stranger or an outsider as a friend and just see if something amazing doesn’t happen as a result. It certainly did for Mary.
14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
Some Reflections from the point of view of Isaiah:
I’ll tell you a secret. It is true that the book that you call the Old Testament is full of passages that point to the coming of Jesus – prophecies of a coming Messiah that Jesus did fulfill. But if you think that we prophets knew all about it ahead of time, you have another think coming. In fact, most of the time when we spoke the “Word of the Lord,” we were speaking on God’s behalf about current events – about what God was doing in the world right then and how God wanted us to respond.
Like, for example, when I spoke to the king about the young woman who was going to conceive and have a son and name him Immanuel, I was talking about the sign that God was going to give to the king at that particular moment of national crisis. You should have seen the look on my face, though, when, centuries later, I heard that that prophesy also perfectly anticipated what the coming of the Messiah in Jesus Christ meant! It was so wild!
But that is how prophecy really works, you see. You don’t get some magical view into far future events that won’t make any sense to anybody until centuries later. That kind of prophecy would be so totally useless that no one would remember it much less write it down. Prophecy – speaking God’s word – is something anyone can do who becomes aware of what God is doing in the world right now and is bold enough to announce it. It is God who takes it from there and continues to make it relevant for many generations on into the future.
Your job is simply to speak God’s word for right now. Leave the rest to God.
20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Some Reflections from the point of view of the sun that rose on Christmas Day:
The part of the story that they won’t tell you is that, while that was going on – while the shepherds made their way back from their visit to the manger – I looked down on them and on the whole earth with joy. It was Christmas morning, but somehow the world I was looking down on was different from the one that I had set on the night before.
What was different? Well, despite the good work that I did, there were still many corners of darkness to be found upon that earth (that will always be true until I shine on it no more) but there was now a light that can shine out even in the midst of the darkness and the darkness will never quench it.
The world I had set on was a world beautifully and wonderfully made by a Creator who cared for every bird and every blade of grass, but it was a world apart from its Creator who had never been able to experience the pain, passion, despair and abandonment that took place within that sphere. The earth I rose over now had a Creator and a God who had willingly entered into its life as a creature.
But most of all, the world that had said goodbye to me the night before was a world where death ruled, where it had always had the final word and where its power had never been challenged. As I came up that Christmas morning and the sound of a child wailing for his mother to feed him echoed far across the hills around Bethlehem, the first cracks in death’s regime were beginning to appear. Death’s brave face would be shattered once and for all once I had risen only another ten thousand times.