The blogosphere is filled with posts meditating on Advent and Christmas in the most joyfilled way. My spouse among them. Her daily posts as Sunrise Sister on Mind Sieve are rich with well thought out reflections based on the several books she has been reading these last four weeks. I, however, seem to be stuck in something of a curmudgeonly mood. My friend Deirdre Good asked if some of that might be brought on by my heart attack a few months ago. I don’t think so, but part of it may be due to the weather, or my need for more sunshine and daylight hours. Some may be due to the decompression of not having to plan, worry about and delight in a slew of Christmas services and events. I think most of it has to do with my own reflections on our annual remembrance of the birth of the Prince of Peace in the midst of a world that talks about peace but really doesn’t give a damn about it. In Christ we have all that we need to live with one another in ways that do not engage in violence to each other and tear at the fabric of society, but self-professed Christians leading powerful nations are among those who are most violent.
Some of my evangelical brothers and sisters would attribute that to the fallen nature of humanity from which there is no earthly recourse while they gather together to sing, praise and petition God for better times for those who are saved and have faith. As an Anglican (a progressive Anglican), I have a more hopeful sense of what humanity can do, and am therefore more disappointed when it doesn’t. And it saddens me when the overwhelming mystery of the Incarnation that simply leaves me breathless looses its mystery and magnificence in tepid celebrations of superficial worship led by wishy-washy clergy.
It’s in these moments when I feel a strong kinship with Luther in his darker moods, though I have yet to throw an inkpot at anything.
Maybe that’s why, among all the Christmas carols, I so often find myself turning to “It came upon a Midnight clear.” (The formatting below may be a little odd. It’s what happens when you copy something off the web.)
It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
”Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven’s all-gracious King.” The world in solemn stillness lay, To hear the angels sing.
Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.
Yet with the woes of sin and strife The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong; And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.
And 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.
O rest beside the weary road, And hear the angels sing!
For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.