The Curmudgeon Reflects on Christ’s Mass

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.

3 thoughts on “The Curmudgeon Reflects on Christ’s Mass”

  1. orMidnight, Christians is the solemn hourWhen God as Man descended unto usTo erase the original stain (sin)And end the wrath of his Father.The entire world trembles with expectationIn this night that gives to us a Savior.Fall on your knees, await your deliverance.Noel, Noel, here is the Redeemer,Noel, Noel, here is the Redeemer!The ardent light of our Faith,Guides us all to the cradle of the infant,As in ancient times a brilliant starConducted the Magi there from the orient.The King of kings was born in a humble manger;O mighty ones of today, proud of your grandeur,It is to your pride that God preaches.Bow your heads before the Redeemer!Bow your heads before the Redeemer!The redeemer has broken every shackleThe earth is free, and heaven is open.He sees a brother where there was once only a slaveThose who had been chained together by iron, love now unites.Who will tell Him of our gratitudeIt is for every one of us that he was born, suffered and died.Stand on your feet, sing of your deliverance.Noel, Noel, sing of the Redeemer,Noel, Noel, sing of the Redeemer!Better known asO holy night! The stars are brightly shining,It is the night of our dear Saviour\’s birth.Long lay the world in sin and error pining,\’Til He appear\’d and the soul felt its worth.A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.Fall on your knees! O, hear the angels\’ voices!O night divine, O night when Christ was born;O night divine, O night, O night Divine.Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,Here come the wise men from Orient land.The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;In all our trials born to be our friend.He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!Behold your King, Behold your King.Truly He taught us to love one another;His law is love and His gospel is peace.Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;And in His name all oppression shall cease.Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,Let all within us praise His holy name.Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,His power and glory evermore proclaim.His power and glory evermore proclaim.

  2. Have I never remembered any of the verses beyond the opening of \”It came upon a midnight clear\” precisely because of how clear-sighted the ending verses become? And then the final verse: If call it \”progressive\” hope here has the structure of call and response, so that fulfillment can only happen when we become capable of giving back in song that which has been already sung, is singing still as we are singing this very song: then why did I forget that until reading it here? And what will happen when I let myself sing this song again?

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