There aren’t many stories that are more powerful, more repeated, and more wonderful than the story of Christmas. As a musician, I’m in awe of the number of songs that this single story has generated for centuries. My favorite Christmas carol this year has been “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen”. For a song that had its beginnings in 15th century Europe, it has found new meaning for me. (Yes, I’ve been working on Christmas music since the middle of October.)
It’s the line “let nothing you dismay” that really got my attention. Because it’s easy to be dismayed this time of year. The demands on our time to shop, decorate the house, and make it to an endless number of parties; the materialism; and the oft reported ‘war on Christmas’. All of this can overshadow the actual Christmas story, which is, as the song tells us, “for Jesus Christ our Saviour was born upon this day”. The truth of that one line fulfilled dozens of prophecies in God’s greater Story.
So I’ve made it my purpose this year not to let myself become dismayed and distracted from that real story of Christmas. Yup, my head is in the sand until December 26.
The Christmas story is the model for story telling - there’s danger, loneliness, mystery, a intrigue, love, surprises, disappointment, a journey, the birth of a king, and joy. Great joy. I want to focus on the Story of Christmas, not the season of Christmas. Because the deeper, true meaning of the Story is uncovered when we sing “to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray”. And now the Christmas story contains more miracles, more heartache, more treachery, more admonishment to seek the king’s true kingdom, more mercy, more grace, more humility, more joy, more Jesus. And we have been invited to be active participants in this Story.
An even older text, Ephesians 6:12, reminds us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” The war on Christmas is not really waged in courtrooms, boardrooms, and newsrooms. The war front is our mind and it’s a battle for the heart.
But a good story, a true story, can stir in our heart, provoke emotions and direct our beliefs like few other forces can. Stories are a direct line to the heart.
This Christmas, don't let the controversies alarm you, and the fast-pace distract you, from the Story. Don't fixate on whether or not your cashier at the grocery store is allowed to say "merry Christmas". It doesn't stop you from saying “merry Christmas”. And don't waste energy fretting about the towns that may or may not be allowed to put baby Jesus on public or government land. Jesus tell us in John 15:18 that “if the word hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.”
So now, the loudest part of the song for me comes when singing “to save us all from Satan’s power”. Because I know that somewhere else in the Story (1 John 3:8) it says “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” Can I get an ‘amen’?
So what’s your part in telling, and re-telling, this Story? For those of us who continue to wrestle, who have had the Christ child touch, and enter, our heart; who serve the King with all of our heart, mind and strength; and who long to tell His Story – we begin by singing out loud “Oh tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and Joy! Oh tidings of comfort and joy!”
That’s our part in the Story.