Christmas Songs All Year Long

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As the Advent and Christmas seasons close, we turn our attention to the New Year. Decorations are packed up. Work begins again. Life returns to normal.

By now, this annual rhythm has been in place for centuries. Most of us are excited to leave Christmas behind for awhile. My waistline and inboxes are in desparate need of attention.

Imagine, though, what returning to normal was like for Christmas' first celebrants. 

Song of the Shepherds by Richard Bauckham

We were familiar with the night.
We knew its
favourite colours,
its sullen silence
and its small, disturbing sounds,
its unprovoked rages,

its savage dreams.

We slept by turns,
attentive to the flock.
We said little.
Night after night, there was little to say.
But sometimes one of us,
skilled in that way,
would pipe a tune of how things were for us.

They say that once, almost before time,
the stars with shining voices
serenaded

the newborn world.
The night could not contain their boundless praise.

We thought that just a poem --
until the night
a song of solar glory,
unutterable, unearthly,
eclipsed the luminaries of the night,
as though the world were exorcised of dark
and, coming to itself, began again.

Later we returned to the flock.
The night was ominously black.
The stars were silent as the sheep.
Nights pass, year on year.
We clutch our
meagre cloaks against the cold.
Our
ageing piper's fumbling fingers play,
night after night,
an earthly echo of the song that banished dark.
It has stayed with us.

Ordinary Time

Following Christmastide, the church traditionally enters a period of "Ordinary Time" until the start of Lent. These weeks are "ordinary" in that they are neither seasons of fasting or feasting. We are meant to work, eat, and live as the world lives. But is that even possible?

Christmas blows the top off our world. Before Christ came into our lives, our world was only ordinary, even silent and sullen. "We said little... There was little to say." Most songs were just entertainment about "how things were for us." Better songs rhymed of something more, but "we thought it just a poem." 

At the advent of Christ -- that first advent in Bethlehem and each personal advent when Christ first visited our hearts -- our world changed. When we are born again, the world is born again to us. Nothing is mundane anymore. Christ's presence and power are felt everywhere. We can't go back.

Eventually, though, God does call us back. We return to work, to responsibility, to mundanity, to silence even. This is ordinary time. We wait for Jesus while paying bills and celebrating birthdays and arguing about dinner and watching television and cleaning our houses.

Still Singing

All the while, though, faith continues to sing the song we heard that first night: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace!" Keeping the tune going isn't always easy. It's hard to multitask. We need God's Word and God's Spirit and God's people or we'll lose it in a world of competing songs. But faith always hears the echo. "It has stayed with us." And faith works to keep singing.

What truths from this Christmas do you need to keep humming in 2018?
What prayers of advent do you need to keep praying?
Which songs will echo through your life this week?

"Joy to the World." "O Come O Come Emmanuel." "Go Tell It On The Mountain." Throw out the tree. Go on a diet. Get back to work. But don't stop singing.

Dave Ainsworth