When did “Christmas” arrive for you? Or did it? Was it last night during a candlelit “Silent Night” or when you first laid eyes on your grandchild this morning or . . .
For me, “Christmas” arrived just after the evening service. After Silent Night, I walked outside into the parking lot to await any folks who wanted to stand with their candles and sing a few more carols. As a sort of “extend the joy” kind of thing.
Well, it was cold and my coat was in the car. No gloves (after all these years when will I learn?) and just windy enough that I couldn’t keep my candle lit. Colleen, brave soul and fabulous sport, went with me. She was carrying the “carol” books and was prepared to sing along, too.
So we stood and waited. The organ finished inside and a woman sort of rushed at us singing “Lullay, Thou Little Tiny Child”. Not in the books, but I love this medieval carol known as the “Coventry Carol” and have sung it in choirs forever. This heavenly visitor was a bit on the shabbily dressed side and her somewhere past 70 voice cracked and creaked out the modal tune. But she sang with such force and vigor that Christmas arrived.
This morning as I recalled the experience, I began to sing it again and realized that the text of this carol is truly gruesome. No surprise it isn’t in the carol book! When our unlikely angel sang the third verse she sang with force: “Herod the King in his RAGING”. Some choir director in her past had really called for the gas on that word, because she just about yelled “RAGING”. It was amazing! “RAGING” indeed!
The verse goes like this:
Herod the King in his RAGING charged he hath this day. His men of might in his own sight – all young children to slay. Then woe is me poor child for thee. And ever mourn and say. For thy parting, not say nor sing: By, By Lully, lullay.
Yes, Christmas came for me in that moment. It came because the miracle of Christmas is that God would come to us as a defenseless child and invite us to love when slaughter is more often on our minds. And this year the murderous killing of children is certainly on our minds. Not just in Sandy Hook, but in Somalia, Afghanistan, and Oakland.
Can we learn to love one another the way a grandparent loves a brand new grandchild? With utter abandon and contentment, fierceness and vigor? When we do then Christmas will come to us everyday.
Merry Christmas ya’ll! I’m off to Texas . . .
Here’s a lovely version, though in my view, Herod doesn’t RAGE enough: