As I reflect over the events of 2012, the words from the musical Mame , “Yes we need a little Christmas now!” seems somehow prophetic. Just in the last month, we have repeatedly witnessed how dark and evil this world can be. Thirty-five people, twenty of them children in first grade, have died as the result of violence in the last two weeks alone. We struggle with economic uncertainty as we wonder what will happen if America actually does fall over the fiscal cliff on January first. And we worry if the world is safe, as unrest continues to foment in the Middle East, as North Korea and Iran continue to develop long rage nuclear missiles. Yes, with all of this going on in the world around us, we certainly can use a little Christmas now.
But not the Christmas described in Mame, we need something that goes a little deeper than “candles in the windows and carols on the spinet”. We need something that stays with us a little longer than the one that temporarily distracts us from our immediate problems. In fact, what we need is a “new song” as the psalmist tells about this evening.
This is why we gather tonight, because whether we know it or not, we are all looking for the new song the Psalmist commands us to sing. We are looking for that new song that tells us despite all that is happening in the world today, all will work out in the end. We are looking for the new song that offers us a new perspective and a renewed hope.
Were else can we find renewed hope but in the form of a new born child. There is something both hopeful and joyous when holding a new born. They are innocent to the ways of the world. They are great wellsprings of new potential, the sense of potential we seem to loose so early in life. And somehow, newborns typically bring about a sense of peace and calm to those who hold them as they sleep comfortably in the nook of an arm.
Yesterday, we heard Mary telling her cousin Elizabeth of her pregnancy as she sang the new song the Psalmist commanded. Mary’s song celebrated the new realm her child would usher in. Her song proclaimed the birthing of the long awaited kingdom where God’s divine peace and justice prevail. She sang of a world that will be free of violence and hardship. But even as she sang her song of joy and triumph, Mary knew she would have to endure the pain of labor and delivery.
As with much of the Bible, the Gospel Narrative for tonight exists on many levels. It begins as the literal historical account of an individual’s birth. And then it offers deeper meaning as we move from the literal to the metaphorical. As we move into the metaphorical, Mary becomes the metaphor for the world, the world in which we live, who waits and labors to bring forth the new order, the new realm, the reign of God. St. Paul in his letter to the Romans, writes during a time of great turmoil and persecution for Christians. In the eighth chapter, Paul offers the church comfort when he essentially tells them to hang in there, the violence of the emperor towards them are but the labor pains necessary to birth the kingdom we are waiting for. Systems people tell us, as a system moves from being dysfunctional to functional there is always a time of resistance just before the system makes the final transition. As Paul and others tell us, the violence and problems of our world today are the signs that the world is in the process of transforming as the melody of our new song is being heard.
Our Gospel narrative as metaphor tells us even more. It tells us about the character of God. Our narrative tells us that we believe in an active God, a God who is willing to get dirty, and to be among us. God, we are told, did not enter this world as royalty or choose to live in the lap of human luxury. Instead, God choose to enter the world through the lowliest of portals, in the lap of poverty, surrounded by sheep and cattle. On the darkest night, in the cold dampness of a barn, God enters the world, a place where the harshness of human reality is played out. It is here, we are told, where God choose to be among us. It is here, we learn, there is no place too dark, too dirty, or too evil where God won’t journey with us. Our narrative tells us, no matter how intense or how violent the labor pains of this world will get, God will endure them with us.
The prophet Isaiah proclaims, “the people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.” The light he tells us has come in the form of a child. This child, who is born for us, his authority rests upon his shoulders; and is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. As with any light, this child shines through the darkness. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Thomas, that he is the way, the truth and the light. Jesus as the light leads us to the ways of God and the Kingdom. Jesus as the light offers us the truth of God.
There is no doubt amidst the violence and despair of this past year, Christmas has not have arrived soon enough, as we have found our song to be, “we need a little Christmas!” For most however, this song is not enough and we have come here tonight to find a new and deeper song. A song that tells us we are not alone in the darkness, that what we are experiencing is not as good as it gets. And, as the hope we thought was lost is renewed, we find our song transformed from “we need a little Christmas” to a new song, “Glory to God in the Highest” for God is with us.”