Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Some people thrive on the unexpected. Others tend to be more comfortable within the realm of the known and the routine. I am someone that would fall into that latter category. It’s not that I am against surprises or unexpected occurrences, but I don’t necessarily go out of my way to seek them out. Often times, they find me.
Christmas is a time for the unexpected. If you put up a real tree in your house, each year you go and find one at a tree farm, the hardware store, or Costco and there is a certain unknown as to what it will look like and how it will fill out the room. There are gifts wrapped and placed under the tree that hold a sense of mystery to them. What could be inside? And then there is an annual tradition that I like to do with my family: drive around and look at Christmas lights. It’s always an adventure and you never know what might lie around the next corner or down the next block. You could round the bend and be greeted by the most amazing light display ever! All the flashing and glowing and brightness that illuminates the dark night.
There is a famous Christmas scene that sticks out in my mind in regard to the unexpectedness of the season and it happened at the very first Christmas. As the story goes in Luke 2, there were shepherds that were watching over their sheep. This overnight job was not glamorous, but the routine was probably familiar. The quiet hills were known, landmarks remembered, what would happen during those midnight hours was expected. Perhaps they were feeling tired, some maybe even nodded off. The faint light of the moon and stars set the stage for what would be another normal night.
But then the unexpected happened! Bright light burst through the clouds, sound and noise came crashing into their ears throttling them awake. Countless angels filled the sky and their voices seemed to echo off the walls of the valley. I would guess that the shepherds didn’t see this coming! This was not how things normally go! And yet God moves in the unexpected. He enters the scene and delivers Good News that might be unexpected but is greatly needed.
The angels were sent to deliver a message, to sing out in praise, to announce the birth of God’s Son. This was a long time coming. It was like all of heaven could no longer contain the excitement and sang for all it was worth. And so, with the angelic assembly we sing and give glory to the King; the One who came to save us from sin, the One who came to bring us peace with God, the One who would live so that we would no longer die.
The bright light of the angels broke through the night sky to point to the Everlasting Light that would chase away the darkness of sin in our lives. The shepherds saw, heard, and witnessed the majesty of this song. They were captivated by the magnitude of what they angels had said, and we read that they hurried off to find this Promised One. And when they arrived, all they could do was worship. The only response that even seemed adequate was to worship. Let us again be brought to a place of worship this Advent season as we contemplate the Christ Child and the significance of the gift and hope we have today because of His arrival.
O Little Town of Bethlehem
I have really been loving this series that we are going through this Advent season. If anything, it has given me even more of a reason to listen to the Songs of the Season, although I am not sure I needed much of a reason in the first place.
This week, we will get the distinct honor and privilege to once again hear from one of our own: Steve Brue. Steve is a former Lutheran Brethren pastor and principal at Hillcrest Lutheran Academy in Fergus Falls, so we are in for a treat as he shares with us from God’s Word.
Our song for this week is “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and this is one of my personal favorites when it comes to carols. I can still remember singing this song to my son Luke when he was a baby as I would put him to bed. I will admit that this even took place in the summertime, but no one else was there to hear so I figured there would be no harm done.
One of the components of this song that strikes me the most is the irony behind it. From the very first line we sing, “O little town of Bethlehem…” This adjective used to describe the town of Bethlehem carries around so many connotations and connections with it and most of them are not the greatest. In our culture today, bigger is better. We are told that a 65” TV is better than a 40” one. It’s the classic small town-big city rivalry. Something that is big is seen as significant, important, impressive, and practical. Something that is small tends to be seen as just not up to par.
But this is the beauty and wonder of how our God works because time and time again we read in His Word that He operates on a much different scale. In God’s order of the universe, bigger is not necessarily better or more significant. Often times, God will use the small, weak, and seemingly insignificant things for His greater purposes. Just taking a look at the family lineage of Jesus will reveal a history of people who were seen by many to be nobodies and yet God used them for divine purposes.
And so, we come to little Bethlehem. Bethlehem was a sleepy, quiet town that was no booming center of commerce or culture like Jerusalem. Bethlehem was out of the bigger picture and yet this was the place where the Savior would be born. Significance would once again shine out of the seemingly insignificant as God would act again. In Micah 5:2, we read: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
I am really glad that God chooses to work through that which is seen as weak because that is where myself and most of us are at. On our own, we aren’t that big of a deal and yet God chooses to use us for His greater purposes. How amazing is that?! Let us be blown away again this Advent season by how our God works and may we be given eyes to see God at work in the little things.
What Child Is This?
Well, the Advent season is upon us full bore and my laptop, car radio, and Echo Dot at home remind me of this every day as they flood my ears nonstop with the tunes of Christmas. As I mentioned last Sunday, we will be taking a look together at some various Songs of the Season to remind us and have us revisit the promise of Christmas through the lyrics and Scripture references that helped to shape these songs. Each of these songs that many have heard and sung for years are chalk-full of the joy, expectancy, and hope that is delivered to us in Christmas. It is at Christmas that we remember, celebrate, and rejoice that God fulfilled His promise to the world to send One who would save us, set us free, and restore our relationship with Him. It is at Christmas that we remember, celebrate, and rejoice that God sent His Son to us to be born, live a perfect live, and die in our place so that we could look forward to new, true life with Him someday in paradise. And so, we sing…we hear the Songs of the Season in a new way that causes us to remember and rejoice.
This Sunday, we will be looking at the song, “What Child is This” and we will not only be singing it as a congregation, but we will be having it sung to us by the children of Oak Hill. This Sunday is our annual Sunday School Christmas Program, which is always a favorite of mine, as we get to hear the message, hope, and joy of Christmas given to us in some creative ways by our younger family members.
It is when I watch the kids of Oak Hill sing their hearts out, deliver their lines, and smile away that I am reminded of my days as a young guy in programs like this at my home church. Maybe you can relate to my experience of being the kid in the back row that would be as stiff as a board, looking down at the floor, and not singing a word. I knew the songs and really enjoyed them, but I was too shy and nervous to join in the singing with my classmates and peers. But one particular year, I changed course. I opened my mouth and belted out the words. I looked up and gazed out at the congregation. My parents had these looks on their faces that were somewhere between shock and satisfaction. It was as if they were asking themselves: “What child is this? Ben is actually singing? It’s a Christmas miracle!”
Now, no matter what your Sunday School Christmas Program experiences were, or were not for that matter, we get to focus on the Christ Child that sent shockwaves throughout history. This was no ordinary baby. This was the Promised One of God that was there at Creation. This was the One who helped establish the Earth and set the cosmos in place. This was the Son of God. And yet, He humbled Himself and took on human flesh. He traded in His heavenly robes for the swaddling cloth of earthly parents. He left the perfection of heaven and entered a sin-filled world in a stable. What child is this? This was no ordinary child. This was the King of Kings and Lord of Lords here to fulfill God’s plan to recuse humanity from their sin. What a wonderful reminder to rest in!
Pastor Ben Bigaouette