“ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH”

LUKE 2: 8-20

DECEMBER 24, 2012

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            An ancient legend tells of how God called the angels of heaven together one day for a special choir rehearsal.  He told them that he had a special song that he wanted them to learn ... a song that they would sing at a very significant occasion.  The angels went to work on it.  They rehearsed long and hard with great focus and intensity.  In fact, some of the angels grumbled a bit, but God insisted on a very high standard for his choir.

            As time passed, the choir improved in tone, in rhythm, and in quality.  Finally, God announced that they were ready, but then he shocked them by telling them that they would sing the song only once and only on one night.  Again, some of the angels grumbled.  The song was so extraordinarily beautiful and they had worked so hard on it surely they could sing it many, many times.  God only smiled and told them that when the time came, they would understand.

            Then one night God called them together.  He gathered them above a field just outside of Bethlehem.  "It's time," God said and the angels sang their song.  O my, did they sing it!  "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and good will toward all," and as the angels sang, they knew there would never be another night like this one, and that there would never be another birth like this birth as well.

            When the angels returned to heaven, God reminded them that they would not formally sing that song again as an angelic choir, but if they wanted to, they could hum the song occasionally as individuals.  One angel boldly stepped forward and asked God,  "Why?"  Why couldn't they sing that majestic anthem again?  They did it so well. It felt so right.  Why couldn't they sing that great song anymore?

            "Because," God explained, "my son has been born and now earth must do the singing!"

            And oh, how we have tried.  Without question, one of the best and most beloved parts of the celebration of Christmas is the music!  The good news of Christmas is so awesome, so full of wonder, that it's not enough to just talk about it.  We have to sing it.

            And we do.  There are the powerful anthems of Handel and Beethoven and Mozart and Bach.   There are beloved carols like "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Joy to the World," "The First Noel," "O Come All Ye faithful," and "Silent Night." Then there are pop songs like "Jingle Bells," "Winter Wonderland," and "I'll Be Home For Christmas."

            I've been listening to Star 104.5 "The Christmas Station" on my way to church  for the past couple of weeks.  This week I heard Kellie Clarkson sing "My Grown Up Christmas List."  Have you heard it?  She sings,

           

            Do you remember me? I sat upon your knee

            I wrote to you with childhood fantasies

            Well, I'm all grown up now and still need help somehow

            I'm not a child but my heart still can dream

 

            So here's my lifelong wish

            My grown up Christmas list

            Not for myself

            But for a world in need

 

            No more lives torn apart

            That wars would never start

            And time would heal all hearts

 

            And everyone would have a friend

            And right would always win

            And love would never end, oh

            This is my grown up Christmas list

 

            For all the grown-ups here this evening, what's on our list?  Here's what I would like for every person here. 

            First, I would like us all to be right with God.  If we ever want to experience all that Christmas has to offer it begins here. 

            A man named Hugh Litchfield took his 5-year-old son Christmas shopping one Saturday morning.  It was just a day or so before Christmas and the store was packed with shoppers.  Hugh Litchfield told his son to stay near him, to not wander off because he might so easily get lost in the crowd.  After they had shopped together for a while, Hugh was buying something for his wife at one of the department store counters.  When he completed the purchase he looked back and his little 5-year-old son was not there. He had drifted off!  Hugh Litchfield began frantically searching for his son.  He called out to him; he rushed through the crowd looking for him everywhere, but no luck.  He could not find him.  He moved quickly to the candy counter and then to the toy department, but no, he wasn't anywhere to be found.

            Just as Litchfield was about to go into a panic, suddenly he heard this announcement over the department store loudspeaker: "We have a lost boy here!  If you have lost your little boy, please come to the service desk."  Litchfield hurriedly made his way there, and sure enough, there was his lost child.  The reunion was celebrative with lots of hugs and words of love and visits to the candy counter and the toy department.  They had been apart, but they had found each other again!  They had been brought back together.

            Now, think about this.  You may have wandered off, drifted away, but God wants you back.  It will be an especially joyous Christmas if we are right with God.

            The other thing on my Christmas list this year is that we would be right with other people.  It's impossible to be right with God if we are wrong with people. 

            I saw a humorous Christmas headband.  It had mistletoe above it on a spring. So when you wear it, everywhere you go, you're under the mistletoe.  You may know that the custom of kissing under the mistletoe came from the Druids in Northern Europe.  They believed mistletoe had curative power and could cure lots of things including separation between people.  So when two enemies happened to meet under an oak tree with mistletoe hanging above them, they took it as a sign from God that they should drop their weapons and be reconciled.  They would drop their animosities and embrace one another under the mistletoe.

            When the missionaries moved into northern Europe they saw this mistletoe custom as a perfect symbol for what happened to the world at Christmas.  At Christmas a new age dawned, a time of peace, a time of healing, a time of reconciliation, a time for embracing one another.

            God comes to us in the Christ Child so that we might be set right with God and set right with other people.

            Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favors.  Amen.