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The words and music to “Sing We Merry Christmas” were written by C. T. Bowen and published in Carols for Use in Church by Richard R. Chope in 1894.
“When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.” Psalm 42:4
“Sing we merry Christmas,
Christmas blithe and free!
Time of holy gladness,
Mirth and minstrelsy.
Hark! the merry church bells
Hailing with sweet music
Haste we to the temple,
Wreathe our garlands green;
Deck each arch and column
For the festive scene.
Glory in the highest!
Hark the angels sing;
Glory in the highest
To our infant King! . . . ”
One of the hardest things in life is to let go of old hurts. We often say, or at least think: “What you did to me and my family, my ancestors, or my friends I cannot forget or forgive. … One day you will have to pay for it.” Sometimes our memories are decades, even centuries, old and keep asking for revenge.
Holding people’s faults against them often creates an impenetrable wall. But listen to Paul: “For anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old order is gone and a new being is there to see. It is all God’s work” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). Indeed, we cannot let go of old hurts, but God can. Paul says: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not holding anyone’s fault against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). It is God’s work, but we are God’s ministers, because the God who reconciled the world to God entrusted to us “the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). This message calls us to let go of old hurts in the Name of God. It is the message our world most needs to hear.
(Photograph by Gordon Richardson, reprinted with permission.)
The words to “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light” were written by Johann Risthann Rist in 1641 and translated from German to English by John Troutbeck about 1885. The music is by Johann Schop in 1641 with harmony by Johann S. Bach in 1734.
“And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” Isaiah 60:3
“Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light,
And usher in the morning;
O shepherds, shrink not with afright,
But hear the angel’s warning.
This Child, now weak in infancy,
Our confidence and joy shall be,
The power of Satan breaking,
Our peace eternal making.”
Reconciliation is much more than a one-time event by which a conflict is resolved and peace established. A ministry of reconciliation goes far beyond problem solving, mediation, and peace agreements. There is not a moment in our lives without the need for reconciliation. When we dare to look at the myriad hostile feelings and thoughts in our hearts and minds, we will immediately recognize the many little and big wars in which we take part. Our enemy can be a parent, a child, a “friendly” neighbor, people with different lifestyles, people who do not think as we think, speak as we speak, or act as we act. They all can become “them.” Right there is where reconciliation is needed.
Reconciliation touches the most hidden parts of our souls. God gave reconciliation to us as a ministry that never ends.
“Go Tell It on the Mountain” is an African American Spiritual dating back to at least 1865 that has been sung and recorded by many gospel and secular performers. It is considered a Christmas Carol because its original lyric celebrates the Nativity. (Wikipedia) The words were written by John W. Work Jr. (Read more from Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions by Kenneth W. Osbeck)
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upom them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.” Luke 2:8-9
“Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere
Go, tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is born.
While shepherds kept their watching
Over silent flocks by night
Behold throughout the heavens
There shone a holy light. . . . ”
The snow begins falling in elephant-ear
flakes, dusting low branches of the back-yard
maple. Harder and harder,
the snow swirls down
from white-delicious clouds. Then flakes
became smaller, and silently
the snow covers the blades of the tall, yellow grass.
When the wind blows, the drifts grow deeper.
At least, next to the deck, they do. And the deeper they
grow the more I miss the girl, warm in her snowsuit.
She’s waiting on a sled in the snow
for me to admire her “kitty-cat mittens.”
First published in Domicile under the title “The Kitty-Cat Mittens” and later in my chapbook Paper Snowflakes, available from Southern Hum Press
When we are free from the need to judge or condemn, we can become safe places for people to meet in vulnerability and take down the walls that separate them. Being deeply rooted in the love of God, we cannot help but invite people to love one another. When people realise that we have no hidden agendas or unspoken intentions, that we are not trying to gain any profit for ourselves, and that our only desire is for peace and reconciliation, they may find the inner freedom and courage to leave their guns at the door and enter into conversation with their enemies.
Many times this happens even without our planning. Our ministry of reconciliation most often takes place when we ourselves are least aware of it. Our simple, nonjudgmental presence does it.
The words to “I Saw Three Ships” are traditional and appeared in Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern, by William Sandys (London: Richard Beckley, 1833). The music is by adapted by Richard W. Adam.
I SAW THREE SHIPS. Arrangement © 1999, Richard W. Adams
This music may be freely reproduced or published for Christian worship or devotions, provided it is not altered, & this notice is on each copy. All other rights reserved. (Cyber Hymnal)
The Choir of St George’s Chapel, Windsor sing Richard Lloyd’s rendition of “I Saw Three Ships.”
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem. Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2
“I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas day, on Christmas day;
I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas day in the morning.
And what was in those ships all three,
On Christmas day, on Christmas day?
And what was in those ships all three,
On Christmas day in the morning? . . . “
To the degree that we accept that through Christ we ourselves have been reconciled with God we can be messengers of reconciliation for others. Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence. We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label. When we walk around as if we have to make up our mind about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we will only create more division. Jesus says it clearly: “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge; … do not condemn; … forgive” (Luke 6:36-37).
In a world that constantly asks us to make up our minds about other people, a nonjudgmental presence seems nearly impossible. But it is one of the most beautiful fruits of a deep spiritual life and will be easily recognized by those who long for reconciliation.
The words to “The Happy Christmas Comes Once More” were written by Nikolai F. Grundtvig in 1810 (Det kimer nu til julefest), published in his Nyeste Skilderie af Kjøbenhagen, December 23, 1817, and translated from Danish to English by Charles P. Krauth. The music is by Carl C. N. Balle.
“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14
“The happy Christmas comes once more,
The heavenly Guest is at the door,
The blessèd words the shepherds thrill,
The joyous tidings, “Peace, good will.”
This world, though wide and far outspread,
Could scarcely find for You a bed.
Your cradle was a manger stall,
No pearl nor silk nor kingly hall. . . . “