Written by Matt Fitzgerald
Before starting, the meeting host should print out enough copies of this page (click on green printer icon above) for everyone in the group.
After general introductions, word of welcome and review of guidelines for small groups the meeting host will:
1. Invite someone to read the daily devotion printed below aloud.
2. Read the following introduction to the full text aloud:
In this devotion, Rev. Matt Fitgzerald talks about revising Christmas carols to reflect updated values and beliefs. In addition to the sexism of “Good Christian men,” he focuses on the adjective “Good” which he says is a way of separating people into the “good” and the “bad.” The word “friends,” he says, is a big improvement. It points to the way worship brings together diverse people we might never choose as friends. What do you think of his claim that in church, “We share the newborn Jesus who connects us across all our differences”?
3. Read the full text again (below): Luke 2:8-14
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,[a] the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,[b] praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”[c]
4. Take a minute or two for silent contemplation.
5. As a group, reflect on the following questions (remember to refrain from cross-talk):
What word, phrase or image jumps out at you from this reading? Everyone shares without commentary.
What’s God saying to you in this passage? (remember to refrain from cross talk)
What is the call to action for you and/or for our faith community? (feel free to engage in group conversation when discussing calls to action).
6. Close the meeting by praying the Lord’s Prayer together.
Living Inside the Miracle
"Glory to God in the highest heaven!" - Luke 2:14
Good Christian friends rejoice, with heart and soul and voice; now give heed to what we say: Jesus Christ is born today."
People complain about the New Century Hymnal. "They changed the words!" I reply, "Yes they did. For good reason." But when December arrives I join the chorus. "They changed the words. Of Christmas carols!"
Such edits are hard to accept. And yet, the New Century Hymnal saved my favorite carol.
"Good Christian men rejoice, in heart and soul and voice." You can't sing that. Even if you want to accept the sexism, the claim itself is off. What about bad Christian men? Aren't we the ones who ought to rejoice when grace is born among us? Great tune, lousy carol.
But the edit, "Good Christian friends rejoice" changes everything. First, it is inclusive. And as a bonus the adjective "good" no longer applies to Christians. Instead, it describes our friendship.
I have close friends who identify as atheist. Our kids are the same ages. We have the same politics. We enjoy the same restaurants. We crack each other up. It is an easy affinity. We have everything in common.
Except for the most important thing.
Meanwhile, my friends at church are a diverse group. We aren't the same age. Not all of them have kids. Our politics differ. We don't all live in the same neighborhood. They don't always get my jokes. To be honest, most of us don't have much in common at all.
Except for the most important thing.
We share the newborn Jesus who connects us across all our differences. Christ forms a tighter bond than easy affinity and similar interests ever could. To have a friend is a great gift. But to have a friend in Christ? That's when we start living inside the manger's miracle.
Dear God, thanks for giving us the good, unlikely friends we find in church