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

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ddauthormattfitzgerald.jpgAbout the Author
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ in Chicago. He is the host of “Preachers on Preaching,” a weekly podcast sponsored by The Christian Century.