Joy to the World: The Carols Have Come
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy. – Psalm 126:2a (NRSV)
There used to be a big argument in congregations about when and how to sing the Christmas carols. Everybody really wanted to sing them early, but some sticklers thought it unseemly. Why rush to Christmas? Why imitate the big box stores and their MUSAC? Why not use the season to really wait, to savor waiting, to let God creep up on us in drawing near slowly?
These questions can seem arcane but that doesn’t mean they are not important. The arcane is as interesting as the contemporary. It just comes on you slow.
We really want to sing, “Lo, he abhors not the virgin’s womb!” or “O come, all ye faithful!” and belt it out, not just once a year but every time the organ heats up. We really want to hark with the heralds that “God and sinners are reconciled.” We really want to join the “triumph of the skies.”
Most of all, we want to understand that melodious promise, “mild he lays his glory by, born that we no longer die.” Mild glory.
We often talk about our now-grown children, all in their thirties, and say, “One day we looked up and they were gone.” I don’t know why we don’t sing and notice the Christmas carols all year long. That way we won’t miss them so much.
Do those certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay not need a good carol in January as well as December, in early fall as well as December? February is much more the bleak midwinter, where frosty wind makes moan. Then the snow has really fallen, snow on snow.
Season us, O God, with the patience of waiting and the urgency to carol, over and over again.
Donna Schaper is Pastor at the Orient Congregational Church on the far end of Long Island, New York. Her newest book is Remove the Pews: Spiritual Possibilities for Sacred Spaces, from The Pilgrim Press.