We will celebrate Christmas in song. No surprise there – whether in the four songs of Luke’s Nativity story, or our carolling traditions or the constant soundtrack of popular favourites – we will sing our way through Christmas.
In choosing our carols I try to ensure that across each service most of the favourites are sung but will also include something rare – it might just be or become someones favourite. It means that I get to sing everything at least once and hopefully congregations will as well. I have a particular liking for Carols that have strong harmonies and descants (I can’t sing them but love to be there as better voices soar) and those carols telling the story of Jesus and sharing hope, wonder and joy.
On both counts “Hark! the Herald Angels sing” hits the mark. It speaks of glory, peace, mercy, reconciliation, joy, adoration, incarnation, and a restored relationship between God and creation all set to a wonderful tune that reaches new heights when the descant amplifies the final verse
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings
risen with healing in his wings …
But in different ways, I also love to be reminded that “God surprises earth with heaven, /coming here on Christmas Day” The hymn that takes us there is so modern, asking the questions that challenge so many assumptions,
Who would think that what was needed
to transform and save the earth
might not be a plan or army
proud in purpose, proved in worth?
It is sung to such an innocuous tune in Scarlet Ribbons, that we could be tempted to dismiss such offering as unbecoming in worship – yet it reminds us that if we seek to follow this story through into our everyday lives, that God will surprise us, calling people to live in ways that challenge a world so often deaf to God’s wisdom.
May God surprise you this Christmas;
May you hear the angels sing;
and know God’s blessing for the New Year