by Alexei Laushkin
This season leading up to Christmas, traditionally known as Advent, can be very busy, so much so that we can miss the staggering invitation, peace, and tranquility which is the timing and pacing of God’s kingdom. “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” captures this reality well. Consider some of these lines:
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world:
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.
God in his goodness and kindness and generosity towards us stands ready to invite us into the news of his kingdom.
Have you ever considered why the birth of the Savior was announced to Shepherds? Perhaps they were calm enough to listen and receive the good news of the kingdom. When the pundits and decision makers of the time would have thought what does such an announcement mean for my place and position, the Shepherds could still receive the news with a soft hearted joy. The splendor of the ages was revealed to the lowly.
Have you ever had this overwhelming desire to be in Bethlehem, to have witnessed that first Christmas? To just receive the remarkable news of God’s son being born. To simply be one of the Shepherds or one of the wise men come to offer him gifts from afar. To have been aware enough of God’s timing to have caught the moment in which the king of the world and all therein was born.
What joy to just contemplate the thought and consider that first good news.
What the First Christmas Teaches us About All Other Ones
What I really love about “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” is the ability to capture the sense of God’s joy in the midst of our weariness and indifference. That first Christmas was pure joy celebrated against most of the world continuing as it did before, unaware of the Advent of new tidings and new beginnings.
And in some sense this is how Christmas and the Advent season is always celebrated. The great joy of God’s beginning work of salvation in the midst of our indifference and inability to be aware of what this means for us.
Consider further these lines:
For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.
There will come a time when the earth gives back the sound, when we give back the sound to which the angels now sing. There will be a time where we grasp the significance, meaning, and great love of these things. Where we too will be undone like the Shepherds or the Mother of God at the profound nature of God’s goodness.
We will celebrate Christmas as not a day of fulfilling our own desires but as the culmination and beginning of all that is good and right about God. That in his infinite goodness and kindness he desires to meet us where we are at and to bring us great tidings of great joy. The birth of a Savior, the possibility of new life, the invitation to join him at the first Christmas as we celebrate his son, the true king of the world.
The love that God has for humanity would cost him a great deal, it was sacrificial and holy and full and kind. And yet Christmas was the beginning, Advent the anticipation of that beginning. The good news that despite our sin, despite our indifference, despite our inattention, God had come into the world and begun the work, a work which in some sense culminates in revisiting that first Christmas, with the joy of the Angels and the Shepherds. To be invited back to celebrate a new what God had done and was beginning to do, for all of our sakes. The lyrics from “O Little Town of Bethlehem” captures this best:
Cast Out our sin and Enter In Be Born in Us today
Here is the invitation in the midst of all the indifference and chaos that accompanies life in this time of year, and has accompanied life in every age in this way, an invitation to new life. An invitation to good news, which is the coming of a Savior to bring God’s ways and the possibility of reconciling to him back into the human picture. Truly good news in the fullest sense for every age.
Alexei Laushkin is the Executive Director of Kingdom Mission Society