I will always remember my ‘star’ Christmas performance back in kindergarten days. There I was dressed up as a Christmas shepherd, with my staff, bedrobe, and head-scarf. I was so excited about being a shepherd that I forgot where I was supposed to meet the rest of the cast. So I sat down at the front of the stage and waited for them to find me. Unfortunately that lost kindergarten shepherd was never found, until the whole pageant was over. I was most disappointed, and ‘vowed’ that day to never become a famous Hollywood actor.
Almost 2,000 years ago in the little town of Bethlehem (not Bellingham, as we’d often sing as children), a little shepherd baby was born in a filthy cow barn. Many shepherds were drawn to admire this tiny little child, little knowing that this baby would one day become a Good Shepherd for many. Years later, this christmas baby-turned-thirty said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep”.
It is amazing how much that Christmas Carols speak to the hearts of adults and children alike. Those of us living on the North Shore are well aware of the remarkable popularity of the Carol Ships travelling past Deep Cove and Cates Park year after year.
Carols have a certain poetry, romance, and mystery that draws us unfailingly year after year. When we sing: “Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by”, we almost feel like we were there when the Christmas Star first shone bright. Christmas Carols teach truth, but in a subtle way that feels entirely natural. In singing “Yet in thy dark street shineth the everlasting Light”, we are reminded that there is a battle between good and evil, light and darkness, but that Light is always more powerful than darkness. No wonder the Christmas baby later called himself the Light of the World. He also said that whoever followed him will never walk in darkness, but have the light of life.
No wonder we love to sing: “The hopes and fear of all the years are met in thee tonight.” There is something about the Christmas baby that inspires hope and banishes fear, no matter how cynical or jaded we tend to be. Many Christmas Carols have a beautiful sense of stillness and quiet about them. There is so little quiet and stillness left in our fast-paced, frenetic culture. Maybe that is why we are drawn to sing: “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven.” All of us need more inner peace, more shalom in our lives. All of us need the stillness and tranquillity of the Christmas baby, known in Hebrew as Yeshua.
The deepest truths of Christmas go far beyond the beautiful tree, the tasty turkey, the colourful lights. The deepest truths are invisible and silent, but still very powerful and real. That is why we sing that “no ear may hear his coming.” Just like with the love between a man and wife, the most important things in life can’t be scientifically measured or technologically formulated. Christmas is a mystery that defies all logical attempts to explain it away. Christmas is the miracle of new birth, not only 2,000 years ago, but also potentially in our hearts. That is why so many of us never tire of singing: “Where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.”
My Christmas prayer for those reading this article is that many may discover afresh the joy of the inner meaning of Christmas Caroling.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News
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