Summary: In the song of the angels we hear echoes of our ancient problems -- meaning, sin, peace -- all of which are dealt with in the coming of Christ.
The drama of Christmas is focused on a starlit night at a manger, on a mother and a babe, on the small things of life. And yet it is also wide open to eternity, it is a window into past and present and future.
The drama of Christmas seems to play on such ordinary things. Tax legislation; taxes, they say, are inevitable. Nothing special about being forced to go and pay your taxes, but the drama of Christmas tells us that even the Roman revenue apparatus was but an instrument in the hands of God. An ordinary thing, a distasteful thing, now made extraordinary.
Sheep and shepherds, spending the night in the fields, just as they had done for ages and just as they still do in that part of the world. Ordinary, usual activities, without significance except that good people go about doing what they are supposed to do, day in and day out, never thinking of themselves as being part of God’s great drama – but they are. An ordinary thing, doing your job faithfully, but suddenly thrust into earshot of the angels.
And a baby’s low cry. How ordinary. How unexceptional. Who can count how many billions of babies have been born since time began? Can there be anything special in something which has happened billions of times? Unless, of course, it is your baby. Then it’s a miracle. Then it’s very special. Every parent here felt like calling on legions of angels to sing "Glory" when his child, her child was born. The ordinary does indeed become extraordinary, the usual does become miraculous. God does it every day. God works His wonders every day, every moment. All things become the praise of His glory.
And so in the drama of Christmas there are echoes, echoes that will not die. In the drama of Christmas there are ordinary things which we know well, but there are also clues that tell us that our so very ordinary, nondescript lives, are caught up in the plan of God. That our God has spoken, and you and I are living in an age of ages, we are living in God’s time. We are no accidents, we are no mistakes; we are partners in God’s redemptive plan.
There are echoes in Christmas that will not die.
"Do you hear what I hear?" says the carol. Do you hear some echoes that will not die?
I hear on that first Christmas night a messenger of God, comforting the timid, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day … " To you, shepherds; to you, plain garden-variety folks, to you is born.
I hear an echo of the wonderful dream that anybody and everybody is of value. I hear an echo of the powerful notion that all persons count, that with God there is no refuse, with Him there are no pointless people, with Him no discounted lives. I hear an echo of something that is down deep in the soul of every person, and that is our need to be needed. Our need to have meaning.
When the messenger of God says to poor ornery shepherds like you and like I, "I bring good news of a great joy which will come to all … to all the people", that surely means that your life and my life are precious to God. We count for something in His sight. That hope we have for significance is an echo that will not die, and I hear it at Bethlehem, I hear it at Christmas.
And when the very savior is born into a peasant family, of people who work with their hands and scramble for daily bread and struggle against the tough realities of paying bills and feeding mouths, again I hear an echo that will not die. I hear an echo of the long-held hope that in the lives of real flesh-and-blood people, trying to do their best and to cope with very human relationships … I hear the hope that those lives are not lost or wasted. They matter. We matter.
Do you hear what I hear? Do you hear the echo that will not die? That ordinary lives matter?
Do you hear again what I hear? Do you hear an echo of the hope for a solution to our deepest and most basic problem? Do you hear an echo of the cry that goes back to the Garden of Eden and which springs from the throats of patriarch and prophet, sage and scholar, high and low, rich and poor? Do you hear an echo of the hope that somebody might save us from ourselves?
"Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." A savior.