So goes the question in the famous Christmas song. The better question these days is “do you hear what I say,” because most of us aren’t listening.
Israel had concluded God wasn’t listening, either. The time when they had been welcomed in pharaoh’s court (Gen 47:1–6) was long gone. They had been enslaved by the Egyptians for 400 years and counting.
Four hundred years ago, the first English colony in the New World wasn’t yet a teenager. The Mayflower was still two years away from landing at Plymouth Rock. Don Quixote was thirteen years old, the King James Bible only seven.
A friend sent a picture recently, of the box from a nativity set. In the description on the front of the box, it had the dimensions for Joseph, for Mary, and for … baby. Which kind of misses the point of a nativity set, I think.
Another friend had someone this season tell them all sorts of horrible things about the origins of what we know as Christmas. That someone refused to celebrate it as a result, and instead celebrated Jewish holidays. That seems to me to be going the wrong direction, but whatever.
Christmas makes everyone nervous, sometimes even the ones who share the name of the one whose birth we celebrate.
It’s Christmas season and you know that means – another 184 versions of the Christmas songs that you used to love but now cringe when you hear them. In the last few years, “O Holy Night” and “O Come O Come Emmanuel”1 have proven especially popular. I have eleven of the former and a dozen of the latter, including two EPs and one CD I purchased this year that have both on them.
For all the wannabe recording artists out there, and the three current ones that haven’t already put out a Christmas album, here’s a word to the wise — the world doesn’t want another version of “Joy to the World.” Or “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Or especially “Silent Night.”
Here’s a little quiz I often give the people we counsel on finances. You only get ten seconds to answer each question, so put that fancy phone to use. Keep your eyes on the first question only right now — no peeking!
What’s the most memorable Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
Got it? OK, next question.
What’s the most memorable Christmas gift you’ve ever given?
In my experience, most people can answer the second question without a problem, but often struggle with the first one. That shouldn’t surprise us, because Jesus told us that it’s better to give than to receive.
The title’s a slight play on words for one of my favorite Christmas songs. Ryan and I have been giving each other ideas for posts for the last couple of months, and he did it again today (although this time unintentionally).
I should pause now and encourage you to use that link. Ryan’s one of my favorite people to “listen” to about music, even though I often disagree with his tastes. He’s knowledgeable, articulate, has a good ear, and the vocabulary of a good music critic. For all of those reasons, I forgive him his obsession with Charlotte Church and his dalliance with 4HIM.
In honor of our pastor’s sermon yesterday, I’m posting an old article I did years ago for an Advent booklet at a former church.
The subject is Luke 2:25-35.
The movie The Ten Commandments has a great scene, which, amazingly, involved Charlton Heston. In it, an Egyptian guard in the mud fields has stabbed an ancient Israelite for insubordination. As the old man dies, he laments about a prayer that has gone unanswered. When asked which prayer, he says, “That before God closed my eyes in death, I might behold the deliverer.” Cecil B. DeMille had the irony running as thick as the mud, because the old man’s dying words are spoken to Moses, the Once and Future Deliverer.