The Music and The Story: A Christmas Reflection
I remember talking to a friend that played Christine in “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway for several years. After one performance, she took us backstage. It was fascinating to see how so much could be constructed in so little a space to meet the needs of all the scenes. That’s genius in the arts. As we were walking through the set and meeting the other actors, I asked her, “When you have played the same part for years, how do you work up the motivation to do it again, night after night?” Her answer was simple. “At the first chords of the music, the whole story begins in my head.”
There is something to that, isn’t there? The music and the story. Just a few days ago, I landed in Singapore on a Korean Airlines flight and the music of Christmas was playing. Through the streets of Singapore, it was the same thing. All of a sudden, the heart rolled back the memories of the years gone by. The Christmas Season and the Christmas Story.
In our family every year, for many years, all 25 of us, including fourteen young children, gathered together in one of our homes for about three or four days under one roof. From the food to the laughter, it made for a glorious time. Then the day came when one by one, each family would leave for other commitments, and there was a sense of sadness that another reunion was over. And year after year, with the loss of one parent or another, there was a missing face.
The years have gone by. Now each family celebrates Christmas in their own way because the children have grown and married, and these special occasions are shared between multiple families.
We love seeing the grandkids enjoy the season. The sparkle on the trees is outdone by the sparkle in their eyes. Children love Christmas, and rightly so. It is the story of a birth, a birth in every way: The birth of a child, the Savior; the new life he makes possible for each one of us, a new beginning as the past can be covered; a new year around the corner; and most importantly, the promise of eternal life even with the ones gone before.
The year 2017 will go down as one of political turmoil in many parts of the world. The divide between the right and the left is deeper and more fraught with conflict than I ever remember. But the story of the up and down remains forever beautiful. God sent his Son down to earth to seek and to save that which was lost. No matter how the years go by, the songs and the message of Christmas are ever new.
“Unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given.” So much symbolism behind the reality. Born of a Virgin, yet giving us the beauty of the consummation of human love in marriage. Born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread, yet people still don’t know that he is the bread of life. The Lamb of God, visited by ordinary shepherds. Recognized by royalty as the King he was, yet he wore no royal robes. Born in a makeshift home so that we might never be homeless. Taken by his parents to Egypt so that we might live free. Raised by a carpenter though he had framed the world by his word. The Ruler of the world, but desiring to rule in our hearts. Amazing story! Amazing love! Amazing salvation!
There is no other story like this. From Genesis to Revelation, he is the centerpiece.
Yet as we look around today, who gives him his place? Not the educators, not the media, rarely any ruler, and not most people. And then we wonder why the world is such a mess.
Here I am in my seventy-second year, more thrilled than ever for the Christmas Story. The angels announced it. We sing it or preach it; our lives must live it. How do we keep it fresh every day?
Hear the chords of the music peel it out:
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings: Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die; Born to raise the sons of earth; Born to give them second birth. Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”
Those beautiful words were written by Charles Wesley. The hymn was originally sung to a different tune until about a hundred years later, Felix Mendelssohn wrote a cantata to commemorate the invention of the printing press. William H. Cummings took Mendelssohn’s music and adapted it to “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” the tune we now sing. How fitting that the music that was written to celebrate the printing press and dissemination of the written word we now sing to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Word of God. “The word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth,” the apostle John said.
Let that Word speak peace to your heart this Christmas. Sing the songs anew and remember the story. Times may change; families may lose loved ones, but the story of Christmas is the story of our eternal home. Even so, come Lord Jesus.
A Merry Christmas to all of you from all of us at RZIM. Thank you for all you have done for us. We enter the new year together and pray for this same Story to conquer new lives.
Ravi and the RZIM team