~ The Word Made Flesh ~
“In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Dear Members and Friends, Christmas is no time to try new things—especially in the kitchen or at church, right? At Christmas, give us the time-honored recipes and carols of yore. In a world of endless change, Christmas comes all-too-briefly to comfort our unsettled souls with echoes of a far-off home. Its music, and smells, and tastes all remind us that we were children once, innocent and hopeful. The old things of the season speak of the changelessness of God. That’s why I’m always slow to request unpopular carols to sing in worship during Advent and Christmas. And yet, there is a Canadian carol I wish we could sing every now and again. It’s got a haunting French medieval tune. But even though the music is somber, it’s hard to sing the words with a straight face; they’re just too strange. You probably know it:
‘Twas in the moon of wintertime When all the birds had fled, That mighty Gitchi Manitou Sent angel choirs instead; Before their light the stars grew dim, And wandering hunters heard the hymn: “Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, In excelsis gloria.”
Within a lodge of broken bark The tender babe was found, A ragged robe of rabbit skin Enwrapp’d his beauty round; But as the hunter braves drew nigh, The angel song rang loud and high…
O children of the forest free, O sons of Manitou, The holy child of earth and heaven Is born today for you. Come kneel before the radiant boy Who brings you beauty, peace and joy…
Not really Christmas Eve material for Bower Hill, except maybe as a choir anthem. Can you even sing “Gitchi Manitou” with a straight face? It doesn’t take us back to the place where we need our Christmases to take us. Besides, the lyrics seem a little schmaltzy, even condescending to North American Indians… Until you learn that a French missionary to the Hurons wrote them in 1642. He wanted to put the Christmas story into terms his people would understand. And isn’t that what Christmas is? It’s a celebration of the one decisive act whereby God is finally translated into terms we understand: in a life, in all the messiness and the joy of a human person. I wonder how we might rewrite the Christmas story so that it would make clearer sense to us bored, prosperous, overworked suburbanites of the 21st century.
And so, in this season of lovely old traditions, and sentiment, and all the bittersweet echoes of innocence lost…remember the incarnation. God so desires relationship with us that God comes to us in ways we can grasp—in all the frailty and poverty of this child, out on the furthest margins of our world. How are we “incarnating” that love? Happy Advent and Merry Christmas to you. I’m glad we’re sharing this time together.
In Christ’s Peace, ~Brian