Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Prayer This Christmas

I'm so glad Christmas comes around every year. For one thing, from January onward, I grow so increasingly weary of the violent conflict and unkindness in the world that by December I usually need a good dose of comfort and joy.

I tend to start listening to Christmas carols the day after Thanksgiving, and every year I'm amazed at the sheer power of the words of the Christmas story to soothe my soul and refresh my faith: Don't be afraid. Good news for everyone, everywhere. A Savior is born! God-with-us. Glory to God and peace on earth. Blessed is she who believes that God will do what He has promised. For nothing is impossible with God.

Each year I seem to need that message of hope more and more. This year I've felt especially discouraged by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this year I've been especially struck by the third stanza of It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven's all-gracious King."
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The bless├Ęd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Lord Jesus, have mercy on those who suffer. Have mercy on those who cause their suffering. Rescue us from ourselves. Enable us to hear the love-song that Your angels sing, and inspire us join them. Be born in us today.

*** Updated to add: Here's a beautiful article about this poem/carol's message of hope and rest, sent by a thoughtful friend. Thanks, Ruth!

*** Updated again! to add: Here's an amazing video of the Christmas story (as portrayed by a family serving in Haiti, authors of the blog linked above) complete with donkey and goats as well as original music. Gorgeous!