Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson
Good Christian friends, rejoice with heart and soul and voice;
now you know of endless bliss: Jesus Christ was born for this!
God has opened heaven’s door, and you are blessed forever more.
Christ was born for this, Christ was born for this!
German & Latin, 14th century
Translation: John Mason Neale, 1855
On this Christmas Day I often think of the wonderful legend shared by many countries that animals talked at midnight on that first Christmas Day. According to legend, Christ’s birth occurred at exactly midnight. Inside the stable, the animals watched in wonder as the newly born baby was wrapped in bands of cloth and placed in a manger. Suddenly, God gave voice to the animals and they began to praise God for the miracle they had just seen.
It is said that the animals’ songs of praise were begun with the rooster, Chanticleer, heralding the birth of Christ, the beginning of a new day for the whole world. The story told said the animals continued to speak for several minutes and, just before the entrance of the shepherds, who had hurried to the stable because angels had told them the Christ had been born, the animals fell silent. The legend persists in many Scandinavian countries where wide-eyed children stay up on Christmas Eve until midnight to see if the animals will talk once more.
I love that story. And it doesn’t matter to me if the animals actually spoke and sang songs of praise on that first Christmas morning, but I am intrigued by the note that accompanies the lyrics of the song cited above in the United Church of Christ New Century Hymnal. It reads, “This carol is very old. Heinrich Suso, a German mystic who died in 1366, related a vision in which angels, singing this carol, drew him into a dance. The words were originally macaronic, combining Latin phrases with the vernacular.”
Both stories, one a legend and the other a vision, are certainly filled with wonder and mystery. And that is exactly what I wish for you this morning that you will be filled with awe and wonder. Let us, for today, set aside all our knowledge and analysis of who this child, Jesus Christ, was and is. Instead, let us on this Christmas Day, in the year of our Lord, 2012, embrace the mystery that is “God With Us,” Emmanuel. Then may we sing like Chanticleer, heralding the birth of our new world; may we sing our praises like the animals on that first Christmas morning. And if we do, we may well find ourselves dancing with the angels.
Good Christian friends, rejoice with heart and soul and voice; Now give heed to what we say: Jesus Christ is born today! Ox and ass before him bow, asleep within the manger now. Christ is born today, Christ is born today! Amen! Amen! Amen!
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