An Advent Devotional, by Rev. Allison Lanza
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
“Glory to God in the heavenly heights. Peace to all men and women.”
-Luke 2:13-14a MSG
There is something about singing.
There the shepherds were, settling in for another long night of work, when much to their surprise, a messenger of God appeared before them. They were terrified! But the angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior will be born to you. He is Christ the Lord.”
Here is what I like to imagine happened next. There was a group of angels watching this scene and they just couldn’t contain themselves anymore. God was being born on Earth! Good news was coming to the poor, healing to the sick, and love to all people! And they finally got to tell someone! They were giggling and laughing and crying joyful tears and they couldn’t help but sing! Together they burst onto the scene and burst out in song.
There are times we are so full we have to sing.
When I served a church, I went to the hospital late one night to sit with a church member who was living her final hours on earth with us. Life had not been easy for her. She spent much of life in housing projects and wheelchairs, struggling with poverty and struggling with her health. When I sat by her bed, she took my hand and began to sing. It started quietly. After a while I joined in with her. We both became overwhelmed by the palpable reality of God’s presence with us. It was something words can’t describe. Together for hours we sang the old gospel hymns off-key, quietly and then loudly, with tears in our eyes and with great joy. People kept walking by in the hallway giving us strange looks. But we kept right on singing. We were so full we couldn’t help ourselves.
One Christmas I went with a group of women to go caroling at an assisted living center where some of our friends lived. We arrived to find a crowd. They were gathered on chairs and couches and walkers and wheel chairs, waiting expectantly to hear the songs of Christmas. Now, a few women in our group had some actual musical talent. However most of us could, at best, make a joyful noise. We passed out bells, hoping they would drown out our off key sounds. Then we began to sing. We sang apprehensively at first. I was worried that the folks gathered would be annoyed that they had gotten dressed and come down from their rooms for just this. But then I began to look out at their faces.
There was the man in the front row laughing, singing along, and clapping wildly after every song in encouragement.
There was the woman a couple rows back who mouthed the words to every verse of every song with a look in her eyes like she was remembering a life time of singing these carols.
There was the man in the back who smiled while his hands directed us in song.
There was the woman, right in the center, who I couldn’t take my eyes off of. In the first songs, tears began to fill her eyes. After a few songs, she was openly weeping and singing along with a smile on her face. The music caused something deep inside of her to well up. I think it might have been joy.
You see, joy and happiness are different. Happiness comes in times of light and ease. God’s joy breaks forth in the hard times. That is the good news of Christmas, into our broken world, in the most unexpected way, God is born. God’s joy is like streams of living water breaking forth in the desert. God’s joy is like a baby born in a barn in Bethlehem who is God with us, then, now and forevermore. It is so unexpected and unimaginable, that it fills us, wells up inside us and overflows into singing
Let us pray,
You have burst onto the scene when we need you most. We didn’t expect to see you here, and yet here you are. We are so full and so grateful for your presence that we can’t help but join the angels in singing, “Glory to you, God in the highest, and on earth peace among all people” Amen