Author’s note: This Sunday was another in our series of experimental proclamations; although not in line with our other intergenerational formation experiments, this was different enough and geared for multiple ages in that it was a musical interpretation of familiar Christmas scripture passages. The transcription below is from my written commentary between each musical piece. ~ Rev. Scott T. Crane, pastor
Proclamation: A musical interpretation of the Christmas Story “The Liturgical Suite” arr. Rev. Scott T. Crane
It all begins for us in this season with a baby; so long ago yet so near. When God chose to be limited – to be born as a male human child – it was incredible even to consider such shifting from divine to human. It still is today. Every year we remember that special night. For our tradition, Christmas Eve, or the Nativity of the Lord, is remembered on December 24th….Yes, it all began on a silent night long ago in Bethlehem. Please join me in singing the first verse of “Silent Night.”
Movement I: “Silent Night”
Jesus, the Messiah of the Jews, was born that silent night. But even then, as we read about in the Gospel of Matthew, God, Emmanuel, which means “God with us,” had a bigger vision for salvation. To us, a vision so big, so wide and all encompassing that it is difficult for us to see the whole story. The Gospel of Matthew tries to help us grasp it with that long genealogy in the first chapter illustrating the family tree of Jesus from Abraham, considered the progenitor of all three Abrahamic faiths, down through David and on to Jesse, the earthly adopted father of Jesus. In the Gospel of Luke, we find an even longer pedigree from Adam and Eve, the first recorded parents of the Hebrew people. These genealogies help us to see, among all the Hebrew peoples, several instances of Gentile inclusion in the family tree, making Jesus Emmanuel for all of us. The Gospel of John takes it even a step farther, when it tells us “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In effect, the mystical interpretation is that all Creation’s renewal has its beginning and its end in Emmanuel, God with us; or, as it is called, the Incarnation.
Return to the Gospel of Matthew, which we will be studying this lectionary year, for a moment. It is the only text that tells us of the Magi who came…who came from so far away that it took two years to travel after the beginning of their observation of the Christ’s star at its rising until they reached the house where they found the child with Mary his mother, and they knelt down and paid him homage. In this next piece, you will hopefully hear the strange harmonies of a distant land and people and their travel to find this baby born King of the Jews. Perhaps you will sense – and also hear – their question of the heart: “What child is this?” and their fateful meeting with King Herod, who with veiled intend also asks, “What child is this?” We know from the Gospel of Matthew King Herod demands these strange foreigners to find the child and bring him back word. Perhaps in their journey to find Jesus, you may also find an echo of your own.
Movement II: “What Child is This?”
That is the essential question of Christmas that all of us must ask, “What child is this?” How you answer it leads you down a pathway into your future, both as individuals and as a community of faith.
The arrival of Jesus begins for us in this season, at Christmastime, but taking a much longer view, the whole life of Jesus has a purpose – for me and for you. Here in this season there is the beginning of life, yes. But there is also death. Death of the innocents as meted out by King Herod in and around Bethlehem, but also in their death a foreshadowing of Christ’ own. For that is why he came – to become for all a sacrificial offering. Like Aslan in Narnia at the Stone Table, Christ’s sacrifice ends in a surprising way. This next piece seeks to encompass the broader story; the full premeditated story of Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection for all.
Movement III: The Christmas Easter Suite
In the final piece you are about to hear, we come to the heart of the Gospel as it impacts us today. Today’s story began with a birth of a baby – Jesus of Nazareth whom we know as Christ the Lord. In this final piece the Gospel comes to rest in you, a seed awaiting birth in your heart, in your soul, in your life. The invitation is to let the Messiah be born – or be born anew – in you. The transformation that is possible when the Lord of Life and Love is chief in your heart and mind is no less miraculous than God’s incarnation in Jesus, born of Mary.
Through Advent candles, we have explored Hope, Peace, and Joy; and today we contemplate Love. The love of God for the world, the love of Jesus for you, and the Holy Spirit waiting to be born anew in your life and in this community of faith. If you listen carefully, you may even hear these words over and over: The love of God – Be born in you. The love of God – be born in you . . . be born in you.