Sunday, Christmas Day, December 25, 2022
Scripture: Luke 2: 1-20
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.
And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
I thought I’d write something a little different today. Re-read the story leisurely, putting yourself as one of the shepherds. Then imagine you were setting this event to music. How could you capture the beauty and wonder of the significance of the birth of the Savior of the world? George Frederich Handel attempted to do that and more!
George F. Handel wrote the entire Messiah in 24 days. In 1741 on August 22nd he began and finished by September 14th. He never left his house for three weeks, often weeping as he wrote. Upon finishing the “Hallelujah Chorus” he commented, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself.” Handel hoped the Messiah would be used to draw people to the gospel. He wanted it performed in theaters rather than churches in order to reach more people. He wanted the music to touch people at the heart level leading them to Christ. Take time to listen to this in its entirety. It’s one of the greatest works written by a human being.
Music: “Messiah” Handel Voces8 (This is the cleanest best version I’ve heard, and I’ve heard many! You hear every note. Diction is marvelous. Terrific singers! Excellent conductor. Take the time.)
Bonus: “The Shepherd” from “The Chosen” Short film 28:00 minutes
As the Lord of yesterday, today, and forever, you made peace with everything in heaven and on earth. Your work is accomplished. We ask that you support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is accomplished. Lord, how we long for your return. In your mercy come again to this world and receive us unto yourself, grant us a safe lodging in our heavenly home, the home you are preparing for us. And grant us a holy rest, restored communion with you, and peace at last through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
-John Henry Newman 1801-1890 adapted ―Daniel Sharp