The
Christmas carol most often used as the processional for Christmas services,
certainly in the Anglican Church, is O
Come All Ye Faithful. This popular carol, often heard in department stores bizarrely
alongside Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, was
originally published in Latin in the 17th century. as Adestes Fideles

O Come All Ye Faithful is attributed to a number of authors; among
them are the 13th century Italian saint Bonaventure, to various Cistercian religious orders in different parts
of Europe, to the musicologist King John IV of Portugal and several others, and
it’s even considered as a coded ode to Bonnie Prince Charlie! It has been
translated into dozens of languages and probably one of the most popular Christmas
carols of all time In contrast with most other carols, especially Victorian-era
favourites, is neither theologically or sociologically suspect, nor too long! (although
there are extra verses)

When we do sing O
Come All Ye Faithful we know Christmas is here again, and it’s come whether
we are ready or not. Christmas comes even if we don’t want it to, because of
the deep memories of grief or loss invoked, since one or more family members
will be missing from our Christmas dinner table. Christmas comes even when we
choose to ignore it.

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Christmas comes in all its wonder—infused with all
of our human baggage. Don’t believe me? Just look around you tonight / today;
you may see some people you really don’t know at all, and others at church that
you don’t see in this place very often. You’ll see whanau and families gathered
from afar, home for the holidays; and maybe some people camping or staying with
friends.

And we have children and mokopuna squirming and wriggling,
and waiting to get home to wait for Santa – or to open presents – it’s pretty
tough, isn’t it, having to wait?

We could wonder why people are here; people who
don’t come to church very often, perhaps only at Christmas or for baptisms and
other whanau events? They might be here under duress, ‘cos Nanny told them to, and
I guess many of you would rather be somewhere else!

But wait a minute; stop looking at everybody else.
Why are you sitting in the pew? What do you bring with you this night
/day? What are your hopes? Are you looking for a miracle? Do you come to
celebrate God’s amazing and prodigal love for all of creation as we’ve sung in
the words of O Come All Ye Faithful—even
for you? Is it tradition that brings you out tonight / this morning? Or do you
bring enough baggage to fill a small shipping container?

And me, standing here looking out at a church
that’s fuller than the usual Sunday service, where am I right now? Some years ago
I found that I can be so exhausted from the hectic pace of the season that I merely
may be going through the motions, spending what’s left of my energy staying
focused on worship leadership?

Or are we are still filled with the wonder of this
festal gathering of the saints, of a story so ancient and timeless, and of the
presence of Christ in word and sacrament?

Whatever has brought us to worship, my wish for you
is that somehow, some way, you will pause and let the impact of God’s gift
break your heart open, filling you with amazing grace and love.

Drink in the familiar verses about angels and
shepherds, about the Word made flesh that dwells among us. Sing the carols with
gusto, even if you don’t know the tune well or feel you are singing out of tune.
Allow yourself to drop your defences, lay down your pain, and stand tall among
the sinner-saints of God. Be assured of forgiveness, take the bread and wine,
and go forth equipped to share the gift that can’t be returned or worn out or
rendered outdated.

In the words of O Come All Ye Faithful in modern translation:

Yes, Lord, we greet you,
Born for our salvation;
Jesus, to You be
the glory given;
Word of the Father,
Now in the flesh
appearing,
O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him
Christ the Lord

Go and share this priceless gift with others, so that all may know the good
news of Jesus. Kia ora tatou. Merry Christmas!

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