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The unbridled joy of the Christmas mystery

Fr Henry Whisenant reflects on the joy of the Christmas mystery.

Sing, sing all earth!

Sing, sing all earth the eternal praises sing,

to our Redeemer, to our Redeemer

and our Heavenly King!

This is the refrain to my favourite Christmas carol – and one that deserves to be better known – called Shepherds Arise. The refrain expresses the unbridled joy of the Christmas mystery. Incidentally it seems to me that the joy of Christmas is somehow different in character from the joy of Easter.

That of Easter is grand, solemn, and salted with the bitter experience of the Cross and mankind’s cruelty to God. It is a mystery that already has a foot in the formidable realm of eternity. But the joy of Christmas is like a childlike riot of colour and wonder, happy to stay up all night and sing in the child who changes human history forever. Perhaps that’s why carolling has become such an integral part of this season’s customs, and why it’s the custom that the secular world clings to longest and most fondly.

At the heart of this singing is something other than just joy at the birth of a baby. It is adoration of the incarnate God. It is wonder that the Creator of the Universe has entered into his Creation. Christmas carols recall us to our primary role of being adorers.

When Jesus was born into the world, the sophisticated and the clever did not adore him, for they did not know him, and they had forgotten how to adore. “Too much to do! Too many things going on! How should we have the time?” This is how the world today lives. Adoration, our main purpose as human beings, has been squeezed out of our schedules.

But adoration will never be silenced. The great and the worthy do not come to worship the child, but the single star in the heavens bows over his abode, and the animals of the stable bend the knee. And you, stars of the heavens, O bless the Lord!… And you, beasts wild and tame, O bless the Lord! To him be highest glory and praise forever!

The world sings a silent song to its creator that we, if we are canny, can pick up. And what about us? Will we take our place in that great paean to the Almighty born of the Virgin? Or will we be the only section of the orchestra that refuses to play?

Sing, sing all earth the eternal praises sing,

to our Redeemer, and our Heavenly King!