No media available

Christmas Eve: Sing to the Lord a New Song!

Once again, we gather to celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus, the Messiah, long prophesized and now birthed by Mother Mary in a place that normally housed animals…. 

The passages we heard tonight I hope are familiar to you—the OT prophet Isaiah saying a child has been born FOR US; a son given FOR US; one who is wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace.  The Christmas story as told by Luke is almost a requirement for a Christmas Eve service—can you imagine gathering on this holy night and NOT hearing from Chapter 2? But there’s one scripture that I dare say none of us would associate with Christmas Eve:  Psalm 96.  This passage is also assigned for this night and although rarely read, I wanted to share Verses 1 and 2:  

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless the name of the Lord; 

proclaim God’s salvation from day to day.

Cameron Howard, an OT professor at Luther Seminary in a gift to pastors wrote a letter encouraging them/us in this busy time.  And do you know what she wrote about?  Psalm 96 and this amazing invitation to Sing a New Song, to the Lord and all the Earth!  Blessing the name of the Lord and proclaiming Gods salvation, Not just today but day to day!   

Her words stirred up my imagination.  Sing a New Song!  Initially I thought Sing a new Song??  On Christmas?  Are you kidding?  We all, Pastors included, love the beauty of singing the same hymns and closing with Silent Night while holding a small white candle with paper circles protecting your hand from the melting wax.  And going out into the pitch black night after singing JOY TO THE WORLD!  So, the exhortation to sing a NEW SONG on this Holy night made me pause, think, reflect and yes, soar with exhilaration.

You see, looking at our beloved Christmas Gospel, I realized that Luke shares not just one but four new songs in the beginning of his Gospel of Jesus Christ.   For isn’t that what Mary did as she sang her response to the news that she would indeed be bringing the savior of the world into being?  Or Zechariah who received the news that his son John would be coming before, paving the way for his cousin.  

And the Angels, the belting out of Glorias for a band of shepherds was a new song as far as we know.  And then in a few verses that follow tonight’s reading we get Simeon who sings in the temple about the boy who has been brought in by his parents….   

Indeed, they all DO sing a new song!  

And how about us?  Sing a new song, sing to the Lord and all creation Psalm 96 cries out.  But What is new for us to sing about?  Isn’t this beloved night about hearing the old, old story?  Gathering around the manger with Mary, sitting in the dark with the shepherds in the beauty of the night, and then in awe, gazing at the heavenly hosts?  Finally traveling with the shepherds to Bethlehem to see the newborn Savior, swaddled and with his parents?  How are we to respond to the Psalmists command for us to sing a new song?  At Christmas??

Well, none of the four new songs in Luke Chapters 1 & 2 were composed out of nothing, a void -- Mary’s sounds a whole lot like the one Hannah’s sang centuries before her.  

All of the NEW SONGS THEY SANG come out of the old, old story!  The story of God coming to us, because God has always longed and always will long for us to know and love God!  The story of our God, who is very aware of the economic, political, familial realities that people of every time experience.  Whose story is interwoven with that of earth’s people and her rulers… 

Into this world, Jesus arrives as part of that old, old story!  

The songs shared surrounding that first Christmas were new!  And they fulfilled the psalmists call for people of faith of every time to 

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. 

Sing to the Lord, bless the name of the Lord; 

proclaim God’s salvation from day to day.

And that is what the shepherds did!  After witnessing the angels and seeing the baby for themselves, they started telling THEIR story -- of how they experienced God!  I imagine they sang out.  Their words rang out… they told their story!  They used their voices and trusted the Holy Spirit to do the rest!  And what happened?  All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.

That’s all we have to do as well!  We are to discover the place where God’s love comes down!  Individually, in our own time, at our own hour, we are to discover the place where God’s love has broken through.  And we are invited to add our voice to the chorus and sing a song, one that is new for you this day, December 24, 2021, of how God has been born for you and in you.  Sing about what you have heard and seen, what you have experienced!  Sing a song that rises up out of the old, old story!  

As Cameron Howard wrote “you are one voice in the chorus of witnesses to God’s faithfulness through the ages. You don’t have to reinvent the melody, nor do you have to carry this tune by yourself! Singing to the Lord a new song can be as simple as adding your voice. The Spirit will do the rest.”  Amen I thought.  We are invited to share the story!  Add your voice!  

2021 has been a year of mixed blessings for most of us—yes wonderful things have happened but our list of what has caused us deep despair is long.  Medical illnesses, Covid-19, dysfunction in ourselves and our families, the deaths of dear friends and family members, chaos in our government, suffering of our fellow humans in our country and around the world because of weather events, hunger, addictions, violence and injustice.  Let’s be honest this night, our hearts have hurt so often.  

And you know what?  It was no different in 1st Century Palestine.  It’s hard being human.  God knows that.  So, God came, for us, as one of us!  

So, let’s join the chorus of angels, shepherds, Mary & Joseph, and other people throughout the ages who respond to this great news for the world.  

The Messiah has been born for you and for me and for all people.   Go out and tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere!  God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn because you matter, I matter, everyone matters, all creation matters!  God came to us, for us and consequently, we are invited to share all that we have experienced!  Tell your story my friends- of where and how you have experienced God.   

Let us all raise our voices and sing a new Song.  One that bursts forth from the old, old story of Jesus and His Love!