Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Upon a midnight clear

It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old,
from angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, good will to all, from heaven's all-gracious king":
the world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing.

A song.  Not some windy and accusatory finger-pointing sermon, though such would have certainly been justifiably preached at a world that already was well-versed in humans hating and enslaving and degrading one another.  Not a treacly, gloppy effusion of hyper-sentimental mock poetry, or painfully earnest talk of "feelings" or some other embarrassing display of sanctimonious goo.  No, this news, this radical, world-upsetting news, this divine intervention to end all interventions, this ultimate offense against our human sense of superiority and self-sufficiency, had to be delivered in a song.

Still through the cloven skies they come, with peaceful wings unfurled,
and still their heavenly music floats o'er all the weary world:
above its sad and lowly plains they bend on hovering wing,
and ever o'er its Babel sounds the blessed angels sing.

The song is not stopped; the worst we can throw at it cannot, will not silence it.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife the world has suffered long; 
beneath the heavenly hymn have rolled two thousand years of wrong;
and we at war on earth hear not the tidings that they bring;
O, hush the noise and cease the strife to hear the angels sing.

We humans excel at war.  We excel at the multi-national kind, with armies massing against one another with spears or swords or cannon or rifles or bombers or drones; we excel at the more personal kind, with weapons made of words, or with fists or clubs or ropes for hanging or sainted beatified handguns.

We are failures at peace.  We fall even short of the low bar of goodwill.  In our heart of hearts we have to admit that much of the time we really don't want to be good at those things; war is more fun, until it isn't anymore, and then hating others for getting us into the war we were screaming for in the first place is more satisfying than admitting that our screams for war were wrong and hateful and sinful to begin with.

And yet, amidst the noise of our noisiness, the song will not be silenced.

And you, beneath life's crushing load, whose forms are bending low, 
who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow,
look now, for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing:
O, rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing.

You whose forms are bending low, bowed under the weight of poverty, of homelessness, of enduring the spittle-flecked hatred of people who claim a fictional, weaponized, whitewashed Jesus as a club to batter you for your poverty or homelessness or merely being what God created you to be; the song is for you.  It may not come swiftly, it may come so slowly as to leave us despairing that it will ever come at all, but the hour is coming, and the song of peace will yet become the reign of peace, and not merely of peace, but of shalom -- real, pervasive, more-than-peace peace, when all is fulfilled, all is in its right place in God's good created world, all is in right relation to God and to one another.  The song continues; the day will come.

For lo, the days are hastening on, by prophet bards foretold,
when with the ever-circling years comes 'round the age of gold,
when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling, 
and the whole world give back the song which now the angels sing.

It will come; the song of peace will be the song of all of us, even if some can only sing it with throats poisoned with bile.  The song of peace, the song of a child who becomes a dividing, upsetting, empire-rattling Man of Peace and Man of Sorrows, who suffered and continues to suffer the flaying and crucifying of those who fawn over manger scenes and those who scorn them; that song will continue, even if no one sings it, until all will sing it, and peace will be more than a dream.

Rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing.

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