Hark! The Herald Angels Sing- an Advent devotional for Dec. 22, 2017

This Advent season I am going to reflect on a hymn or carol daily as part of my spiritual practices. I am not sure where all these reflections will take me, but in conversation with my spiritual director, I am going to leave room for both “the head stuff” and “the heart stuff.” Some days might be more of one or another. I invite you to join me, as together we make space to listen, and be present, to sense what God might be up to. 

It’s the last Friday of Advent. It’s also the Friday before Christmas. I suspect every creature is stirring, including a mouse. Today I am humming the tune of “Hark! The Herald,” because as the ground has a fresh coat of white outside, the sun has come out. It’s a beautiful winter day in Nebraska. It’s a day where I feel hope and anticipation.

Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn king;
peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful, all you nations, rise; join the triumph of the skies;
with angelic hosts proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn king!”

I had so much fun at Beer and Carols last night. I wish the drive would have been a little less icy on the way there, but I’m so glad we were there. The fellowship, singing, dinner, and setting at the Chatterbox were all fantastic. I am also warmed by the fact that this was an example of a congregation doing something out in its community, as part of its larger community. I always love these kinds of events.

Even though I am hopeful and excited today, I do have a tinge of worry about things that are outside of my control. I worry that with this new tax reform, important resources for those in need will be cut or less available. I worry that children and young adults are being kept in limbo regarding their healthcare and immigration status because of pending (or slow to move) legislation. I am annoyed by the fact that net neutrality may now be a thing of the past, unless congress steps in to act. There is much work to be done.

At the same time though, I am thankful that this reconciliation and the hope for it, comes from God. It’s not all up to us. If it were, the paragraph above would be more than enough to turn any joy and excitement into trembling, sorrow, fear, and anger. But in spite of us, “Joyful all you, nations rise; join the triumph of the skies…”

Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come, offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see! Hail, incarnate deity!
Pleased as man with us to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn king!”

This weekend we celebrate the incarnation. We celebrate with remembering Mary and Elizabeth on the Fourth Sunday of Advent. We celebrate as people gathered together in worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, by candlelight and perhaps morning light. “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see!”

Hail the heaven born Prince of peace! Hail the Sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die,
born to raise each child of earth, born to give us second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn king!”

The Angel is singing from the top of our tree today.

“Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings. Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die…” A long-time member of my congregation passed away this week, and her funeral is currently being planned. My hope is that her family and loved ones are able to feel the joy and hope of the promise of the resurrection, and that they feel comforted and surrounded by the whole faith community.

I am also joyful this week because a few people close to me with potential health scares, have heard good news lately. I know of others who are struggling, but I give thanks for the healing and comfort they are all receiving. I also give thanks for so many friends who are in the midst of family growth and pregnancies right now, and hope that they all continue to have relatively painless and uneventful pregnancies.

Today, I am going to choose hope and joy, singing with the angels. I am going to choose gratitude. And on this Friday, as busy as it might be for you, I hope you are able to choose hope, joy, and gratitude too.


Credit/Reference: Charles Wesley, Felix Mendelssohn, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Arranged by William H. Cummings. Found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 270.

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