During the Twelve Days of Christmas, just as in the 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.
Merry Christmas! On this Christmas Day, with a beautiful blanket of snow on the ground in both Nebraska and Western Washington, I have the words and melody of one of my favorite Christmas carols ringing and singing through my mind, “Go Tell it on the Mountain.”
I should probably step back for a minute. Long before I fell in love with stewardship, and long before I received my first allowance- my first experience with money and finances, I loved music! I couldn’t help it. My mom was a music minister and church choir director. There were choirs, and bells, worship bands, clarinet playing, and piano practice… You get the idea.
I remember my first solo clearly, though. It was the morning of Christmas Day during my kindergarten year, at my home congregation in the small town of Poulsbo outside of Seattle. The sky was clear, and you could see the mountains and the bay clearly. It was a beautiful day. And fittingly perhaps, I was singing “Go Tell it on the Mountain.”
Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere;
go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!
While shepherds kept their watching o’er silent flocks by night,
behold, throughout the heavens there shone a holy light.
The shepherds feared and trembled when, lo, above the earth
rang out the angel chorus that hailed our Savior’s birth.
Down in a lonely manger the humble Christ was born;
and God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn.
Over the years, I have discovered that this carol might have slightly different meanings in places with mountains like the Pacific Northwest where I grew up, as compared to the flatter and rolling hills of Minnesota where I previously served and lived, and Eastern Nebraska where I now live and serve.
I love these words though. It’s a beautiful telling of the Christmas story. But it doesn’t just tell the story. It invites us with the refrain after each verse of the story, to do something. It invites us, to “Go,” and to “tell it.” That’s what each of us do. It’s about sharing God’s story of love we know most clearly through the incarnation and birth of Jesus, and Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It’s a story we are all stewards of, and yet, also part of God’s on-going story in the world in each of our lives.
Thinking back to kindergartner Timothy, his voice was a lot higher than my voice today obviously. His hair was a lot redder, and he was a bit shorter. But the smile on his face singing this hymn as a solo on Christmas Day some 25 years ago, I hope is the same smile that still comes on my face each time I sing this carol like for our closing hymn in worship this morning on Christmas Day. This hymn is one of hope and joy- a joy that can’t be hidden, and which shows up in the way you sing this rhythmic spiritual carol.
As you celebrate this Christmas, I pray that the peace and joy of the season will be with you, and that as you go, you will share that same peace and joy with all whom you meet.
Credit/Reference: “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” African American spiritual; John W. Work, Jr., found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 290.