Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Caroling

The angel Gabriel was sent from God

to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,

to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,

of the house of David,

and the virgin's name was Mary.

And coming to her, he said,

"Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you."

But she was greatly troubled at what was said

and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

On Friday night I joined some of our children and parents for Christmas Caroling.  It was dark and the snow had just begun to fall.  I think it may have been the first time that I actually went Christmas Caroling.  What I noticed and reflected on the most were the people’s responses.  When we arrived at the first house, the kids knocked on the door and began singing.  An old, crotchety looking man appeared at the door looking slightly perturbed at the late evening interruption.  And then his eyes began to focus and his ears heard the sound of the little children singing and smiling in the lamplight.  His once stern looking face quickly transformed and he began to beam with a contagious smile.  You could see the joy in his face as his hardened expression turned to a warm smile and tender eyes. 

I’d like to say all of the houses were like this.  Many weren’t home, some didn’t answer, and some were pretty awkward.  The children were greeted at one of the houses by a middle aged man who didn’t appear to have any pants on, just a long T-Shirt… one of the little girls shrieked and said I can’t believe I just saw that.  I laughed and assured her that he had shorts on; it was just a really long shirt.  The house after that was an elderly man with a bandage on his nose… I began to think we were on a bad streak here.  But then he asked the children to stay there he disappeared.  We led the children in another song.  Moments later he appeared again with a plate of cookies for the children.  It was a beautiful moment for him, for the children and for us.  He was so excited to see them that he gave away all of his wives fresh baked Christmas cookies.

One mother answered the door and disappeared for a moment only to bring her two children and her husband to see.  They sang along and wished us a Merry Christmas.   

What I noticed is that each person was not expecting to be greeted by the Carolers and each family reacted differently to the surprise. Some families were overjoyed, some families were a little uncomfortable, and some families weren’t sure what to do. One lady saw the children from her kitchen and ran and hid in her bedroom! It’s not like this was Grim Reaper at the doorstep, it was a bunch of little angels, children singing Christmas songs.

If angels came to sing at your door how would you react?  Really… think about it.  We all have a tendency to be surprised when God speaks to us.  And, He does tend to come at unexpected moments.  Times when we aren't really prepared, sometimes we may not even be decent. 

Mary was afraid when the Angel Gabriel greeted her.  She “pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”  She didn’t know what to make of it and asked, “How can this be?” 

I think we would all probably react differently to an angelic greeting.  It really is something so other-worldly.  And while it is something that should bring us joy, sometimes we aren’t sure what to make of it.  God does speak to us through angels and it’s always a surprise. 

During this Season of Advent God has probably greeted you in different ways.  He is probably asking something of you right now.   Either it is something in your life to let go of to make room for Jesus, or it may be something in your life to take on. 

This can bring about a lot of mixed feelings.  Their might initially be fear like Mary, there might be an awkwardness like some of the families had, their might be a reluctance, we might even want to run and hide.  The initial feeling is very human and acceptable because God is speaking to us and we are not quite sure what it is going to mean. 

The hope is, though, that we will come around and respond with joy.  Like the hardened crotchety guy that answered the door and was transformed into a joyful, warm soul with a hint of tears in his eyes.  It may take some time for our eyes to adjust to the light or our ears to become attuned to the mystery of His call. 

Mary, who was initially afraid but then responded with “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  Hopefully our response will be on of grateful acceptance of God’s will and a joy that fills our hearts. 

As we approach Christmas, God desires for you to receive His child Jesus.  That may come as an invitation, it may come as a challenge to prepare for something, it may come as encouragement to let something go and make room for Him.  It may be an invitation to take on a responsibility that you are not sure how it will happen. 

What is God asking of you this last week of Advent?  What feelings does it evoke?  What is your reaction?  Can you say yes?  Can you, once disturbed, afraid, or surprised respond now with joy? 

For Mary, her yes to God would change the world forever and so could yours. 

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