By the rivers of Babylon— there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.
For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
Those are not words that we usually hear in worship. What with Christmas carols on the radio, pumped through store sound-systems, these are not words that we hear this close to Christmas. But these are ancient words, words whispered by God’s people, words said with tears in the eyes of God’s children who had been taken into exile—when they were captured and kidnapped stolen from their homes and land. They hung up their harps, lay down their drums, put their pipes away. They were strangers in a strange land and so their voices fell silent.
A feeling that some of us may have shared this past week or so, as we have continued to deal with the violence rampant in our society as demonstrated by the shootings at Sandy Hook. This violence seems unrelenting in our world health-workers distributing polio vaccines shot down in Pakistan, workers trapped and killed in a sweatshop factory in Bangledesh. These aren’t just isolated instances once in a blue moon, but happen here and there and there and here, everywhere, seeming un-ending.
It is enough to pull and rip the music from our hearts and our lips. It is no wonder some of our ancestors surrendered their song, and turned to silence.
But that is only one way. As a mother of a 5yr old who loves to sing, silence is just not a reality all too often for me. So in the midst of news reports and press conferences I heard these words over and over and over again.
I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom, for me and you, and I think to myself what a wonderful world
I see skies of blue, and clouds of white the bright blessed day, dark sacred night and I think to myself what a wonderful world
The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky are also on the faces of people passing by, I see friends shaking hands, saying, “How do you do’ They’re really saying’, I love you”
I hear babies cryin’, I watch them grow; they’ll learn much more, than I’ll ever know, and I think to myself what wonderful world.
That was the song his class sang for their holiday program at school, but what is more important is that unknowingly Micah has been echoing another song –a song of his ancestors in the faith. A song sung even when the world isn’t so wonderful. A song like that sung by Mary with her kinswoman Elizabeth—unexpectedly expecting– Mary, unmarried and pregnant. Elizabeth quite elderly and
pregnant. But that is where God is –so they sing. God is lifting up the lowly. God isn’t born into palaces and among the princes but with the poor, not with the well healed and well armed, but with powerless, the most vulnerable. God is with the wounded and the weeping. Mary’s singing tells us to not place our hope in pronouncements or press conferences. Christmas—the birth of God in the flesh of the baby Jesus—homeless and threatended is about the voice of God not thundering in the skies, but in the cries of a baby, words around a table where absolutely everyone is welcome, his cries from the cross as a victim of states sponsored terrorism, and most importantly the echo of an empty tomb, and the songs of his people from generation to generation.
These are the songs we sing today, even if our voices are halting, we don’t quite know the tune, or are stone cold tone deaf, these songs we sing join our whispers of hope, adds our voices to the shouts for peace, and the drum beat for justices for the poor and vulnerable. We the people of God sing, no matter what—words of promise, words of hope—words that resound in our hearts, on our lips and one day all heaven and earth will join together to magnify the Lord. Amen.