The emotional explosion into song experienced by Mary, Zachariah, the Angels, and Simeon is a difficult thing for our modern minds to comprehend. We don’t do it personally because we watch it too much in the movies and on Television. We have so many stories in our culture. We have a multitude of images dancing in our heads (not just sugar plums) that our histories and lives are confused at times. We can’t focus! We have learned how not to be too personally invested in the explosions of emotions we see in the media. We can enjoy, vicariously, the experiences on the big screens, but we don’t personally comprehend the emotions being expressed. We like to watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers burst out in song and dance. We like to see John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John do it. We like to see the Fiddler on the Roof do it. (Teyve passed away recently). We like Gene Kelly swinging from the light post! But it’s taboo for us to do that in normal life.

If you were a Jew in the days of Jesus’ birth, on the other hand, you would not be so handicapped. The whole litany of stories would all have their source in the Bible. The Old Testament was Television, movies, music, and the works for every person in that culture.  But more importantly, they would see themselves as significant players in the ongoing story of life. The record of man’s fall in the garden would be the continued lot of each person. The stories of Father Abraham, the man of faith, and his culture and lineage would be the very source of their identity. They would all know the details of the man called Moses and the deliverance from Egypt. They would have understood their current predicament as a result of the sinfulness of their first ancestor as well as the failure of all those who had come before them. The pains and harshness of life in a world in which they were dominated and controlled by foreign powers would rule and pervade every personal life. You see, the people of God were not viewers of a drama. They saw themselves as part of it. They were not spectators. They were participants. Thus, the joys and sorrows of real life were their lot. They did not live vicariously through the adventures of others; they lived in the here and now in the flow of life and were intricately connected to it all. It’s only when we understand this truth that we, too, are not just observers but participants that we’ll ever know what it’s like to burst out in song like these four did.

You and I are the ancestors of Adam and Eve. The fall of man is our fall! We have been sent out from the intimate place of fellowship with God (The Garden of Eden), and we are vagabonds and wayfarers in a world that’s run and directed and ruled by a foreign force. We are in the lineage of the failure of man! The entire history of God’s dealing with man is the history of God’s dealing with us. But through it all, there has remained one great promise: The “seed of the woman” would crush the head of the enemy and deliver us all from the predicament of alienation from God and this life lived out in the valley of the shadow of death. The arrival of the Saviour of the world is what Christmas is all about! He has come to redeem us from the situation that is ours, not some character in a book or figure on a screen. It’s for you! It’s for me! Be a player, not a spectator! As I look forward to 2024, I want to be a player!