People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)
I have had reason over the past week to type out some Christmas carols. Most of them were so familiar that the words came to mind without even looking at the page. But in order to type them up correctly I needed to look carefully at each word I was typing in order to ensure that each letter typed was correct. This level of concentration made me think about the words of the carols afresh. It is easy, when we know the carols so well, to forget what it is that we are actually singing. As we know, several of the carols that we enjoy singing at Christmas are only loosely based on the account of Christ’s birth found in the gospels. However, many of the writers of the carols are using poetry and their imagination to try and convey the wonder of what happened.
One of the carols I was typing was not so familiar, it was a modern carol called ‘Joy has dawned’. Typing this was very different as I had no expectation of what word was coming next. In some ways it was easier as my mind was unable to steer me away from what was actually written. I still needed to concentrate on the words I was typing but they were fresh and unfamiliar.
Over the years as a teacher and at church I have witnessed many nativity plays and have heard many carols being sung. Children who hear the Christmas story for the first time are filled with wonder. With the shepherds they are amazed by the sight of angels in the sky, they see the baby in the manger and they wait for the arrival of the wise men. In the reading from Mark’s gospel Jesus says ‘Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Surely at Christmas we need to be more childlike. We need to try and hear the Christmas story as if we are hearing it for the first time, so that we can appreciate the wonder and amazement of what happened.
As we sing the familiar carols, let us try to appreciate them anew and as we learn new carols I hope that they will bring us a fresh perspective on the Christmas story.
Prayer (O little town of Bethlehem, last verse)
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell:
O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel.
Song: Joy has dawned (Getty/Townend)