Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas 2016

We had a wonderful Christmas this year, spending lots of time with family.  (One thing that made it exceptionally special was that it was our first Christmas with our newest grandchild, Olive.)

But the whole of the month was enriched with Christmas related activities. My wife Margaret and I sang in two choirs and got to know some heartbreakingly beautiful music. Along with a neighbor and her young daughter, we went caroling and took treats to people in our neighborhood, including a couple visiting from Russia. (To them we sang--in Russian--a carol I learned from my father-in-law 30 years ago.) We took part in online Christmas scripture reading and discussion organized by a nephew and his wife (see And we took part in the "Light the World" program of service and Christian discipleship sponsored by the LDS Church.

One struggle I had during practices for one of the choirs was being struck with sudden and overwhelming emotion while singing several of the songs. One of them--and one of my favorites--is "What Sweeter Music," composed by John Rutter, with words from the seventeenth-century poet Robert Herrick. [See note 1 below for more on this song.]

One phrase in particular always struck me with particular force: "We see him come, and know him ours." Why does that line affect me as it does? The present tense "We see him come" makes the reality and presence of Jesus Christ feel immediate, almost palpable. And it emphasizes his presence among us: "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth."

But the words that affect me most are "and know him ours." I feel something reciprocal in that: as he is ours, we are also his--we belong to him; his mission is to heal us and deliver us; he has bought us with his blood. But his love for us, his saving work on our behalf, his dwelling among us, have in some sense made him ours. He belongs to us. He became flesh; he took upon him human nature; he experienced human life in all its dimensions, including (through his perfect empathy and love) our grief, our despair, our alienation and sin. That old (by now) pop song "What if God were one of us" is truer than it intends to be, or true in a deeper way. The Son of God is an eternal divine person, but he is also part of the human family.

I also thought during this Christmas season of that experience now 41 years ago in New York City that I wrote about last year. And I've wanted to share that again. Here, along with the link, I offer my continuing conviction that we are all beings with an eternal nature and destiny, and that Jesus is a real and eternal being whose mission is central to the meaning of our lives and our eternal futures.

The link: ("Thoughts for Christams: Why I Believe in Jesus Christ").

Note 1: As long as the following link works, you can hear "What Sweeter Music" here:

You'll find the words, as they are heard in John Rutter's composition, further below. They are based on a poem by seventeenth-century poet Robert Herrick titled "A Christmas Carol, Sung to the King in the Presence at White-Hall" (see or

The line "We see him come, and know him ours" comes at 1:57-2:03 in

"What Sweeter Music" (lyrics)

What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol, for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!

Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honor to this day,
That sees December turned to May.
That sees December turned to May.

Why does the chilling winter's morn
Smile, like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like a meadow newly-shorn,
Thus, on the sudden? Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
'Tis He is born, whose quickening birth
Gives life and luster, public mirth,
To heaven, and the under-earth.

We see him come, and know him ours,
Who, with his sunshine and his showers,
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.

The darling of the world is come,
And fit it is, we find a room
To welcome him. To welcome him.

The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the heart.
Which we will give him; and bequeath
This holly, and this ivy wreath,
To do him honour, who's our King,
And Lord of all this revelling.

What sweeter music can we bring,
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?

No comments: