Monday, December 23, 2013
Carol Service Epilogue: Luke 2:14 The Christmas Number One
What do the following songs all have in common: Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody (1975); Bob the Builder’s Can We Fix It (2000); and Cliff Richard’s Mistletoe and Wine (1988)? They’ve all been the Christmas Number One. Each year there’s a lot of interest to see who will have the Christmas Number One - whether it’s the latest X Factor song; or a campaign on Facebook has pushed some other song to the top of the charts. At this point, I haven’t heard if Sam Bailey has done it.
The list of Christmas Number Ones is a little bit odd. Some of the songs have something to do with Christmas - Mistletoe and Wine, or Shakin’ Stevens’ Merry Christmas Everyone; or even Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas. But some previous Christmas Number Ones have nothing at all to do with Christmas - Mr Blobby by Mr Blobby; Two Become One by the Spice Girls, or Jimmy Osmond’s Long Haired Lover from Liverpool.
For a moment or two, let’s have a listen to the very first Christmas Number One, which was sung at Christmas Number One - the night Jesus was born. It wasn’t on the radio, but it came over the air-waves, as the angels sang in the sky above Bethlehem.
The first line is all about giving glory to God in the highest - with the fullest measure, to the highest height, to the extent that he deserves it. Glory to God - giving God the praise that he is due, because of what he has done.
If someone has done a good job, it’s right and natural to praise them. So it’s proper for us to thank the organist and band for their music and the readers for their readings. If the angels are giving God glory in and to the highest, what is it he has done?
We get a hint in the second and final line. The angels give God the glory, because he is giving to us ‘on earth peace to people on whom his favour rests.’
God’s favour - his grace - is an undeserved gift given freely. Even though we’re at war with God and with one another - if not openly, then in our hearts - God will give us his peace as a gift. Peace with him; peace with one another.
And it’s all possible because of that first Christmas. While the choir of angels had been waiting to burst into song, the first angel had announced to the shepherds the birth of a Saviour. The baby in the manger is Christ the Lord, God come to save us from our sins. It’s good news of great joy, and it’s for all people - not just we who are here, but everyone we’ll meet at work tomorrow; even the people you’ll bustle in the queues in the shops. The Saviour has come. The angels sing.
Glory to God for peace to people. It’s the original Christmas Number One, the most listened to Christmas song of all time. Have you heard it recently? Is it in the soundtrack of your life? Is it your theme tune?
Let’s join with the angels as we stand to sing: ‘Hark! the herald-angels sing, glory to the new-born King.’
This epilogue was preached at the Carols by Candlelight service in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 22nd December 2013.