Jesus’ Urgency to Save Us, as Seen in a Christmas Commercial

The John Lewis Christmas commercial shown below has a surprise ending. We are led through a traditional story line about a child who can’t wait for Christmas, but there’s a twist at the end. You may wish to watch the ad before continuing, lest my comments ruin the surprise.

As I watched the commercial, I was first reminded of these Scripture passages: It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:34), and God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7).

There is something more than a cheerful giver illustrated in this ad, though. Indeed, the young boy is an urgent giver, one who cannot wait to give the gift he has to offer. The hours and days creep by. When will he finally be able to give his gift? Finally, the day arrives, finally!

This seemed strangely familiar to me, that it was speaking to a biblical theme. Then it hit me. Yes! This was Jesus on His final journey to Jerusalem, urgent and eager to give us the gift of our salvation, to snatch us from the kingdom of darkness and translate us to the kingdom of light. Scripture has this to say about this almost impatient desire in Him:

  • As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem (Luke 9:51).
  • Jesus exclaimed, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!(Luke 12:49)
  • Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. … Now my soul is troubled, yet what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” … Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”(John 12:23, 27-28, 31-32).

Scripture says that as Jesus’ apostles followed Him up the road to Jerusalem for His final journey, they were “amazed and afraid” (cf Mk 10:32). Fearful of Jesus’ predictions of His own death, the disciples protested, But Rabbi … a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going there? (John 11:8) Finally, seeing Jesus’ determination, Thomas (likely in exasperation) said, Let us also go, that we may die with him (John 11:16).

Yes, Jesus set His face like flint as He journeyed toward Jerusalem, eager to give the gift of salvation. What distress, what impatience until He must have felt until He could give that gift! Resolutely, He went forth with fervor.

Think about these things as you watch this Christmas commercial.

Who Is My Neighbor? Answered by a Touching Christmas Commercial

dec16-blogIn these days of nearly instant information availability, we think we know a lot about people, things, and issues. Truth be told, we may know more in a quantitative sense but less in a qualitative sense. Too much information can make us less discerning.

The Christmas commercial below is touching and enlightening at the same time. Basically, it plays off the Scrooge/Grinch theme. The commercial shows a grouchy fellow who is touched and converted by the Christmas kindness of some children. That’s the obvious message.

But I wonder if there isn’t another way to see this commercial. Perhaps it is the children (and we whom they represent) who need to add some depth to their perception of the man. He does come across as lonely and rather private, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a grouch or that he should be feared. Perhaps he’s just shy. Maybe his wife died recently. Perhaps his age has limited him.

At any rate, the man returns the kind gesture of the children, multiplied. And while this might mean that he experienced a miraculous conversion, it more likely means that he wasn’t really as grumpy and cold as they thought.

A while back, someone wrote to me saying that in my writing I come across as grouchy and generally displeased with things. The person continued on to say that hearing the sound of my voice and my laughter on the radio revealed another side of me, such that my writings no longer seem so severe.

Well praise the Lord! We can’t avoid perceptions, but we do well to consider them provisional until we have more information. To seem is not to be.

Who is your neighbor? This isn’t really a request for a list of names; it’s an invitation to ponder more deeply who our neighbor really is.

Enjoy the commercial!

The Truer Gift at Christmas – As Seen in a Commercial

Blog11-27There is an old saying that the greatest things in life aren’t things. Our greatest gifts are those we love, beginning with God and extending to one another.

One of the great dangers at Christmastime (and with life in general) is that we maximize the minimum and minimize the maximum, or, as Jesus puts it, we strain out gnats and swallow camels (Matt 23:24). He said this about the religiously observant of His day, who meticulously followed small, technical rules about cleanliness and ritual purity, but neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness (Matt 23:22).

In other words, at Christmas we can focus so much on buying things and arranging various events that we neglect or even harm those who are our greatest gift.

Consider the sad situation that many now largely set aside the once-sacred Thanksgiving holiday when people could spend time with family and enjoy their company. And why is this? So that stores can be open for people to leave the people they love in order to run out and buy things for them. The gift eclipses both the giver and the recipient. And on top of that, we potentially sin against charity by creating a climate that requires the poor and those of the lower-wage working class to work on Thanksgiving Day.

Add to this the short tempers at the shopping malls (often caused by heavy traffic, long lines, and out-of-stock items) and the impression is created that things are more important than people. Not everyone suffers from this, but it is a problem.

The video below provides a touching reminder that the truer purpose of a gift is the well-being of another and the love we can show at Christmas.

The basic scene is that two snowmen are built, a kind of husband-and-wife, snowman family. But one has, and the other has not. Seeing his wife’s need, the husband snowman sets out, enduring great hardship and overcoming many obstacles, in order to get for his wife what she needs. The greatest gifts are those that show care for another.

Through the window, the “creator” of the snowman watches this act of love unfold. At the touching end of the video, the creator is very pleased.

And so, too, our Creator and Lord is watching from the window of Heaven, and He is pleased with our acts of mercy as well.

The greatest things in life aren’t things; they are those we love. And the greater gift this Christmas is not so much the things we give, as it is the care and love we extend through those gifts, and the shared gift of our very selves.

No One Goes Away from Jesus Unchanged – As Seen in a Christmas Commercial

Пластиковые карточкиThe video below is a Coca-Cola commercial from several years ago that takes up the Christmas theme of the star of Christmas.

Let us review the impact that the star of Christmas had on the wise men, the Magi.

  1. The star moved them to seek meaning outside themselves; it made them look out and up.
  2. The star called them beyond what was familiar in their own country and world and expanded their horizons toward Christ and His kingdom.
  3. The star summoned them to seek Christ, and when they found Him, to worship Him.
  4. The star drew them to be generous to a poor family in Bethlehem; they made sacrifices as they lay costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh before the Lord.
  5. The star roused them to conversion; they “returned to their country by another route,” following the straight and narrow path rather than the wide and destructive one.

Yes, no one encounters Jesus Christ and goes away unchanged. A blind man went away able to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk. The hungry went away satisfied, the ignorant instructed, the guilty forgiven, sinners converted.

The call of the nations to change and to new life began with a star. The light of the star opens the way to the Light of World, Jesus. The star of my life is Jesus.

In the commercial below we see Santa (a name that means “Holy One”) sending forth a star, one that touches them and radiates a light that transforms them.

  1. A woman sees the light of that star and is able to forgive her husband and be reconciled with him.
  2. A young soccer player sees the light of that star, surrenders his pride, and steps aside to let another share in and get a shot at glory.
  3. A young girl sees the light of that star and, forsaking some of her own beauty, seeks to beautify a public park for others.
  4. A museum guard sees the light of that star and shows mercy to the guard dog with him (this was a silly one).
  5. A father sees the light of that star and permits his son a moment of growth.

Yes, there is something about that star that changes everyone who looks at it. They become more forgiving, more gracious, more aware of others, more connected to others, more loving. The light of the star, and the light of the world, is Jesus. His light is meant to have that same effect and more besides.

In the background of the commercial an old Elvis song plays: “Wise men say only fools rush in. But I can’t help falling in love with you. Shall I stay, would it be a sin? If I can’t help falling in love with you.”

Of course the love that is symbolized by the star is not the romantic love of the song but the brotherly and agape love that Christ gives. Like the Magi who found Christ by the star, no one sees the star of Jesus and encounters Him and then goes away unchanged. Indeed, if we authentically encounter Christ, we are equipped to love, just as the people in this commercial are. We are equipped to forgive, to bring healing, to help others find strength and glory in the truth, and to come to full maturity in Christ. A person who knows Jesus and has encountered Him cannot help loving others, not in some merely sentimental way, but with a strong and vigorous love rooted in the truth. This is the same love that Jesus has for us all.

At the end of the commercial there is an admonition in Spanish that translates as follows: “Give the world the best of you.” The best of me is Jesus.

A Knock at Midnight – Christmas, Midnight Homily

blog.12.24In this reflection, perhaps we can consider but one line in the Gospel which both challenges our love, and is a sign of God’s humble and abiding love for us: For there was no room for them in the Inn.

I. The Cold There is a knock at midnight. Joseph, speaking on behalf of both Mary and Jesus (who is in her womb still), seeks entrance to the homes and lodgings of those in Bethlehem. And even though the Jewish people placed a great deal of emphasis on the duty of hospitality to strangers, the answer repeatedly given is that there is “No room here.” Mary’s obviously advanced pregnancy seems to make little difference.

This was indeed a cold night, not so much in terms of the air temperature, but in terms of the hearts of the people. Even at the local inn (and surely someone could make room for a pregnant woman!), there was “No room.”

Yes, it was a cold night! The only warmth would be found among the animals of that town. An old Latin antiphon for Christmas says, O magnum mysterium et admirabile sacramentum, un animalia viderent Dominum natum iacentem in praesepio. (O great mystery and stunning sacrament, that animals would see the newborn Lord lying in a feedbox. Here, warmth will be found: among the animals. It is sometimes said that man can be brutish. But the reality is that we can sink even lower than the beasts, doing things to ourselves and one other that even animals do not.

Scripture says,

The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know me, my people do not understand….They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him (Isaiah 1:3-4).

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him (John 1:10-11).

There was a knock at midnight; the animals received Him and gave warmth. His own people, knowing Him not, received Him not. And into this midnight darkness and cold, the light and warmth of God’s love will shine forth. The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone (Is 9:1).

II. The Condescension – Surely God must stoop low to come down from lightsome Heaven to our war-torn, dark, cold world. And He stoops to the lowest place, to be born not in a palace or even a comfortable home, but a manger. For God will defeat Satan’s pride with humility. And all who will find Him this fateful night must also stoop.

This stooping by God is illustrated even in the very topography of this night. The towns of the Holy Land were built on the tops of the tall hills (something almost never done here in America). This was done so as to leave the fertile valleys open for agriculture. Bethlehem was perched on the higher land and the shepherd’s fields lay below. The streets of Bethlehem were steep and built on tiers or levels. Thus, the back lot of many homes and buildings dropped steeply down and beneath the buildings. And then beneath the buildings they hollowed out caves where animals and tools were kept.

It was there, down underneath, where Joseph and Mary sought hasty shelter. For it was a cold and dark midnight and Mary’s time had come. God stooped with them to be born, among the animals and agricultural implements, in the damp cave underneath some house or inn.

Those who will find our God, they too must stoop low. Even to this day, when one visits Bethlehem to see the place of Jesus’ birth, one must first enter the Church through what is called the “Door of Humility.” For security reasons, this door was built to be only about four feet high. So one must stoop greatly to enter the church. Yes, we must stoop to find our God. The actual site of the birth is at the other end of the basilica, under the altar area. Here again, more stooping is required. One must descend a steep staircase and go through another low, narrow door and into the cave. To touch the very spot, one must kneel and reach forward, into a yet-narrower part of the cave. Here Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, says the inscription. And the only way to get there is to stoop.

Yes, our God stoops. He stoops to the lowest place. And to find Him and be with Him we, too, must be willing to stoop. God hates pride; He just can’t stand it. He sees what it does to us. He comes to break its back, not by overpowering it, or with clubs and swords, but with humility. Darkness does not defeat darkness; only light can do that. Hate does not defeat hate; only love can do that. Pride does not defeat pride; only humility can do that. And so God stoops.

Tonight God calls us with this same humility. He could have ridden down from Heaven on a lightning bolt and stunned us into fearful submission. Instead, He goes to the lowest place. He comes quietly, peacefully, without threat—as an infant. But even in this lowly way, He is still calling.

And so there is a knock at midnight. Scripture says, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me (Rev 3:20). There is an old song with the following lyrics: “Somebody’s knocking at your door! Oh, Sinner, why don’t you answer?”

And this leads us to the final point.

III. The Crucial thing – When human history is complete and the last books are written, one of the saddest lines in all of that history will be simply the line, For there was no room for them in the Inn. No room … no room. How strange and sad for this world that God simply doesn’t fit! He doesn’t fit with our agendas, into our schedules, or among our priorities. There’s no room. He just doesn’t fit.

Scripture says,

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him (Jn 1:11).

But that same passage goes on to add,

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the power to become children of God (John 1:12).

The most crucial decision in and factor of your life is whether or not there is room in your heart. Will you answer the knock at midnight? Some of you who are in this church tonight come only at Christmas. But throughout the rest of the year there is just no room for Jesus. There’s no time for Mass. There’s no time to fulfill the last thing He asked: Do this in memory of me. I beg you to reconsider and make room in your heart for Christ on His terms: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you have no life in you (Jn 6:53).

Yes, what about us? Is there room for Jesus in the “inn” of our hearts? If there is, then Jesus comes bearing many gifts. Tonight is a night of gifts. There is a knock at this very midnight. It sounds like Jesus! Oh, Sinner, why don’t you answer? Somebody’s knocking at your door.

Make room for Jesus. Every year He comes knocking. He stoops low and invites us to find Him in the lowly places of this world, in the lowly places of our own lives. What are the things in your life that may be crowding Him out? What obstacles and preoccupations leave little or no room for Jesus? What keeps you from recognizing Him and opening the door wide when He comes?

If you’ve already opened the door to Him for many years now, praise God! Then ask the Lord to help you open it wider. For it remains true for many of us that even though we’ve invited Jesus in, His accommodations are poor: perhaps the couch or floor of our life.

Make room for Jesus. Make more and more room for Him, in the “inn” of your soul. I promise you that what Scripture says is true: Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the power to become children of God (John 1:12).

If you will receive the gift of Him tonight and make greater room for Him in your heart, I promise you total victory and transformation in Christ Jesus. There will come to you the increasing gift of transformation into the very likeness of God. For tonight is a night of gifts and Jesus stoops low to give us a priceless gift: the power to become children of God.

It’s midnight. There’s a knock at the door. Oh, sinner, why don’t you answer?

Regarding this video … I know, I know. Yet still there is much to ponder.

Is There Anyone You Know Who Might Have Been Forgotten This Christmas?

Volunteers at St. Matthew’s Cathedral serve a hot breakfast to guests at the Christmas breakfast on Dec 15.Christmas is a beautiful time of the year for most of us, most of the time. But it is also true that Christmas can be a very painful time of year for some, especially those who have experienced recent loss or who, for various reasons, have fewer family options at Christmas. Yes, Christmas can be the best of times or the loneliest of times, the most wonderful time of the year or the most painful.

The video below reminds us that Christmas can also be a time to reach out to others who have a hard time experiencing Christmas. Perhaps it is a relative or friend who has lost a spouse this past year and who will be alone for the first time this Christmas. Perhaps it is someone who is left out because his family is far away. Perhaps it is someone who is shy or even a little antisocial. But somewhere under all the grouchiness we see their pain and know that they need some attention at Christmas. I know that I have some sick parishioners who need a special visit this week.

Whatever the reason, there are always those who need to be included, those who for various reasons feel excluded.

In the video, a hare and a bear are fast friends. Unfortunately, the bear always misses Christmas because he is in hibernation. Something inside the hare tells him that Christmas will not be Christmas without his friend, and without his friend being able to experience the joy of Christmas. It occurs to the hare that there is a particular gift that would help his friend the bear to enjoy Christmas, even if only for a moment. And so he gives the gift, which you will see at the end of the video.

I leave it to you to watch the touching conclusion and to ask yourself who the bear is in your life.  Who is it that you need to reach out to in this season of Christmas? For me it was an old family friend that I had lost touch with this past year, and whose mind is beginning to fade with age. She had been good to my father in his dying process, and so I sought her out and we had a nice talk.

How about you? Who is that someone in your life who needs some special attention this Christmas? Christ will surely be pleased if you give the gift of love.

I Hear Music in the Air! – A Homily for Christmas

122414The mysteries of Christmas are many. Among them is the mystery of the music heard that night. The angels shouted the great declaration, “Glory to God in the Highest,” and creation takes it up as a song. But why this music? Is it merely window dressing, or does it disclose a mystery to us? Is it merely for us, or do the angels also have need of the declaration?

As always with the things of God, there are realities far deeper than most of us imagine. But tonight’s Christmas feast weaves together, among many other mysteries, those of music and descent, and points up to music and ascent.

You see, over my head I hear music in the air. There must be a God somewhere. And the Lord descends to one song so that we might ascend to a new song in a new place: in the highest heavens. Let’s see how.

I. Divine Condescension – The text says, Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger (Lk 2:8-12).

We look first to the divine descent of Jesus. Note that Jesus, who is called Savior, the Anointed One, and Lord, is said to be found wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a feed box, a trough from which animals are fed.

What sort of King and Lord is this? It is almost a divine comedy. Imagine the shepherds quaking in fear at the presence of an awesome angel. And then the angel tells them that they will find the Christ lying in a feed box, in a stable somewhere nearby. One can almost image one shepherd saying to another in a sort of whisper, “Did that angel say ‘feeding trough’?” And then the other nervous shepherd whispers back, “Yeah, that’s what he said.” It is comedic because it is so anti-climactic.

Indeed, there is a remarkable divine condescension here! The Lord did not merely descend from Heaven to earth. He descended to one of the lowest places on the earth, to a stinking cave, among animals, and has for His bed a feeding trough meant for animals.

And though Bethlehem was called the “City of David” it was hardly fit for a King. It was then, and is now, a run-down, dusty, ramshackle, poor town.

So here is the King of the Universe born, not in a stately palace, but in a stinking pen; not in a cozy cradle, but in a messy manger.

Yet God speaks eloquently in this poverty and condescension. Here is the Bread of Life, in a town called Bethlehem (House of Bread), lying in a feed trough. In His littleness and poverty He is approachable and calls to the poor.

But do not miss the radical nature of this descent! So radical was it, that this very thing is said in tradition to be the reason that one-third of the angels rebelled, turning against God and falling to the earth as demons (fallen angels). In both Jewish apocryphal writings as well as the writings of the Fathers of the Church, Lucifer, one of the highest ranking angels and among the seraphim, recoiled at the idea that God would choose to join Himself to His physical creation. Man was a mere mud doll to Lucifer, something and someone so far beneath him as to merit no real attention. The thought of God becoming flesh caused Lucifer to rebel, and he took a third of the angels with him in rebellion against so absurd a plan: God as mud doll, taking on human flesh and being joined to mere material creation. It was unbecoming, beneath the dignity of the spiritual world!

Condescension was unthinkable to Lucifer’s pride and he fell, refusing to accept such an absurd notion. Ever since that time, he and the fallen angels with him have envied the human person whom God was pleased to indwell, and by this envy have sought to destroy our truest dignity: an indwelling relationship with God.

Why this condescension? He condescends today to one song in order that we may ascend one day with Him to a new place and sing a new song. To what song does He descend and to what song will we ascend? Let’s read on.

II. Dancing Choirs –  The text says, And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

But the angels who did not fall had rejoiced in God’s plan and longed for its day! Thus on this day, as the Lord is manifest to the world, the highest angels who descended with Christ at the Annunciation now send word through and to the lower ranks of angels and a great heavenly throng makes the declaration, Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth Peace! The great hymn that is sung (or more literally, declared) is not just for the human family; according to the Fathers of the Church it is also a signal to the lower ranking angels from the higher ranking angels. All Heaven has revealed to it the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his holy ones (Col 1:26). A mystery, a wisdom which is hidden, which God ordained before the world, unto our glory (1 Cor 2:7). …The things which have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look (1 Peter 1:12).

Perhaps a little background will help understand the dance of the choirs and the communication that takes place.

The inner life of the Trinity, according to sacred tradition and the teaching of the Fathers, is not a mere static vision of the three persons for one another. The inner of the live of the Trinity is a movement of love. The Father loves the Son; the Son loves the Father; the Holy Spirit processes between them in this great movement which the Greek Fathers call the divine perichoresis, a kind of dance of love.

And the angels are arranged around God in ranks or choirs somewhat like concentric circles.  And they, too, take up the dance of love, passing love and revelation from God through each rank or choir and back again. Yes, here is the great dance, the perichoresis of God’s inner love radiating out to angels, down through the ranks to us, and from us back through them to God.

The nine choirs (ranks) of angels are divided into three tiers, or triads, each with specific concerns:

  1. The Highest Tier: Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones, who concern themselves with contemplating the glory of God. It is the six-winged seraphim who sing the Sanctus, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of Hosts” (Isaiah 6:3).
  2. The Middle Tier: Dominations, Virtues, and Powers, who are known as the “angels of creation” because they concern themselves with the ordering of the cosmos and the causes of things.
  3. The Lower Tier: Principalities, Archangels, and Angels, who concern themselves with the minute ordering of the universe and with specific causes, including the welfare of people. Each human being, each church, and each country has a guardian angel.

Thus, the “Gloria in Excelsis” is a declaration of praise not just overheard and taken up by humanity; it is not just a hymn of praise, it is a dance and a passing of information down the chain of angelic choirs. The highest choirs of angels have descended with the Word made Flesh, Jesus, since it is their role to surround Him with perpetual adoration.

The Church Father, Origen, has the higher angels say,

“If he has put on mortal flesh, How can we remain, doing nothing!? Come Angels, let us descend from heaven!” That is why [Scripture says] there was a multitude of the heavenly Hosts praising and glorifying God when Christ was born. Everything is filled with angels! (Hom in Ex. 1:7)

And now at Jesus’ birth, the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones signal the lower angels: “This is He, who is Lord of all Creation; He who is ever to be adored and glorified.” The lower angels take up the information and cry out, “Glory to God in the Highest.”

Another Church Father, Pseudo-Dionysius, says of this great heavenly hymn that is declared,

The highest order composed of Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones, and which is closest of all, by reason of its dignity, to the secret sanctuary of God [instructs]  the second order, composed of Dominations, Virtues and Powers. This order in turn reveals the mysteries to the lower tier of angels the Principalities, Archangels and Angels who are set in charge of the human hierarchies (Hier Ceol. 9,2).

And thus the great “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” resounds in the heavens, not just on the earth. The angels are given the good news along with us! An ancient hymn from the Liturgy of St. James says of this moment,

  • Rank on rank the host of heaven
  • spreads its vanguard on the way,
  • as the Light of light descendeth
  • from the realms of endless day,
  • that the powers of hell may vanish
  • as the shadows clear away.
  • At his feet the six-winged seraph,
  • cherubim, with sleepless eye,
  • veil their faces to the presence,
  • as with ceaseless voice they cry,
  • “Alleluia, alleluia,
  • Alleluia, Lord most high!”

And to us on earth comes the call to hear the music, the great hymn of praise and instruction, and to respond with our souls!

I have it on the best of authority that as the shepherds heard the great song of the angels, one of them said, Over my head I hear music in the air. There must be a God somewhere!

All of creation echoed that night with the song of the angels communicating this truth to one another and to us.

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echo back the joyous strains

The animals, too, lifted their eyes heavenward, and one was said to say,

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,
do you hear what I hear
A song, a song, high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea!

But why all this music at the divine descent? Because the music (Gloria in Excelsis) and the descent are related and meant to signal and lead us higher. Christ descends to one song in order to lead us to an even nobler and higher song,

III Destiny of the Christian – The Psalm says, Sing to the LORD a new song, sing to the LORD, all you lands. Sing to the LORD; bless his name (Ps 96:1-2).

So again, this music (Gloria in Excelsis) and the descent are related and meant to signal and lead us higher. Christ descends to one song in order to lead us to an even nobler and higher song, a song sung in the highest heavens! And without this descent and this first song, the second song and our ascent are impossible. Christ descends to the song of the lower heavens so that we, by His saving grace, may ascend to the place and song of the higher heavens.

And what is this new song and place? Isaiah heard the music and saw the place:

I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”  6 Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven”  (Isaiah 6:1-8).

Here is a our new song, a higher song, one sung only in the highest Heaven before the throne of God, one sung only by the redeemed: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts! At every Mass, our High Priest, Jesus, speaking through His ministerial priest says, Lift up your hearts! We reply that we have them lifted up to the Lord. In other words we are told to come up higher, to come into the Holy of Holies in Heaven, to come before the throne and sing the hymn of the highest in Heaven.

Our ascent to this highest place is made possible only by the Lord’s descent to the lowest places here: the manger, the Cross, and Sheol. In the early Church, only the baptized could sing the Sanctus at Mass. The unbaptized were not allowed to attend. The catechumens, though permitted to sing the hymn of the lower heavens (The Gloria), were dismissed prior to the singing of the Sanctus, the song of the higher heavens. Only when we are caught up higher by grace can we hear and join the Sanctus. And one day it will be fully our song when God, who descended, says to us, “Come up higher.” And then, by Him who descended, we will ascend and sing a new song to the Lord!

Over my head I hear music in the air. There must be a God somewhere. And the Lord descends to one song so that we might ascend to a new song in a new place, in the highest heavens. May HE, who descends to the manger today, cause you to ascend to the highest heavens to sing that new song.