A Christmas Prayer

Father, what an incredible morning. We don’t think it could get better than this – the music, babies . . . you’ve captured our imaginations. Here with our eyes closed we see angels and shepherds.


Angels on risers, quietly jostling for position, listening to whispered instructions – a little nervous with anticipation

The choir director with pitch-pipe saying: 

“Tonight I’ve chosen a selection from Handel’s Messiah – key of D, I’ve written a little variation on the theme, we’ll begin with the narrator, then a small jazz ensemble, and then the full choir.”

Angels gathered in white tuxedos and flowing gowns, hair brushed, faces shining, hiding behind the starry curtain of the universe ready to belt out a few hallelujahs in perfect harmony.

Tonight the universe will ring with His praise...

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

For the lord God omnipotent reigneth, hallelujah, hallelujah!

How long we wonder did they practice? A millennium? Two? How long did it take the narrator to memorize the lines: 

“Don’t be afraid, today, in that little town over there, in a cattle trough, is a baby, born for you a savior who is the anointed of God.” 

How long did the angels prepare? Standing rank upon rank, in breathless anticipation of this one moment only to discover when the curtains of the universe were drawn back an audience of eight speechless . . .frozen shepherds. 

King of kings forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah

Lord we want to be your messengers. Grant us humility to sing the good news of Jesus Christ to the few, the marginalized. Grant us courage to raise our voices in the dark and lonely places.  Grant us patience to wait for your time. Give us wisdom to yield to your call, to do as you ask, even when we do not fully understand either what we are doing or the message itself.

And Lord of lords forever and ever, hallelujah, hallelujah!

And then there were the Shepherds...clothes smelling of sheep and sweat and smoky campfires.

Calloused hands, but not rough, smoothed with years of stroking sheep’s wool.  Arms strong with lifting lambs. 

Men and boys, clear-headed, no-nonsense, brave, strong . . . and ignored.  Common people – lower than common – pushed so far to the margins they were practically invisible.

Asleep in a field of sacrificial lambs on the outskirts of an insignificant backwater town of Judea in an insignificant corner of the world.  

They came to see this baby Jesus, to hold him. They came to deliver a shepherd’s blessing to the sacrificial lamb. To cradle eternity in their arms. To look with ignorant awe into the face of the creator and sustainer of the universe. They came to bless and be blessed. 

Luke tells us they went back to the fields rejoicing and waking the neighborhood like a bunch of drunken sailors . . . .

Going back to their sheep, we imagine one turning to another in their revelry – “. . . you know I can’t get that tune out of my head ‘hallelujah, hallelujah,  hallelujah . . .’”

A light broke into that dark world so long ago where political insanity, social stigma, economic injustice, and religious perversion reigned. Remind us afresh that it has not been dimmed. 

For the lord God omnipotent reigneth,
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

In our dark world, make us good receivers of the Gospel as well as givers. We want to abandon ourselves, our lives, our ambitions, our sophistication. We want to be like shepherds who respond to the absurdity of your call to embrace something we do not fully understand. We want to be like shepherds who in the moment of their own transformation refuse to be silent. Overwhelm us with Great Joy – in our families, in our work.

Today in this room we sit, afraid to open our eyes for fear the vision will be lost. And yet,  still somehow we cannot get the song out of our heads, 

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah...Amen.


By Richard White for Intown Sunday Service / Dec. 18th, 2016