“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those God favours’.”
In George Bernard Shaw’s powerful drama, Saint Joan, the Dauphin questions Joan in petulant anger about the voices which she claims are guiding her: “Oh your voices, your voices. Why don’t the voices come to me? I am King, not you.”
Joan responds: “They do come to you, but you do not hear them. You have not sat in the field listening for them. When the Angelus rings your cross yourself and have done with it, but if you prayed from your heart and listened to the thrillings of the bells in the air after they stopped ringing, you would hear the voices as well as I do.”
Since November we have heard the music of Christmas. For many of us the texts and music are familiar and beloved. Choirs, soloists, and orchestras have produced glorious offerings which both delight and inspire. In St. Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, shepherds hear the exquisite music of the angelic choir. Their hearts are touched with a beauty perhaps unknown to them, and their lives are greatly enriched.
It is unlikely that the shepherds were aficionados of music, or that they were patrons of fine arts. But they were willing to listen and to respond with their whole being. They went to see and experience that which so claimed their attention. So they went “even unto Bethlehem and found the stable with Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus.” The shepherds knelt and worshipped. They saw the Child of God. Then they returned to their work forever changed in an interior, heartfelt way.
As we listen to the music of Christmas can we suspend our cynicism and our over-worked rationality to adore—to worship—to give God glory? We need not fear that we might become religious fanatics or ineffective romantics. We too have our work to do. Yet if we are willing to listen to the Christmas message with our heart, soul, strength and mind we shall hear the angel’s song. And our lives shall be blessed.