No Contingency for Song
There is a story told of the people of Leipzig, Germany, before the fall of the Berlin Wall. In this story, at a time of political strife and struggle, there was a little candlelight ceremony once a week around St. Nikolai church. For over two months, every Monday evening, the people would gather and sing. The crowd grew over time from a few hundred, to several thousand, to over 300,000, and the people sang songs of hope, protest, justice. As other protests fell, crushed by the secret police, the people sang. In singing there was freedom; in singing the people remembered inaccessible loved ones. Like the Israelites singing in the Babylonian Exile, these Germans sang for peace and remembrance, longing for a new situation. Their song shook the powers of the nation. Sometime after the wall came down, one of the military commanders was asked why they didn’t crush the music as they had terminated so many other protests. He replied, “We had no contingency plan for song.”
Mary and Joseph also had no contingency plan for song. While they never saw the angels and archangels singing to the shepherds on the hillside, when the shepherds came to visit, they told the new parents about the song “and all who heard it were amazed.” I always imagine slightly stunned, certainly exhausted faces. Later, when these new parents are trying to fulfill the cost-prohibitive purification rituals, once again they are interrupted by praise. They try to make the correct sacrifices to the temple upon the birth of their first-born son, and this elderly man picks him up and in quavery voice sings an amazing benediction. Before they can gain control over the situation, Anna interrupts with more praise about the child who would redeem Jerusalem. These poor, new parents, vastly out of their depth, trying to make the appropriate sacrifices and leave, suddenly found themselves, and their meager offering, the center of attention. They had no contingency plan for song, for fuss, for interruptions.
Christmas carols already off the radio,
decorations pulled down.
It is still within the twelve days of Christmas,
The Wise Men coming to town.
Skeleton trees out by walkways
Brittle, cold air fills our lungs
Have we forgotten the child born so for us
End the celebration before it begun?
What will you sing?