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Do You Hear What I Hear?

“And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace goodwill toward men’” (Luke 2:13-14). Can you imagine the sound of angels praising God? Oh, the glorious explosion in heaven the night Jesus was born. I’d like to think practically the whole battalion of angels was there except for the ones who surround the throne of God. The shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem saw and heard this incredible phenomenon. It was no dream. Their eyes and ears were not playing tricks.

The sheep must have also been baffled by this arousing and unusual sound. Did their bleating erupt into a confused conglomerate noise or did they stand hushed dumbfounded by the glory coming from the night skies?

At the manger cave, cows mooed, donkeys brayed, chickens crowed, and birds chirped. They sang a chorus of their own at the intrusion of this royal birth. Something unusual was happening inside the disturbed solitude of their stable.

Mary’s birth surely didn’t come without pain. Her moans were muffled to the patrons inside the nearby inn that had no room for them but not to Joseph. He did what he could to help, pushing aside the cattle attempting to eat the hay upon which Mary lay. There was likely no time for a midwife. Joseph feigned strength to cope with the urgent situation. As Mary’s contractions worsened, he held her hand offering support. Maybe they even prayed. When Jesus was born, his cry was a sound of both relief and joy.

Angels, animals, shepherds – the sounds from each of them signaled the culmination of the Incarnate birth prophesied for centuries.

The sounds of celebration from that holy night have changed over the years. The music is not sung by angels but by angelic choirs who still sing the same words: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men.” The animals are not roaming around the manger where Jesus lay but are silent and still posed as ceramic figures in the nativity scenes in our homes. The gifts from wise men to the holy child are now gifts of love we give to one another. The cries of Baby Jesus cannot be heard from a manger stall but are heard within our hearts to save us from sin and death.

Other sounds fill the air at Christmas to remind us of the joy Jesus’ birth brought into the world. They come in the form of jingling bells, ringing handbells, merry organs, crackling fireplaces, crunching cookies, steaming hot cocoa, crinkling gift wrap, and children’s laughter. These are some of the sweet sounds of Christmas. What sounds can you think of that remind you of the joy of Christmas?

I can vividly remember going caroling in the frigid night air to homes in our neighborhood. What a delight it was to have someone open their front door as we burst into song. The smiles on their faces made my numb fingers and toes all worthwhile. We were by no means good singers, but the joy we had to share the good news of Christmas was and still is a message to proclaim. That newborn baby wrapped in swaddling clothes would become the Light of the World.

One of my mother’s favorite Christmas songs is “Do You Hear What I Hear?” This carol composed in 1962 by a husband and wife depicts the story of the nativity of Jesus even though his name is never mentioned. The lyrics lead us through conversations between the “night wind and a little lamb,” then “the little lamb to the shepherd boy.” The shepherd boy tells the mighty king about a child who should be presented silver and gold. The king finally tells the people everywhere to pray for peace. (Interestingly, the carol was written during the Cuban Missile Crisis and carries an undertone of appeal for peace.)

God gave us ears so that we could more fully experience and process our emotions through sound. Of course, this is just one of the five senses that are aroused allowing us to more fully enjoy the holiday season among other things.

The question I must ask you this Christmas is if you hear the calling of His voice? Are you willing to kneel before the King of Kings like the shepherds and the wise men, to humble yourself and accept His free gift of grace and love that saves you for all eternity? Listen. Do you hear that soft whisper pleading for you to come into His presence?

Don’t let another Christmas go by without experiencing its true meaning. Don’t be led astray by the façade of earthly joy with Santa Claus, snowmen, and holiday parties. Discover eternal joy while living a rich and fulfilled life with Jesus in the center. Let us tune our ears like the shepherds did to listen to the angels sing.  

Peace on the earth, goodwill to men, from heaven’s all gracious King.

The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing.

Karen Allen

3 Comments

  1. Sharon Atwood on December 10, 2021 at 4:32 pm

    Recognizing the sounds surrounding Jesus’ birth made me feel like I was there. It was interesting to learn the history behind the carol.

    • Karen Allen on December 14, 2021 at 4:46 am

      Yea! Glad you enjoyed it, Sharon.

  2. J.D. Wininger on December 11, 2021 at 3:45 am

    What a sweet post. One that certainly reminds me of where our source of true joy is found. Thank you so much; and Merry CHRISTmas ma’am.

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