Dr. Steve Lindsley
(Luke 2: 1-14) 

To watch our Christmas Eve service in its entirety, click HERE.


Must be able to sing.

That was the one line in the job posting that had him questioning whether he should apply.  And it was a shame, because everything else seemed to fit him to a “t”.  Flexible schedule to allow for sudden appearances out of the heavens.  An affinity for and willingness to interact with humans.  Must be able to reassure people and allay all fear.  A desire to share good news and provide details regarding a baby’s birth.

None of that bothered him at all.  In fact, it’s what he’d always dreamed of, as far back as he could remember – which was quite a ways; the millenia seem to run together when you’re a heavenly being, you see.  All the way back to when he first got his angel’s wings and learned of the dream assignment, the one everyone would be clamoring for: the one bringing news to end all news.

There wasn’t an angel in the heavens who didn’t aspire to be around when that happened.  And, better yet, to be part of the actual entourage who’d break into the mortal realm – something that didn’t happen all that often – and be among the first to tell the world about the amazing, radical, wonderful, preposterous, transforming, dangerous thing that God was up to.

Because make no mistake – that’s exactly what it was.  God coming into the world?  It boggles the mind – even the angelic mind.  God creating the world, yes.  Managing it, sure.  But coming into it?  And not in some big, bombastic divine way, but in a way even the angels couldn’t comprehend: the God of the universe, born into the world as a person, as a human being.  To a teenaged girl living in Israel under Roman oppression, nonetheless.  How does something like that even happen?  That’s what every angel wanted to know, and that’s why every angel wanted to be there when it all went down – to see, with their own angel eyes, how God becomes human.

Which is why his heart sank when he read the words: must be able to sing.  Because for all of the gifts he possessed – and, not to toot his own angel horn or anything, but he had quite a few – for all his gifts, singing was not one of them.  Never had been.  He knew it long before others told him – not verbally, of course, but with that look on their angel faces when he tried to carry a tune.  Sometimes it was off-pitch.  Other times he ran out of breath and couldn’t finish the stanza.  Most of the time, it was both!

And so, given that notable deficiency, he was not entirely sure what made him apply for the position.  Who knows – maybe a miracle could happen.  God was in the business of those, after all. 

And so it came to pass one day that he, an angel who couldn’t carry a tune to save his heavenly life, somehow managed to get assigned to the angelic choir.  No audition, no follow-up.  Just the details:

When:            Late December evening, around midnight
Where:           The fields outside the city of Bethlehem
Who:               Shepherds watching over their sheep
What:             The singing of this heavenly chorus:

Glory to God in the highest heaven
And on earth, peace to those God loves

Peace.  He got stuck on that word as he read the score.  Peace. Now that – that was puzzling.  Singing about peace to a bunch of shepherds wrangling their sheep all night long, keeping the wolves from devouring their flocks – where exactly is the peace in that?  Singing about peace to a world that, from his view at least, knew nothing of the sort – only hate, conflict, division and divides, loss and anxiety – where’s the peace in that?

That question lingered with him, all the way up until this very night, right as he stood with the others in that angelic choir, waiting in the wings, as it were.  It was the lead angel who made their presence known first, revealing himself to the shepherds in the fields who were expecting nothing of the sort.  He always loved that part – that look of total surprise, shock, astonishment on their faces; that holy mix of fear and wonder that comes when you know you’re in the presence of something that is not of your world.

The angel made the announcement with a voice loud and clear:

Do not be afraid
I’ve come to tell you amazing news of incredible joy
for you and for all the world:
To you – to you! – is born this day in the city of David
a savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord,
the one the world has been waiting on for so very long.
He’s here!
And I’ve got a sign for you:
This child will be wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.

And that was their cue. That’s when the rest of them came on the scene, the angelic choir he’d somehow managed to become part of. That’s when they lifted their voices and sang their lovely tune, over and over again:

Glory to God in the highest heaven
And on earth, peace to those God loves

Sometimes the song we sing with our voices, with our lives, is not terribly notable, because what we’re singing about isn’t much to sing about.  Going through the motions of our day – waking up, heading off to work, school.  Running errands, going to practice, doing chores, paying our bills.  Fixing dinner, cleaning up afterwards.  Going to bed so we can wake up the next morning and do it all over again.  We sing that song each and every day and it’s a perfectly fine song….

But then there are times when something bigger than us, much bigger than us, breaks into our lives and into our world.  It shocks us with its simplicity.  It overwhelms us with its obviousness.

A gorgeous sunrise at the dawn of a new day.
That sense of contentment that comes when we live honestly and authentically.
The love and care of family and friends.
The joy that comes when we see others and ourselves the way that God sees us.
The birth of a child.

A child that would bring so much to the world – so much that it knew it needed, and a whole lot it didn’t know.  And with it, songs.  Such beautiful music!  Songs of trust, songs of faith, songs of hope.  And songs of peace.  Even in this crazy world, especially in this crazy world, songs of peace!

And when we join the choir and sing those songs, when we sing them with our voices and sing them with our lives, there is no way to not sing them well.  There’s no way to be off-pitch, to run out of breath.  The songs sing themselves.  They come from deep within, surprising and shocking us like an angelic choir appearing out of nowhere to some random shepherds in the fields in the middle of the night.

Never again did our angel friend doubt his singing.  Never again did he sell himself short.  He could sing, because the song he was singing came from God, as all good songs do.  He could sing, as can all of us.  We can sing of peace; even in this crazy world of ours.  We can sing of peace, especially on this holy night.  Because Jesus has been born to us, friends, all of us, now and forevermore.  The song sings itself:

Glory to God in the highest heaven
And on earth, peace to those God loves

Beloved, welcome to the choir.

In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, in the name of the One born into the world to bring us peace, thanks be to God – and may all of God’s people say, AMEN!

* Because sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal