I’m afraid I forgot, in the heat of the moment, to push “record” on my device, so this sermon only exists in text form and no audio. This is sad because we all sang so nicely together! Oh well. I hope you enjoy it anyway… Rev. Mark
When I was a kid – about the same age as the angels in our pageant – I lived in a place called Singapore.
Singapore far away.
It’s about as far away as you can get before you start coming back again.
It’s not like New Hampshire at all.
There are no pine trees in Singapore.
Instead you have coconut trees
There are no Birches and Maples trees
Instead there are Mango and Banana trees.
In Singapore, there is no Mount Monadnock.
Instead there is the equator.
Do you kids know what the equator is?
The equator is a kind of invisible line that stretches around the middle our planet Earth.
If our planet earth was wearing pants, the equator might be the planet’s belt.
Places that are on or near the equator are hot.
So Singapore was a hot place.
There is no such thing as winter in Singapore.
There is no such thing as a sweater, or snow boots, or sledding in Singapore.
When I would get home from school, I would take off my shoes and run outside. For the first 8 years of my life I never wanted to wear shoes, because it was 85 degrees in June, and it was 85 degrees in December.
Around that time – it was 1971 – there was song that came on the radio that I really liked.
The song was by a group called The Carpenters.
It was kind of a corny song.
But I really liked it.
It went like this:
Sing, sing a song
Song out loud
Sing out Strong
I used to walk around with my Malay friends singing this song:
Sing of Good things not bad
Sing of Happy not sad…
We would play hide and seek and I would reveal myself because I couldn’t stop singing:,
Sing, sing a song
Make it simple
to last your whole life long!
We would take long bamboo poles try to knock the mangoes out of the mango trees singing:
Don’t worry if it’s not good enough
For anyone else to hear
Sing a song.
We were living in Singapore because my father was a teacher.
He wasn’t just any old teacher.
He taught people how to be Christian ministers.
He was teaching people in Singapore, how to be Christian ministers – which is kind of funny because not many people in Singapore, at the time, were Christians.
Take Christmas, for example.
Christmas, for all of us, means snow.
It means Christmas trees.
It means hot apple cider, and egg nog.
But we didn’t have any of this in Singapore.
So it was a challenge for my father to teach about Christmas in Singapore, where there is no snow, no Christmas trees, no egg nog, no apple cider.
And my Mother scratched her head too.
Try hanging Christmas ornaments of a palm tree – its difficult.
My Mom and Dad, and the Mom’s and Dad’s of the other missionaries and teachers in the school where my father taught, wanted to do something Christmas-y that would work in Singapore.
What would it be?
They wanted us – their children — to know about Christmas – even if we didn’t know about snow or reindeer or sledding or hot apple cider.
And then someone had an idea.
A wonderful idea.
On Christmas Eve, in 1971, something strange and wonderful happened in Singapore.
A group of Christian children and their parents – mostly Americans and some Australians and Chinese — gathered down at the bottom of the hill where a lot of poor people lived,
and we started singing.
We sang Christmas Carols.
I remember how surprised the people were when they came out of their house to listen.
It was dark, and we were all carrying candles, and I remember the chickens that ran around at my feet as I sang.
And what happened next was one of the most important things that ever happened to me in my whole life. I experienced, for the first time, the astonishing joy of singing together with other people.
There is a magic that occurs when voices are raised together in harmony.
A magic like nothing else in the whole world.
Please join me. Let’s sing the melody together in unison first:
And now, if you can, add a harmony:
Glorious isn’t it?
From that moment on I knew two things.
I knew that I loved Christmas
And I knew that I love music.
So when, in a few minutes, we get to the “Lessons and Carols” part of the service
I’d like you to think of it a little differently.
Don’t think of lessons as being separate from carols.
Think of them together.
Think of the Carols as lessons.
Because I think we can learn from music.
Learn a wonderful Christmas lesson.
A lesson that Jesus himself would agree with.
And that lesson is this:
When we are together – we do things better.
When we sing together, we sound better.
And that together, is not something that just happens here in New Hampshire.
Together happens here, with our Christmas trees and our toboggans and our Maple Syrup and Misteltoe,
But together also happens in places far away…
Places where little boys and girls knock mangoes out of mango trees with long bamboo poles.
Places where the monsoon rains fill the air in the mid-afternoon.
In Christ, there is no east or west.
All of us – in every part of the world – see a new born child…
and we want to sing!
All of us – in every part of the world, reach toward God – toward what we think is really good…
and we want to Sing.
Let us pray:
Gracious, life affirming God
We have come from near and far
On this magic night,
Down the long winding driveways
And along the rural routes
Through the snowy, wooded hills
We have come,
In just the same way
That the shepherds and Magi came,
Following the star to a humble place
To pay homage to a child –
This child is a light appearing in the darkness,
He is Wonderful,
The mighty God
The Everlasting Father
The Prince of Peace.
We raise our voices to tell tidings of great joy
Christ Jesus, our Savior, is born.
Jesus Christ, our brother, is born –
For unto us, this night, a child is born in the city of David
Emmanuel, God with us.
Go tell it on the mountain!
Go sing it on the doorsteps…
Jesus Christ is born. Jesus Christ is born! Amen.