The choir music and the string quartet in worship last Sunday reminded me how important music is in this season of Advent. A couple of years ago, also inspired by our choir, I wrote this reflection; it seems like a good week to share part of it again.
The way Luke tells the story makes me think he knew something about music. Maybe he was a singer himself. Maybe he’d been in the choir, maybe played the lute or the drum. He knew how a song can say something mere words cannot. Known for his extraordinary storytelling, Luke knows that some stories can only be told in song.
So Luke tells us about that angel choir, those angel songs that cut through the darkness of night. The one angel calling first, that one voice piercing the deep blue star-studded sky. “Do not be afraid,” she tells the frightened shepherds, who are afraid anyway, for who wouldn’t be, when all they were doing was watching their sheep on a regular night with not much happening. Who wouldn’t be frighted when the sky lights up and the voice of the first angel pierces the sky. Do not be afraid, she says, but they are afraid anyway, because the night is dark and danger lingers in the shadows.
The shepherds need a song that night, when the shadows surround them, and they are startled by the light of the angels. They need a song to understand the first angel’s words. “Do not be afraid,” she says, but that’s not all she says. Do not be afraid for I bring you good news; a baby has been born. A baby has been born for you.
Then the whole sky is bright and filled with angel wings as mighty and as gentle as the strings of a violin, and a whole choir of angel songs capture the good news of the love that is born in the darkness of night.
If not for the angel song, this would be a story about any other baby, any other mama wrapping her baby up against the cold night air. Do not be afraid, the angel says, but we are afraid anyway, because the night is dark and danger lingers in the shadows, and we pray urgently for the light to come.
But the angels do sing, and the whole sky lights up with their song that captures the good news of the love that is born in the darkness of night. And then, by the light of the angel songs, we can see the glimpses of hope that were hidden in the darkness before: the hands of the rescue workers reaching into the bombed-out rubble, refusing to go home, even as the bombs continue to go off around them. The voices of the protesters who will not remain silent while the government stops protecting its people. The acts of ordinary kindness and generosity that mark most of our days if only we look for it.
Do not be afraid, the angel sings to the shepherds, and they go to Bethlehem to see.
A version of this post appeared here.