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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Listen, Annie, Listen

    I like Annie Lennox's Christmas album so much, I've bought more than a dozen copies to give to friends. She says in her liner notes that she grew up singing the traditional carols, that they've "accompanied" her life. But, somehow, she sings them splendidly without actually listening to them. I know she doesn't hear them because she writes that "the word Christ... could just as easily be 'Buddha' or 'Allah.'" No, Annie, it really couldn't.
    "Carols tell ancient stories," she wrote. Truly, they tell only one story, very specific in detail and quite impossible to equate with the tale of any other religious figure. Angels who were present at the creation of the universe "now proclaim Messiah's birth," the advent of the Anointed One, the Christ, the One on Whom God's Spirit descended like a dove, and of Whom the Father said, "This is My Son." This happened to Jesus when His cousin John baptized Him. It happened in a particular place and time, and to no one else. 
    Generations had awaited His appearance, "promised from eternal years." They knew He would be born to a virgin. They knew He would be born in Bethlehem. Prophets reminded them of the promise, and they encouraged each other to remember and hope and watch. Even in Babylon, "the East," wise men, magi, awaited His birth. Men of their office, taught originally by Daniel, chief of the magi, had passed the prophecy down through four centuries. They knew when to start looking, and they followed the brilliant light in the sky. It led them to the Child, "the King of Israel."  "Il est ne', le divin Enfant;" does anyone sing such a song about Buddha or Mohammed? Did any king send soldiers to kill them in infancy? Which of them came as "God with man... now residing"? Which of them "with His blood mankind has bought"? 
    We still sing these carols because Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross to pay for our sins and to redeem the world. The songs are not about an ideal or a force or a principle. They are about a Person, the God/man, Who was born, lived, died and rose from the dead to purchase our way into a perfect world filled with the "love and compassion... empathy, harmony and respect for each other" that Annie Lennox and so many others long for. We can't do it on our own. He has done it for us. So we keep singing the story, the amazing, beautiful, incredible, impossible story,  because it is real. Because it is true. Annie? Everyone? Do you hear?