Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds – Ps 98
Let us sing alleluia here on earth, while we still live in anxiety, so that we may sing it one day in heaven in full security…So, then, my brothers, let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten our labors. You should sing as wayfarers do – sing, but continue your journey. – St Augustine
Today the Church sings a new, old song to the Lord, remembering what once was and what constantly becomes itself again: God’s entrance into the world and into our hearts. We sing the same songs every year, bringing to them whatever has changed in us and transforming their familiar refrains into a new expression.
When I was younger and had built a safe and comfortable life for myself, I didn’t want the song I sang to change. I was really good at singing it. I had worked had to create what I wanted and thought I deserved no less than to stand frozen in place, secure. But pieces started moving and not matter how still I stood I couldn’t keep everything the same. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I continued to pray, though my prayer felt futile and illuminated nothing.
By some good fortune – or grace – I was hardwired for hope and never abandoned that flicker of faith in the wondrous deeds God does for us. So I learned to sing a new song: to sing, but continue the journey.
Christmas recharges us in a particular way, reminding us of the remarkable way God confounds expectations. The Word became flesh and entered an unconventional family in a violent, terrifying world, in a filthy and undignified barn. By doing so, dignity came even more fully to all humanity, to curious shepherds and wise foreigners and teen moms, to the sick and confused and poor and abandoned. When we remember this, we are on the lookout for God in all the unexpected places that divinity tends to hide.
And if we are lucky – or graced – this recognition of God with us trains us in virtue, so that we can sing our way through whatever life throws at us, clinging not to the particularity of our blessings but to the universality of God’s phenomenal love.