carol, “In Dulci Jubilo,” dates back to the 14th
century. Supposedly the words were first sung by angels to a
monk by the name of Heinrich Suso, perhaps in vision or a dream.
His biography says that an angel came to him, and told him that
“God had sent (the angels) down to (Suso), to bring him heavenly
joys amid his sufferings; adding that he must cast off all his
sorrows from his mind and bear them company, and that he must
also dance with them in heavenly fashion. Then (the angels) drew
(Suso) by the hand into the dance, and (he) began a joyous song
about the infant Jesus.” (for
more see here) In our English translation of this
Christmas carol we sing “Good Christian friends, rejoice,” but
literally the Latin and German words mean “In sweet
I invite you to rise in body or spirit, and turn to #210 in your
hymnal, and let us on this first Sunday after Christmas, sing
with “sweet jubilation” our praise. We’ll pause between each
verse to listen to scripture take us by the hand and lead us
deeper into the dance of faith.
God of hope and light, your good news has been emblazoned across the
skies, the great starry night of Jesus’ birth, sung by angels,
celebrated by shepherds, witnessed by animals. You have given to us
a new chance, a reminder of your continual love for us. Be with us
in this worship, we pray. Guide our thoughts, our lives, our
spirits. Heal and restore us. For we ask this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN
(needed: a broken nativity
set shepherd, some play doh)
A few weeks ago, we brought the boxes of Christmas decorations
down from the attic. I opened up the box that had our ceramic
nativity set in it, and cleared off a shelf to place all the
figures. I was trying to get into the Christmas spirit and
thought that putting some decorations up would help.
I brought out the
centerpiece, which looks a little like a barn, and I put Mary
and Joseph and the manger which holds baby Jesus in it. Then
came a cow and a donkey. Then some camels along with the three
wise men. Searching through the pieces of Styrofoam and tissue
paper, I finally found the shepherd boy. This set only has one
shepherd. However, there was something wrong with it. Something
was missing, can you see what it is? Yes, the feet have broken
off. I searched through the box for the feet, that I might glue
them back on, but I couldn’t find them. What can’t this shepherd
boy figure do without those feet? That’s right: he can’t stand.
My first thought
was to take down the whole set. After all, what is a nativity
set without a shepherd? Shepherds are pretty important to the
story of Jesus’ birth. A group of them were taking care of their
sheep in the middle of the night when lots of angels surrounded
them and sang out about the birth of a baby in Bethlehem. What
did those shepherds then do? They went to Bethlehem, where they
saw the baby Jesus, and they told Mary and Joseph about the
angels. And then they left, singing songs of praise to God.
But my poor shepherd boy doesn’t have any feet. How could he go
to Bethlehem? What good is a shepherd without feet? What should
I do with him? (get their ideas, eventually bring out the play
doh and see what they then say). Oh, now he can stand up. With
a little help, he can be part of our nativity set. With some
help from the other shepherds, he could have made it to
Bethlehem. He doesn’t have feet, but the most important part of
his story is his mouth. He and the other shepherds told what
they had seen – the angels. And then, just like the angels, they
opened their mouths and sang, glorifying and praising God for
all they’d heard and seen.
written closer to the time (if not at the
our Tithes and Offerings
little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
Brooks wrote those words a few years after the Civil war, “many
little towns of the North and the South were unnaturally silent,
because so many of the young men were gone.” At that time, the
story of our nation was still unsettled, so many in a generation
silenced by the ‘deep and dreamless sleep’ of death, and the
‘hopes and fears of all the years’ wondering if what was torn
asunder by war could truly be put back together again.
In a few minutes,
we will turn again to the dreams of a carpenter named Joseph,
and the unsettling story of Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus.
As we return our offerings to God just now, think about those
“hopes and fears of all the years,” and what God may reveal in
International Lesson: Adult
from The United Methodist Publishing House
(click "supplemental resources" and "current events supplement"
under both the "Student" and "Teacher" sections in the left hand column)