“O Zion, you who bring good tidings . . . Say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’” (Isaiah 40:9 NKJV).
When Handel composed his famous oratorio The Messiah, he included a piece based on this verse (“Oh thou that tellest good tidings to Zion”) combined with Isaiah 60:1, “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” In the order of songs, it comes right after the prediction of the virgin birth in Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive.” It was Handel’s way of saying, “This is how we should respond to Christ’s birth.”
Go and tell.
Share the good news.
Arise and let your light shine.
These are good words for today because Christmas eventually ends for all of us. Soon enough we will take down the tree, pack away the ornaments, and either use our gifts or take them back to the store to be exchanged. In a few days the children go back to school, and life returns to normal.
But will we be changed by Christmas?
People sometimes wish they could keep the Christmas spirit all year long. They speak of it as if the “magic” of these days comes only once a year. But it depends on what “magic” you are talking about. If you mean the tree and the gifts and the mistletoe and the chestnuts roasting on an open fire, that indeed comes only once a year. But the greater truth of Christmas ought to warm our hearts long after the holiday has ended.
Would you like Christmas to last all year long? It can if you will take Isaiah’s words to heart. So go back to where you came from.
Back to your office.
Back to your classroom.
Back to your factory.
Back to your neighborhood.
Back to your job.
Back to your family duties.
Go back to the humdrum of daily routine. But do not go back unchanged. Arise and let your light shine. When the shepherds saw Jesus, they couldn’t stop talking about it. Christmas didn’t change their circumstances, but it changed them deeply and profoundly. Yes, they still had to deal with cranky sheep and sometimes they had to step in sheep manure, but that hardly mattered now.
They had seen the Christ child.
Have you seen Jesus this year at Christmastime? If you have, then go back to what you were doing before and take the memory of Christmas with you. Start where you are, and God will be with you.
With that thought, our Advent Alphabet comes to an end. But if you go and tell the good news of Jesus, you will have Christmas all year long.
Grant to us, O Lord, the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the Magi, and the peace of the Christ child. Amen.
Musical bonus: We wrap up our journey through the Advent Alphabet with a beloved American spiritual. Here’s a hand-clapping, toe-tapping arrangement of Go Tell It On the Mountain by MercyMe.