These are the first words that you will hear sung on Sunday December 18th as the “award winning” St. John’s Choir (voted best Lutheran choir in the Latah Valley for 9 straight years) presents its Christmas Cantata “I Hear the Prophet Callin’” in worship that morning. The very next phrase is “Listen, hear the story told so many times before. Listen, and be open. We are open to the Lord.” The truth is that we have heard this story so many times before. In that repetition the danger is that we stop listening; hearing, what God is doing in the nativity of Jesus; in His coming to the earth.
How about taking a moment to assess the impact of Christmas? In terms of our nation and culture; our economic wellbeing, Christmas is a “gold mine”. Projections for 2016 show that retail sales of over $655 billion (655 followed by 000,000,000.00) are anticipated this holiday season. That would be up 3.6% from 2015. On top of that, we will spend another $1.3 billion just on Christmas trees. That’s astounding! How much was spent on the first Christmas? Little to nothing in terms of human costs, but the cost to God, especially God the Son, was infinitely more astounding.
True listening has always been difficult, involving concentration, thought, reflection and retention. It seems like the art of listening is being lost in our time, or at least it is under assault. The noise of our lives today is deafening. Social media encourages us to communicate in one direction, blasting out what we know, think or feel and not allowing for any immediate response, and when a response does come there is no opportunity to receive all of the “nonverbal” forms of communication, such as inflection, tone, volume, energy, pace, etc. In order to listen, and to hear, we must be open to it. We have to seize the opportunity to stay silent, and allow God to speak to us.
The writer to the Hebrews tells us, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” Hebrews 1:1-2 God is still speaking to us through his Son, through Jesus Christ, who was born into the world that He created, to bring about the salvation for all mankind. He has accomplished all that is needed for that salvation and eternal life, and we take hold of it through faith. That’s where the active listening comes in. God tells us in Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 10, verse 17; “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” We have got to listen. We must hear the word of Christ in order to be made co-heirs with him of all things.
As we prepare for this Christmas, and prepare for Christ to come again in glory, let us stop, tune out the noise, and truly listen to the story of God coming to the earth; coming to be with us, coming to be one of us in the person of Jesus Christ. Listen and hear of the wonder of the fullness of God being placed into the tiny Babe of Bethlehem. We can hear it directly from God’s Word; the Bible, and we can hear it in the wonderful Advent and Christmas music that will be played and sung in our worship and celebrations.
“Listen, and be open. We are open to the Lord.”