Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Sermon I Doubt I'll Ever Give

The hymn, A Stable Lamp is Lighted, from a poem by Richard Wilbur, as sung by The Miserable Offenders in their album "Keeping the Baby Awake" is one I never hear sung at Christmas.  First of all, few people know it, and the tune in the hymnal isn't nearly as good as the one used in the album.  The words too, must put a lot of people off.  At Christmas time we don't want to offend people by reminding them that the lovely little baby boy, born in a humble stable grows into the man who is crucified on a cross, and people like to sing what they know.

People who come to church only on Christmas and Easter don't want to be disturbed by the reality of a world where the stones cry out against violence, injustice and stony hearts, they want messages of peace and goodwill. Those are not bad things in and of themselves and I do believe in preaching the good news, only I don't think it should be sugar coated.  I can, however, imagine the words of this poem making a pretty good Advent sermon though and a really good one for Palm Sunday.  A barn harboring heaven and the stones on which the palm branches are strewn remind us of the kingdom that boy-child was to usher in. It hints at the Magnificat with "the low is lifted high" and that at the end, the worlds will be reconciled.

For those who aren't familiar with the words:
A stable lamp is lighted
Whose glow shall wake the sky
The stars shall bend their voices
And every stone shall cry
And straw like gold will shine
A barn shall harbor heaven
A stall become a shrine

This child through David’s city
Will ride in triumph by
The palm shall strew its branches
And every stone shall cry
And every stone shall cry
Though heavy, dull and dumb
And lie within the roadway
To pave the Kingdom come.

Yet He shall be forsaken
And yielded up to die
The sky shall groan and darken
And every stone shall cry
And every stone shall cry
For stony hearts of men
God’s blood upon the spearhead
God’s love refused again.

But now as at the ending
The low is lifted high
The stars shall bend their voices
And every stone shall cry
And every stone shall cry
In praises of the child
By whose descent among us
The worlds are reconciled.

A very joyous Christmas to all.


Rick+ said...

     Hmm... maybe a sermon you won't give, but probably one we should hear.

motheramelia said...

I agree it is one that should be told. I just doubt that Christmas is the day. Maybe the Sunday after would be better. It's still Christmastide.

Caminante said...

This song always brings tears to my eyes.... many years ago I talked our choir into singing it on Christmas I and they too teared up. It's worth introducing or using in a sermon... the soft wood of the crib becomes the hard wood of the cross (Leonardo Boff).