Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sermon for Year C Christmas 1

Deck the Halls

As Episcopalians we wait out the four weeks of advent
without once singing “Joy to the World”---
at least not in church!

We wait.
We wait and then on Christmas eve
we burst into “those old familiar carols” with joy and gusto!

We wait.
But the good news is that when Christmas comes—
It stays for awhile.
Today we celebrate the first Sunday after Christmas.
Next week we’ll celebrate the second Sunday after Christmas.

We get to ponder and reflect upon the Christ child coming into the world
For several weeks.
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
So we hear in John’s gospel today.

In the reading from Isaiah we hear
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my whole being shall exult in my God.”

Our psalm today begins,
“Hallelujah! How good it is to sing praises to our God!”
The psalm ends with a Hallelujah too!
(Not a one of us in this Saturday evening congregation
can hear HALLELUJAH! without thinking
of our friend Neil Monroe, right?!!!)
He is our HALLELUJAH man!

One song we seldom—maybe never—sing in church is “Deck the Halls”.
It doesn’t have any specific baby Jesus references—
or even Christian references.
I wanted to use this carol as the heart of my sermon today
because the last line:
Sing we joyous all together
Heedless of the wind and weather.

I am not sure we have been heedless of the wind and weather,
But we certainly understand how wind and weather
affects our worship schedule!

But back to DECK THE HALLS….
when I did a little research
I found that it is a Welsh dance tune.
It was actually traditionally sung on New Year’s Eve.
(That made me feel it was also quite appropriate
for this evening’s service—
with New Year’s eve only 4 days away)
Carolers would dance in a circle around a harpist.

Now those of us that went on the Wales pilgrimage in 2008
remember well Llio a magnificent harpist
who played for us one evening
at the Royal Goat Hotel in Beddgelert.

Where we now sing fa la la la—
that was actually the harpist’s part.
Deck the halls with boughs of holly, sang the dancing singers--
And the harp would sing back fa la la la la
la la la la.

This Welsh carol—known as NOS GALAN (which means NEW YEAR)—became a Christmas carol in the late part of the 19th century,
the Victorian period when Christmas was re-invented in a sense.

So here we are in the season of Christmas.
It is truly a time of joy and rejoicing and happiness—
And when we hear those words—fa la la la la—
It’s almost as if someone was making up words—
Plucking out some little notes of joy!

The words to the carol don’t matter.
Because the Word has been made flesh and come into our world--
and nothing will ever be the same.


What matters is that we sing joyfully and loudly.
What matters is that we toss away our inhibitions
And do a little dance of joy—
(don’t be alarmed—I am not going to make you dance here—
but when you get back home—rejoice! Dance!
Sing out your fa la la las and dance with joy and delight.

Back to those last lines—
Sing we joyous all together
Heedless of the wind and weather.

For awhile there
it looked like we wouldn’t be having any Christmas services.
That we were going to be snowed out, frozen out.
We managed to have both services on Christmas eve
But Christmas morning was too icy, the roads too dangerous—
So the service was cancelled.

I have never had to cancel a service before—
It was disappointing.
But it was also okay.
Because even when we cannot come together in the same physical place,
we are still bound together by God.
Sing we joyous all together, heedless of the wind and weather.

Christmas is the season of great joy.
Hope has come to live in the world
and that hope promises never to leave us.
Wherever we may be
Christ is never cancelled!

Fa la la la la la la!

(Source for history of the Deck the Halls: The Penguin Book of Carols, edited by Ian Bradley)


Deck the halls with boughs of holly
‘Tis the season to be jolly
Don we now our gay apparel
Troll the ancient Yule-tide carol.

See the blazing Yule before us,
Strike the harp and join the chorus,
Follow me in merry measure,
While I tell of Yule-tide treasure.

Fast away the old year passes,
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses,
Sing we joyous all together,
Heedless of the wind and weather.

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