A Song in Our Hearts for Christmas

Music is breath for the soul. My wife, Laura, and I have a music room in our home. Inside, one can find guitars, a mandolin, a djembe, a banjo, a ukulele, a piano, a cello, and two sets of bagpipes! Some of us sit and play. Others sit and listen. Breath for the soul.

Life is rushed and beautiful, guarded and blessed, dangerous and safe, frightening and calming—all at the same time. Through it all, music gives voice to our experiences.

In Luke 2:14, the heavenly host praise God and say (I believe they actually sing): “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favors.” Whom does God favor?

I have come to believe that the favored ones are all of God’s children, young and old, everywhere and in every generation. Each person is precious in God’s sight—even dirty shepherds “out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). Each person—Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, those who believe and those who wrestle with unbelief—each is precious in God’s sight.

A joy of being a pastor musician is growing in one’s skills. While in Kansas in 2017, I was invited to play guitar for the youth and adult combined choir as we presented the musical Celebrate Life! A youth, who is now a senior at the University of Arkansas, sang the Song of Mary. It captures the moment in Luke 1 when Mary is made aware by the angel Gabriel that she will give birth to the Christ Child.

Mary sings:

Sing, my soul, the greatness of the Lord.
      Rejoice, my spirit, rejoice in God my Savior.
So tenderly has He regarded me, so wondrously has He exalted me,
      All generations shall call me blest.
For His name, His name is holy, He is the mighty one.
      His mercy is ever sure.
Sing, my soul, the greatness of the Lord.

I’m curious about Jesus’ mother Mary. Was she able to grasp what was happening to her, to Joseph, to the world?

In 1993, Kathy Mattea released her song, Mary, Did You Know? This week, I picked up a guitar and her song is still in my fingers, in my voice, but, even more, in my heart. What did Mary know? When Mary treasured the report of the shepherds, scripture says she pondered these things in her heart.

Mattea sings for all of us who are curious, “Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation? Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will one day rule the nations? Did you know that your Baby Boy was heaven’s perfect Lamb? This sleeping child you’re holding is the great ‘I AM.’”

We have 99 congregations, 261 ministers, 24 educators, and numerous ministries in the Presbytery of the James. I pray that you and your family will have a song in your hearts this week—a song of the angels, a song of Mary, a song that draws you closer to the Christ Child, to the Great I AM. Merry Christmas, my friends, merry Christmas!

In Christ’s Service,

Fred A. Holbrook
Interim General Presbyter & Stated Clerk