Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
12:00pm Fellowship
Pastor Rev. Brooke Newell
Secretary Donna McDonald
315-265-7474

Sharing Across Miles and Centuries

December 25, 2011:

Call:   John 1: 1-14
Text:   Isaiah 52: 7-10
Read:   Christmas       (231)

          Sharing Across miles and Centuries

Every Christmas Eve since I accepted the call to the ministry
        I have led congregations in observing the birth of Christ
And every year on the first Sunday following Christmas Eve
        I have had those congregations sing the hymn that we just sang, "Go Tell It On The Mountain."

This is the 46th Christmas Sunday
since this hymn was included in the 1966 Methodist Hymnal

I know we have now sung it here    the last five of those Sundays
And I would venture a guess
that this congregation
also sang it
        On most of the 41 Christmas Sundays that immediately preceded my appointment.

It is difficult not to.

For in the birth of Christ,
God has answered our desperate plea for help
God has fulfilled God's promise to us

And now, having been prepared by God for this day,
we are expected to proclaim the good news that God proclaimed
and that God told us to proclaim.
How could any of us want to do anything else?

And thus we sing what we hear God telling us to sing
        "Go, tell it on the mountain
        over the hills and everywhere
        Go tell it on the mountain
        Jesus Christ is born."

I sing this and I picture Rafiki holding the new born Simba
        For the entire lion nation to see
For what Rafiki is doing at the beginning of the movie
        Is proclaiming the birth of a king

Even before this hymn was put into our hymnal
        Telling the story was what God expected us to do
Telling the story was what we needed to do
Telling the story was what we wanted to do.

Listen to the prophet Isaiah    [52: 7-10]

The instruction preceded the birth.

And for centuries after the birth people have
Broken forth into singing
As sentinels singing for joy
For in plain sight they have seen the return of the Lord

And they have shared the good news      - all over the world.
        Telling it on the mountain
        Telling it over the hills
Telling it everywhere.

And everywhere includes Potsdam, NY USA


But they have shared the good news
        In villages other than Potsdam
They have shared the good news
        In states other than New York
They have shared the good news
        in countries other than the United States of America.

And they have shared it long before this 21st century began

The hymns       that we have sung       and that we will sing
        In this place   on this date
Reflect that sharing
        Across the miles and across the centuries

Today we sing a variety of hymns
        Some old
and some new
        Some written in the western tradition
and some not
        Some written by those in power
and some by those without any

"O Come All Ye Faithful" opened our singing

It was written in England in the mid 18th century.
        But it was written in Latin - not in English
        And that is how we know it as "Adeste Fidelis"
                [Which during football season, Cowboy fans often misinterpret as "Destiny for Dallas]
        It was used in Catholic churches for many years before being translated into English so the rest of us would find it easier to use.

Interestingly,
It is not the only one of today's hymns originally written in Latin

        So was "Good Christian Friends Rejoice"
                That one has a German melody

And Latin is not the only non-English language from which today's hymns have come
        "Sing We Now of Christmas"
                that was written in French

Latin, French, and English
are all Western European languages
and England, Germany, and France
        are all Western European countries.

Our history     is of a nation founded mostly by Western Europeans
Our history     is of one of several denominations
                               that originated in Western European countries

Thus, it is not surprising that
        Many, if not most,
of the old favorite Christmas hymns
the ones which we have traditionally used
to celebrate    and to tell the story
have a Western birthright.

But not all of our people are Western Europeans in ancestry.

America today still sees itself as a melting pot
        But not just of those with various Western birthrights.

During my lifetime
        Advances in communication, transportation, and technology
        Have made our world much smaller
        And our awareness and appreciation of diversity much greater


And so we celebrate too, with hymns from non-western traditions
Like the two from the songbooks about Mary having a baby

"The Virgin Mary Had A Baby Boy"
        that is a West Indian Carol
"Mary Had A Baby"
        That is an African American spiritual.

Singing them,
We feel the difference in rhythm
        And the difference in word usage
And yet, still we experience a sense of awe and celebration

Neither of these hymns came out of the educated establishment
        Both were created by people without much power
        Including the very people to whom God told us to proclaim the good news:
the captives and the oppressed.

But the irony for us is that in these hymns
People to whom we are to proclaim the good news
Proclaim it to us
For we too can be captives
of our possessions, power and money
and we too can be oppressed
        by our selfish and self centered desires and values

And these hymns not only proclaim the good news to us,
they also give us an additional way for us to share that news
and thus do what God told us to do
                That is:        to witness to the story
                        Just like the "certain poor shepherds"
of another hymn


The music in today's service
Are ways for us to celebrate and share
Despite,        or perhaps because of,       its diverse origins

But language and geography
        are not the only ways this morning's music is diverse.

It is diverse in time as well.

We have drawn from ancient carols, and from music written
By contemporaries of John Wesley
By contemporaries of Lincoln, Grant, and Lee
And by contemporaries of Theodore Roosevelt.

We will close though
with three hymns written by our contemporaries
hymns written during the lifetimes of many of us here,
For our three closing hymns were published
        In 1960 in 1998 and in (get this!) 2006

These are not the old traditional favorites
        That congregations always want to sing.

They are new to us.
In fact, I don't believe that this congregation
Has ever sung any of the three remaining hymns.

And they give us new tools and additional resources with which
        To break forth into singing
As sentinels singing for joy
For in plain sight they have helped us
To see the return of the Lord

Advent is a time of learning and preparation
Christmas is a time of sharing and celebration
That is why pastors and worship leaders
        Often to their congregation's disappointment and annoyance
Save so many of the great Christmas hymns
        For the services from Christmas Eve to Epiphany

Well, this is Christmas
        And with our attention focused on that sharing and that celebration
                We sing the traditional hymns
                But we also sing the new hymns
                        Nurturing them
                        So that some day congregations might complain
to a pastor
                        "You didn't have us sing ...
                                here you can insert any of the new hymns

It is a time when Christians
        Across the miles and across the centuries
Take the resources they have been given
        Over those centuries and across those miles
                To proclaim the good news
                By going to tell it
on the mountain         over the hills  and everywhere.

Let's do it!!