Do you see what I see?  Do you hear what I hear?

This Christmas Carol has been playing in my head all week.  Do you ever have a tune that you just can’t stop humming?

It started with the sights and sound of Christmas that I noticed this past week.  Or maybe it is the sights and sounds that I haven’t heard.  I haven’t been to a mall, there has been no Salvation Army donation Kettle with the bells ringing through the street.  No Christmas parties;  No Yule Tide greetings at all really.  Then I heard a vehicle coming down our street in St James with a speaker blasting Christmas Carols.  A neighbour, I think, just wanting to spread a little sights and sounds of Christmas.

Do you see what I see?  Do you hear what I hear?

A sadness struck me as I realized this year is in deed different than Christmas’ past.  The lights, the decorations, the smell of wassail, the sound of church.  The singing of Lesson and Carols.  The family tradition of coming to church Christmas Eve.  The exchange of “Merry Christmas.”

Do you see what I see?  Do you hear what I hear?

The Christmas tree, the family, the wait at the airport for the expectant kids to finally arrive home from away.  The sight of the grand children, the laughter, the feast of turkey or ham or perogies, the opening of gifts.

Do you see what I see?  Do you hear what I hear?

As I waited at the light onto Portage Ave, I saw a young man looking for change.  He looked so cold.  I went to give him something.  I remembered I had no money in my wallet as everything during the pandemic is by debit or credit card.  I looked in my change container in the car and there…..was a lone Loonie.  But I need that for a cart at Super Store, I thought.  So I pulled away from the traffic light giving nothing.  I felt guilty all day.  Even through the COVID crisis the panhandler is short changed.

Do you see what I see?  Do you hear what I hear?

That first Christmas, Mary and Joseph must have felt short changed at first.  They didn’t see, nor hear the sounds desired on that first Christmas morning.  All alone, no family. No comfortable bed.

For many of us it will be a lonely Christmas without family.  The sights and sounds of Christmas 2020 will be, well, will be different!  Not what we desire or want.  But as with Mary and Joseph, it is what it is!

Mary traveling 70 miles on the back of a donkey.  Nine months pregnant; uncomfortable; back aching; glad she didn’t have to walk; wondering ‘are we there yet!’  It gets dark, Joseph trying to find a place to finally rest.  It is getting time.  “Joseph, we need to find a place and soon!”.  Finally they arrive in Bethlehem and there is no place for them, “but Joseph, we have to stop!”  They try one final place, an inn, but they too have no room.  “I suppose you could stay in the stable with the animals.”  Probably a little cave if the truth be known!  What do you think Mary?  “Well at least it is warm and it is dry and I can finally put my feet up.”

I often think how terrible it was that the Christ child was born in a stable, laid in a manger.  The smell of farm yard animals so close, but maybe, just maybe, they gave thanks that God had provided them with a place to give birth to their child.  They were past looking for a nice place; they just needed “a place”.

Do you see what I see?  Do you hear what I hear?

I have been thinking a lot about the “manger” and the stable this week and it came to me that it was like a relief shelter.  Like the shelter that many people find on cold nights here in Winnipeg.  Warm and dry.  Not necessarily a very nice place but a place just the same to rest their head.  From the very beginning Jesus came that He might identify with the poor, the destitute, the outcasts, those in need.  God provided for this couple a place.  A place that would be enshrined for 2000 years.  A common, lowly place -yet a Holy Place!

A number of years ago we were traveling down highway 401 from Toronto to Windsor.  We hit a terrible snow storm.  There were cars in the ditch all over the place.  We finally found a rest stop to pull over and wait out the storm.  When we pulled in, the place was packed with travelers stranded from the storm.  They were all making the best of their situation.  Did any of them think they were in grand accommodations – no!  But on this night they were just glad to find a relief shelter.  We certainly praised God for getting us to this shelter without harm.  Maybe that was how Mary and Joseph felt that night!  They gave thanks to God for providing them a place to give birth to their child.

Do you see what I see
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
Do you see what I see?
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear
A song, a song, high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea.

For 2000 years the shepherd’s story has been told.  Do you see what I see?  Do you hear what I hear?  The story of the shepherds leaving their flock to go and see what had happened;  finding Jesus lying in a manger.

Years ago there was a fellow who went into an old mine shaft in the mountains of British Columbia.  Hundreds of people had gone into the shaft before him but on this one occasion he looked up and there was a keg sitting on the top of one of the wooden beams.  He pulled it down, and as he opened it he found a keg filled with gold coins.  Someone had hidden the treasure.  For some unknown reason they never came back to claim it.  Amazing, all those people who walked right by and missed the treasure that laid right before their eyes.  This man saw the treasure. Others missed it but he looked up and there it was.

How often we look at all the wrappings of Christmas:  the gifts, the music, the festivities, the parties, and we even look at the nativity and the crèche.  We look at the story of Jesus and yet we miss the treasure found in the story:  The Christ child.  God Emmanuel who came to bring salvation to the world. 

This Christmas will be different.  We pray we never go through another one like it.  But maybe we can look around and reflect on the sights and sounds of that first Christmas morning.

We have time to reflect!  To meditate on the coming of our Lord Jesus.  Maybe in a way we have not done so before.

Do you see what I see?  Do you hear what I hear?

This Christmas we celebrate the coming of our Lord Jesus and we reflect upon the story that we read from scripture.  Yet, we cannot help but look at the journey that this little child will take.  Our picture, our sight soon fades from the manger to the cross.  For the treasure lay not in the little manger, with the shepherds watching, and the kings coming to present their gifts.  No, the treasure of this little boy, born of a virgin, is that He is Emmanuel – God is with us.  And as we fade from the manger to the cross;  the road traveled to Calvary.  Each one of us can exclaim;

Do you see what I see?  Do you hear what I hear?

For we can not, I must say we dare not, leave Jesus as a baby nestled in waddling cloths laying in a manger.  Eventually we must fade from the manger to the cross:

Ann Weems, in her book of Christian poems, writes:

”If there is no cross in the manger there is no Christmas.
If the babe doesn’t become the adult
There is no Bethlehem star.
If there is no commitment in us
There are no wise men searching.
If we offer no cup of cold water,
There is no gold, no frankincense, no myrrh.
If there is no praising God’s name,
There is no angels singing.
If there is no spirit of allelehuia,
There are no shepherds watching.
If there is no standing up, speaking out, no risk,
There is no Herod, no flight into Egypt.
If there is no room in “our” inn then
Merry Christmas mocks the Christ Child,
and the Holy family is just a holiday card.”

 

And the little shepherd boy says;

Do you see what I see?  Do you hear what I hear?

The story of Christmas is a story of hope.  A story of provision, a story of inspiration that God is with us.  He knows us, He loves us, and He promised that He will never leave us or forsake us but be with us always.

This Christmas, we celebrate and honour the birth of our Lord Jesus but we don’t keep Jesus in that manger, for we also worship the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord Jesus.  The Lord of Lords and the Kings of Kings.  We come and celebrate the birth of Emmanuel – God is with us.   

Do you see what I see?  Do you hear what I hear?

 

Merry Christmas!

In Christ:

Rev. Merv Lanctot

 

Faith grows in the soil of hope