SING A NEW SONG – Nativity of the Lord; Christmas Eve / Night

December 24-25, 2022

Revised Common Lectionary
Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalm 96
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Isaiah 9:1-6
Psalm 96:1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13 (Lk 2:11)
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-14

Most of us love to sing familiar carols at Christmas—and rightly so. We have likely sung these hymns from childhood, giving us ways not only to remember the story of Christ’s coming, but also to express wonder and joy in this moment. They connect us to the people who first taught us about the birth of Jesus and to past celebrations of this great feast. Yearly repetition of these songs provides us with a powerful way of entering into the wondrous mystery that we celebrate on this night.

The first line in tonight’s Psalm challenges us to sing not just the familiar songs but also to “sing to the Lord a new song” (Ps 96:1a). The call is not limited to us nor to believers nor even to human beings. The psalmist cries out to the whole creation, “Sing to the LORD, all the earth!” (Ps 96:1b). The invitation goes out: “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy” (Ps 96:11-12). The whole cosmos is called to join in a new song.

The Scripture readings for tonight suggest the kind of new song that we are being called to sing.

For those who feel overcome by darkness and gloom, Isaiah bids us sing of the “great light” (Is 9:1) that shines among us. For Christian believers, Jesus is the “light of the world” (Jn 8:12, 9:5). The light that is born tonight offers hope and new life to those who are anxious or depressed, those who have suffered loss, those who face financial struggles, those who can’t see the way forward. We sing a new song, for in this child we “have seen a great light” (Is 9:1).

Into a world where injustice and racism all too often hold sway, the psalmist bids us sing a new song, for the LORD “is coming to judge the earth.” Yes, God “will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth” (Ps 96:13). Indeed, we sing the birth of a Savior who is born into poverty in an occupied nation. Yet in his ministry, this child will inaugurate the coming of God’s reign in which the poor are blessed and the hungry are filled, while the rich are sent away and the powerful are overthrown. On Christmas we sing a new song of justice.

In a world torn by warfare and violence, Luke shares with us the new song of the angels to shepherds keeping watch in the fields: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Lk 2:14). Christians see in the birth of Jesus the coming of the “Prince of Peace” (Is 9:6), the One who came to break down barriers, who called the peacemakers blessed, who gave his very life to reconcile us with God and one another.

What would Christmas be without the carols and songs that burst forth from our memories and our hearts? As we sing them with joy, let us take to heart tonight’s call to join in a new song—to celebrate the One whose birth signals transformation and to join him in a song of light, justice, and peace.

A Hymn for Today: “Come, Join in Mary’s Prophet-Song”

Mennonite hymn writer Adam M. L. Tice invites us to “sing a new song” on
Christmas, to join in Mary’s song of justice and the angels’ song of peace.

Come, join in Mary’s prophet-song
of justice for the earth,
for right outgrows the fiercest wrong,
revealing human worth—
bound not within the wealth we crave
or in the arms we bear,
but in the holy sign God gave:
the image that we share.

The “Peace on earth” which shepherds heard
is not some fantasy.
The angels sang to greet the Word,
whose birth is victory.
The maiden Mary, not so mild,
bore into death’s domain
true God and yet an infant child,
who over death would reign.

Emmanuel, God-with-us here,
grows peace where we would dare
to act despite our trembling fear
and bring God’s holy care.
The image God made “us” to be
is also borne on “them.”
Christ bids us join our enemy
to sing war’s requiem.

Text: Adam M. L. Tice, b. 1979. © 2009, GIA Publications, Inc. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857

Image Credit: Gloria in excelsis Deo, stained glass, Prince of Peace Abbey, Oceanside, California

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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