Christmas peacocks and singing angels

Published 9:52 am Saturday, December 14, 2013

What decoration sits atop your Christmas tree?

If you’re like most people depicted in movies and comic strips, you probably have a star at the top. This is probably the most classic of all Christmas decorations, a symbol of the star that led the Magi to find Jesus. It is a reflection of the light that has come into a world filled with darkness. And it looks nice too!

In our house, we actually don’t have a star on top of our tree. We have a peacock. I could give you a long list of religious imagery reflected in the peacock. But if I’m perfectly honest, we have a peacock atop our tree because my wife loves peacocks. They have a certain significance within our relationship, so much so that they were part of my wife’s bouquet at our wedding. She loves them, I love her, so up on our tree the peacocks go!

As a child though, my family tree had neither stars nor peacocks. It had an angel. She was dressed in a white dress with shiny wings, holding two candles. For years, I just assumed that my mom used it because it looked pretty. But once I began to look closely at the Christmas story in the Bible, the more I realized how important this unique tree-topper was.

In the book of Luke in the New Testament, the author tells one of the two stories of Jesus’ birth in the Bible. This particular book focuses not on Magi, but on shepherds. In the story, a group of shepherds is watching over their flocks one night. All of a sudden, an angel appears to them and “the glory of God shone around them, and they were terrified” (Luke 2:9).

Now you have to understand that shepherds were unique people. They spent most of their lives with sheep. They were poor, dirty and used to long periods of silence and solitude. So for an angel of God to appear to them in the middle of night, it’s no surprise that they were scared. Not only did this sort of thing not happen very often, it especially didn’t happen to lowly people like shepherds.

But what is more significant than the shepherds themselves is the message they receive. The angel informs them that there is good news: the savior of the world has just been born in the nearby town of Bethlehem. And they get to go meet him!

What’s more, after the angel gives them this news, an entire group of angels appears. And do you know what they do? They sing! Right there, in front of the shepherds, they sing praises to this newborn king.

Singing is such an important part of the Christmas season.  These days, Christmas songs flood the airwaves for almost two whole months.  But how often do we really stop and think about the lyrics – especially the lyrics of the songs that tell the story of what Christmas is truly about?

Do we ever really stop to think about what it means when “Silent Night” says, “radiant beams from thy holy face, with the dawn of redeeming grace?” Or when “Joy to the World” proclaims “fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains repeat the sounding joy?” These are powerful words that tell of the power and wonder of what happened that Christmas morning – what is still happening to this day!

This coming Sunday at 5 p.m., our church’s choir (Courtland United Methodist Church) will be going to High Street United Methodist Church to join their choir for a Christmas cantata. If you’re not familiar with this term, a cantata is basically a 45-minute-long musical performance of the Christmas story. And this one’s going to be amazing! Yet, as we’ve been rehearsing for the past few weeks, I’ve had to repeatedly stop and force myself not just to learn the lyrics, but to internalize them, to ponder them, to enjoy them! Because at Christmas, it’s so easy to shift our attention to all the things we have to do, instead of focusing on what we’re really celebrating.

So this week, may you take some time to ponder what you’re really celebrating. Come enjoy the Christmas cantata, focusing on the powerful story told through the lyrics. Sing your favorite Christmas carols, giving special attention to the meaning held within. Because the truth is, in front of those shepherds, the angels began Christmas with a song that still rings in the air. It’s a song of peace, hope, and salvation. A song that changes hearts and lives. And it’s the only song that truly matters. May you have eyes to see it and ears to hear it.

Brandon Robbins is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or