Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Around 1907 John W. Work, III, a professor at Fisk University, reportedly heard students walking across the campus near the Christmas celebration singing “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” Many believe that is an old Negro spiritual dating from around 1865. Spirituals were sung by enslaved people to convey a hope for a better life. They also gave solidarity to those afflicted by their circumstances. This spiritual reflects that a people at the lowest levels of their society (like shepherds) could see in the action of God a sign of hope.

In November, we saw a celebration that surprised me. I had appreciated the clamor of citizens applauding the work of health care workers early in the current pandemic. On this day in November, however, people stood and cheered as postal workers moved through the streets. The pent-up fears and frustrations of folk who worried that our mechanisms for change might be compromised were met with the realization that society had been served by these essential workers. In a sense, that parallels the story we read in Luke’s account of the shepherds and the birth of Jesus. He was seen by these lowly, but essential, workers in their society as a Savior. Although their existence was ruled by another government, they were a people who remembered a time when their land had been blessed.

Isaiah (52:7) had declared, “How beautiful is the person who comes over the mountains to bring good news, who announces peace and brings good news and says to Jerusalem, ‘Your God is King.’”

And then, again, Isaiah (40) declares, “Jerusalem, you have good news to tell. Go up on a high mountain.”

Many of us are sensing a need for salvation. Chaos, confusion and disease have shaped the world we have recently experienced. Glimmers of hope have been seen as those we call “essential workers” — police officers, fire fighters, teachers, sanitation workers, postal employees, election volunteers-have

made us aware with fresh eyes just how essential these folks are to our lives. And to have seen, in the midst of chaos and an epidemic, a celebration of those who bring the good news that there is yet a life to be hoped for reminds us that the light of God’s spirit has not abandoned us.

“And God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn.”

-Charlie Benton