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  • Paige Patterson

Interruption – The Music of Christmas



One of my unforgettable moments happened a few years ago at Christmas. Do you remember? On Saturday, October 30, 2010, thousands of shoppers milled about Macy’s Center City in Philadelphia. Suddenly someone was playing the organ. Then a choir began to sing. They were not obvious. Dressed as shoppers, themselves, they were standing for what looked like blocks around. As the strains of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus drifted to all parts of the huge store, people suddenly stopped shopping and listened. Some who knew a bit of the score joined in. People walking out of the store stopped and returned. People walking into the store and finding the sound waves reverberating everywhere stopped immediately. Conversations began concerning exactly what was transpiring. Somehow, the beauty of music mitigated the anxieties of the age, and for a few sacred moments the world was transfixed by the joy of Christmas. You can view this today by clicking here.


That day I learned some things that I wish to share with you now. First, the Christmas season provides the Christian with a unique opportunity to talk about Christ. People who would normally be too busy to pause and think about the Savior are drawn to Him through the great music of Christmas. Often I opt for the historical approach. “Did you know that an American pastor named Phillips Brooks penned these words in 1868:


O, little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie!

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the ancient stars go by;

Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light,

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.


What do you think Brooks meant when he spoke of “the hopes and fears of all the years” were met in Bethlehem? Interestingly, I have yet to have a single hard-boiled man to walk away from me without attempting the discussion.


On several occasions, listening to the quiet strands of “Silent Night,” I have said to a new friend, “Did you know that the German soldiers one night during the desperate fighting of World War II serenaded American soldiers at Christmas time with ‘Stille Nact, Heilige Nact,’ an old German carol written in Salzburg, Austria, around 1840. He first sang it accompanied by Franz Gruber on the guitar. What do you think the German soldiers had in mind when they sang?” Seldom has anyone unresponsively turned away from that conversation.


A second lesson I learned was that one can sing the gospel at Christmas when he cannot tell the story any other way. As the shoppers demonstrated at Macy’s, the gospel cut through everything! How I wish I could sing! But just to sing the power of the gospel with other believers at a Christmas celebration is a witness that will be heard.


I learned a third valuable lesson as I listened to that choir in Macy’s. There is something about the universal nature of the Christmas message that transcends the most adverse culture to which it comes. Far from being hesitant to speak of the Christ, this time of year we need to mention Him without hesitancy. 2020? If ever there has been a year when people need the message of hope it is 2020! May I remind you all that this month of December is the month of all months for a Christian witness to be given.