Tell That Old Story Again

Heritage Presbyterian Church

Christmas Eve 2022: Lessons & Carols Candlelight Service

Scripture readings: Isaiah 9:2-7   Psalm 96   Titus 2:11-15   Luke 2:1-20   John 1:1-5

During my childhood, whenever my mother’s family gathered, it was almost always large in numbers with multiple generations represented – even at simple family cookouts.  Relatives from far away always seemed to show up in town, and the family would gather at my grandparents’ house for food and fellowship.  Those old stories would be told and retold (and retold again until they were told accurately!).  Introductions would be made in case any new members or prospective new members were present.  Children were always included in this.

One of the things we did was to teach the younger children the old stories and a family song or two.  It was usually hilarious to hear familiar stories retold by younger relatives, who often added new details to the stories that would “enrich” the listener.  Adults might gently correct errors, but sometimes those old stories became new ones that were repeated under the introduction of “Do you remember when your little brother retold that story about our grandfather?”

Family legend says that one year an old uncle from the northeast and an old uncle from the deep south got into a heated argument over some detail in some remembrance.  Legend further tells that these two relatives refused to talk to each other for some time.

At Christmas, all of us sing lots and LOTS of wonderful songs…songs that all of us know…songs that many of us don’t even need the books in order to sing accurately…song we look forward to…songs that mean something special to us, songs that are our FAVORITES!  

In fact…what is your favorite Christmas song?

[Ask a few people to name their favorite.]

We also tell stories of Christmases long past, years when our children or grandchildren were little children, and the magic of Christmas was truly magical and delightful.  Remembering Christmas customs in your house…such as NO ONE got to open presents until Mom got up (that’s why our stockings were in our bedrooms)…or NO ONE got to open anything until Dad got back from Christmas morning service at the old church…or NO ONE got any presents or stockings or anything until breakfast had been served and consumed.  

But let me ask you an odd question:  Why do we sing those songs?  Why do we tell those old stories again and again?  If we already know them so well…why do we repeat them?  Why don’t we tell new all new ones?  Why don’t we stretch ourselves?  Why do we stick to those old familiar things?

One reason is that they bring comfort to our lives.  Those old familiar things – whether they are about Christmas or not – bring a smile to our faces, they bring up happy memories that we don’t often ponder.  They sound funny to some of the younger members of our family who might not know them, but that presents a great opportunity to share the love we have for that old memory – share the love with that younger person so those memories will continue long after we are gone.

Another reason is to give ourselves an opportunity to be a little whimsical.  We adults, we grown-ups…we are WAY too serious!  And we Presbyterian grown-ups have the corner on that non-whimsical market.

We are just too serious.  Yet…sing an old familiar Christmas song or tell an old familiar story about Great Uncle George and his antics on Christmas Eve…tell those around a pious, grown-up Presbyterian, and you just might get that righteous soul to join in singing that song or adding details to the story to make it even better (or even more accurate).

But my favorite reason…my very favorite reason for those old familiar things is that I want the future generations to sing them and love them too…the way we do.  I don’t want “Silent Night, Holy Night” to ever fade away and not be sung at Christmas time.  I want my children, my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren to know the old stories about their ancestors and even themselves when they were young.  I want them all to have a sense of the past and how it shapes our present and our future lives.

Because in those wonderful, familiar old Christmas songs and stories is the story of the very first Christmas…the one in which God loved us so much that he sent his Son, Jesus, to be born and to live among us.  And the angels sang for joy to celebrate!  And the shepherds ran from place to place in Bethlehem telling the first version of the birth of Jesus.

Sometimes at this time of the year…it’s not the lovely candles that do it.

Sometimes at this time of the year…it’s not the special colors or special decorations that do it.

Sometimes at this time of the year…it’s not the Scripture readings that do it.

Sometimes at this time of the year…it’s not the old familiar songs that do it.

Sometimes at this time of the year…it’s not…the SERMON that does it.

Sometimes it’s the love and the people and the events in our own past Christmases – and all the new memories that we are building today, right now! – it’s those things that bring us together and surround us with love and smiles.  It’s a shadow of the wonderful love the Father has for us that he would send his only Son to save us all.

And what a great story old story that one is!

So, let’s sing those old familiar songs…let’s tell those old stories again.

But in the midst of them all, let’s make sure to include the one that tells the story of the manger, Bethlehem, the shepherds, the Wise Men, the angels, Joseph, Mary…and most of all, that baby in the manger: our savior, Jesus.  

Merry Christmas…and Amen!