This year, for our 11:00p.m. Christmas Eve Service, I chose for us to sing Hark, the Herald Angels Sing and not, as is tradition, Silent Night. Just at the thought of it people questioned, pondered, and even rebuked the change.
My thoughts on this change are two-fold.
1. We were using the service of Nine Lessons and Carols as developed and presented by King's College. If you look on the King's College website, http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/, you will find they traditionally end with O Come, All Ye Faithful followed by Hark, the Herald Angels Sing. I figure if it is good enough for King's College Cambridge, it is probably good enough for us.
2. There is a theological bend to this question as well. If we listen to the Christmas story as told in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, we find that the angels tell the shepherds the shepherds tell someone for "all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them." The star tells the Gentiles, who in turn tell King Herod (ok, so that wasn't the best person to tell).
So what do we do when we hear this story again? That's right, light a little candle, sing a song about being silent, and warm up in our own personal glow space. We are not called to be silent with the news that a child has been born. We are to be heralds, bearers of the news. We have a gift to share and it did not come from Jared's.
We need the good news of a savior, who brings peace, to cover the face of the earth. And we, the people who worship this child born in Bethlehem, are the ones who need to share the message with the world in turmoil.