The other morning while running on a treadmill at the local gym, I was jarred out of my early morning daze by a line sung by Chanticler, a famous men’s a cappella group who were performing for the Today Show. The line that stirred me was one I, like many of you, have heard and sung a hundred times or more: “”¦Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel”¦”
This familiar phrase from the 19th century Christmas classic, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, written originally by Methodist composer John Wesley in the 18th century, eloquently evokes subtle but profound messages of the Christmas season: that God became human”¦better: that God was pleased to become human”¦better still: that God was pleased to dwell with us–Jesus, our Emmanuel. And still another subtle message hit home for me: That we humans are pleased by this as well. I spent much of the rest of the day reflecting on what it means that God, in Jesus, was (is) pleased to dwell among us and asking myself: how do I show my pleasure that this is so?
This experience has caused me to pay closer attention to the subtle theological messages of the Advent and Christmas songs (carols) we hear and sing in both sacred and secular settings and to recognize that they can be moments of unexpected grace—even in the gym. Rather than taking them for granted, perhaps I can be more attuned to their poetic theology. Perhaps, too, I can think about singing them over and over again, not as a chore, but rather as an opportunity for prayerful Ignatian repetition and grace.
I am curious to hear from my fellow readers of IgnatianSpirituality.com: What are the Christmas messages that arise for you when you let yourself experience the carols of this season?