Finding the Tucked-Away Message

I’ve noticed that some of the best and most powerful messages that are to be found in books, music, and even the Bible can sometimes be tucked away and often missed.

Some of the best lyrics in classic Christmas songs come in later verses. “O Holy Night” was originally written in 19th century France by Placide Cappeau, and translated into English by John S. Dwight. The third verse is incredibly rich but doesn’t even appear in some hymnals.

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease

I would also venture a guess that very few people know the eighth verse of the old English carol “Here We Come A-Wassailing,” but it’s the best verse of the song:

Good master and good mistress,
While you're sitting by the fire,
Pray think of us poor children
A-wandering in the mire.

© 2013 cathy andersenFlickr | CC-BY-ND via Wylio
If you’re connected with me on social media, you may have seen that I’ve been posting daily quotes from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I didn't read the book until after many years of watching the movie but, as these things often go, some of the best quotes are only to be found in the book. In the scene where Scrooge and his nephew Fred are arguing about whether Christmas is beneficial, I have not yet seen a movie that uses Fred’s observation that the season helps people to “think of those below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave.” What a powerful statement, easily missed when reading, that represents an approach to others that would drastically change everything from our individual behavior to our public policy. (If you’re curious to read more about why I like this story so much, click here).

It’s even true of our Holy Book. One of the most powerful statements in the Bible about worship is found tucked away in a story in 2 Samuel 24 that very few have read. It’s here that David says: “I will not sacrifice to the Lord an offering that costs me nothing.” Worship and service to God is meant to cost us something, not simply to be a method by which we get something or self-vindicate.

So it is of that ancient story of the first Christmas. The people to whom the birth was announced were not anything close to prominent religious leaders, household names, etc. but instead shepherds "tucked away" at the outskirts of the towns and magi hailing from some unknown place in "the East." The "prophecies" to which we would later look as foreshadowing the birth of Christ were not the standard Messianic texts to which those Jewish readers looked but were tucked away in pronouncements that originally addressed a different context.

And Jesus himself, not in a palace or even a guest room, but in some dirty place (probably a cave) where animals were likely kept, tucked away.

In my life so far, I have rarely found God in the places I expected to find Him or hear from Him. God's presence may be in the shadows. God's voice may be in the whisper. God's might and power may be found in a baby. It's worth noting that "Mary's song," recorded in Luke after she and Elizabeth meet, says some very interesting things about what she saw God doing through this birth. She says,

He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.

In this announcement, Mary saw a God who was about to turn things upside down. This baby would grow up to be the one who said, "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first."

God stands ready to help us see a different world through His eyes - a world in which, among other things, the most important things are to be found "tucked away" - once forgotten, but no more.

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