Even as the elements of the world conspire to bring it down, the heart is lifted high by a feast whose capacity to inspire joy far outshines the celebrations of sunnier seasons.
Though Dear Reader needs no evidence in support of this commonsense claim, each item that could be adduced in demonstration is a delight in itself, and sharing such gifts is essential to keeping Christmas as it is meant to be kept.
In that spirit, I would draw attention to one of the many musical works that, over the centuries, have added their magical airs to the splendor of the season: Alessandro Scarlatti’s Christmas Cantata:
Despite the genius of this composer, proper translations of his texts are hard to come by, and my command of the Italian tongue is woefully missing in action. In consequence, I can only surmise that the work is a meditation on the surprising manner in which an ineffable God has spoken to us in a language more profoundly human than that of fallen man.
He who can do all things is born in utter poverty. He who moves the spheres shines forth in the eyes of a little babe, born of a humble virgin. He exposes himself to icy winds, to rescue us from the heat of our sinful passions. He is wrapped in swaddling clothes, to free us from the chains of our vices. He comes out of nowhere, so that we may gaze upon him in the cradle. The uncreated Author of life mixes his breath with that of men and beasts. The inglorious lot of shepherds is forever elevated by the revelation that God himself has become a Lamb.
This performance by the English Concert nicely captures the work’s marvelous majesty.
Scarlatti reminds us that, by the birth of Christ, “Our soul has been delivered as a sparrow out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are delivered” (Ps. 123:7).
If only each of us would find it in himself to learn this lesson from Christmas, and remember it each day, the fowlers of this world would be out of their dreadful business, for keeps.
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