While shepherds kept their watching o’er silent flocks by night, behold, throughout the heavens there shone a holy light. Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere; go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.
A favorite carol to teach our children, this hymn is in fact an African-American spiritual that dates back to the 19th-century. While the now-famous chorus has remained stable, the verses have been known to be improvised. This lends this beloved, jovial hymn a playful movement to its storytelling capabilities.
It was this very nature that caused us to use this song, this chorus to end the story. In one of the churches where I have ministered, the children used to finish their telling of the nativity story – with all the costumes, animals, and laughter, to boot – by singing the chorus of this hymn. Among the many reasons we did this, at the heart was the very nature of the story we are sharing. This chorus marked the end of the tale, but the beginning of all that came after.
The story of the Christ-child’s birth is not something that we are meant to keep to ourselves. The miracles and messy realities are all part-and-parcel of the beautiful salvation narrative God continues to work in our midst. Like the shepherds who returned telling all of what they had heard and seen, it is our job to do so as well.
Why? Because Jesus’ birth changes everything. In a world that has long been awaiting help, among a people who have almost forgotten God’s saving miracles from long ago – the arrival of this little child at Bethlehem begins God’s wonders anew. More than that, it is God’s self that has arrived in our midst. Not remaining on a throne, high in the sky (like many depictions we have seen over these many years), our God comes to earth and begins to change the way we are to live, here and now.
We are to tell the story by the ways that we serve the Christ-child in our midst. We are to love. We are to welcome. We are to offer mercy and seek justice. As many have said, “our walk will always speak louder than our talk.” The question is, how will your actions spread the news?
Down in a lowly manger the humble Christ was born and God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn. Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere; go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.