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  • Writer's pictureHeather Simmons

Go Tell it on the Mountain

Picture it: the nativity scene at Fairview United Methodist Church.

The lights are dimmed. The crowd is hushed. There's a baby doll wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. Seven angels under the age of five brush their wings against one another, creating a swishing sound that only pantyhose stretched across wire hangers can make. The shepherds have brown eye shadow smudged across their faces, making them look more like hobos than shepherds from ancient days. Mary looks serenely on at Jesus in her blue head scarf. It was always blue. Girls patiently waited years for their turn to be Mary and the chance to don the blue headdress for the pageant. (I never wanted to be Mary; she didn't have a speaking part). As the night wears on, anywhere between twelve and fifteen songs with three stanzas each are sung relatively in key and most certainly with gusto. Mrs. Cheryl dominates the piano and carries us through solos and three-part harmonies and punches the tempo when we start to drag.

This is pretty much the scenario from 1989 - 1997. I can close my eyes and see the cardboard camels that were created in the 70's (and the lean-to backdrop that probably had lead paint) from almost every vantage point of the stage. I was an angel dozens of times. A shepherd three times. And the arch angel twice. I have performed the Christmas Story so many times that I believe I could still recite it as a one-woman show. I can remember singing robustly, confident in my memory of each refrain, having been taught these songs as early as I was taught the alphabet.

My absolute favorite song to sing was "Go Tell it on the Mountain". This is no somber diddy. The shepherds had just been told that Christ was born and they were ready to c-e-l-e-b-r-a-t-e. While most of the hymns in the nativity are serene and beautiful and filled with anticipation, this hymn is rhythmic and melodic and represents the weary world rejoicing. You really can sing it at the top of your lungs. Hands down my fave.

Last week, I heard Alabama's version of the song on the radio and burst into happy tears. We listen to Christmas music beginning the day after Thanksgiving, yet this was the first time I'd heard the song this season. Man oh man - Randy Owen started singing and I lost my marbles. It is such a simple yet powerful truth: Jesus Christ is born. We should celebrate. We should have a party. We should sing at the top of our lungs! It made me so incredibly thankful to be reminded of this assurance through a song I'd known my whole life. He is prophecy fulfilled, promises fulfilled, and salvation personified. He is the Good News! He is the reason for the season (someone please make up a new cliched catchphrase already) and the Light of the World. This blog is my mountain, and I have to tell it over the hills and everywhere.

There is one thing though that I could never figure out as a child. Parents were always sparkly-eyed at the end of the Nativity, reverent and smiling from ear-to-ear. You could've just gotten a spanking on the car ride to church, but after the pageant moms clutched you tightly and dads leaned down on one knee and said "I'm proud of you." The air was different after the program. Thicker. Now I understand why. Now I know it's from watching innocent children praise God as Holy and bear witness to the Son with grins and tights and a shepherd's staff. We worshiped Him, sung of His majesty with joy, and gave Him honor from the purest place: our hearts. We went and told it on the mountain, and it softened other's hearts. I hope you'll join me in singing this holiday season too, wherever your mountain may be.

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