Those words of the traditional greeting for this time of the year fly out of our mouths with such ease, but I wonder whether we really get what they are saying. Joy can be a decision on our part. In the traditional liturgy of the church we have an element in the communion service called the sursum corda. It is the second response in the preface: “Lift up your hearts” The people respond, “We lift them to the Lord.” In Latin that exhortation to lift up the hearts is “sursum corda” It is in fact a rather rude thing say and somewhat rudely said. In Latin it sounds a little like a centurion barking an order to his soldiers. A more accurate translation might be, “Up with your hearts!” or “Get your hearts up!”
We have been speaking those words in days of persecution and in the days of the church’s ease. For the Christian has a merry joy even when things are not looking so good. For we always have Jesus. The world has taken some of its best shots at us recently. Pandemic and social trends have all combined to suppress church attendance. It takes no great insight to see that the age of our churches does not have happy demographic news for us. Many parishes will be aging out of existence in the next 10-20 years unless something changes soon.
But we have Jesus. And so we can lift our hearts. We can hear that command and the exhortation to joy. We can say, “Merry” Christmas. Jesus is here.