There are more well-known Christmas carols and songs than you can list. There are purely sacred pieces, like "O Come All Ye Faithful", and purely secular ones like “Jingle Bells” and “White Christmas.” And then there are a few that fall somewhere in-between. One of those is “Christmas in Killarney.” Perhaps you know it:
The holly green, the ivy green
The prettiest picture you’ve ever seen
Is Christmas in Killarney . . . .
It goes on to talk about mistletoe and Santa Claus, as well as the parish priest coming by to offer a blessing on the household. I’m not sure if it’s a very accurate picture of Christmas in Killarney, or anywhere else in Ireland! But it is lots of fun!
Several years ago I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful concert sung by the Moscow Boys Choir. Like so many concerts it was a blend of both sacred and secular seasonal selections. And to my surprise, one of the featured numbers was “Christmas in Killarney. You couldn’t help but chuckle as boys and men with sturdy Russian accents sang lyrics like, “I’m handing you no blarney.” It was really a wonder, while at the same time, rather absurd! Yet in the end, it was a magnificent reminder that the Love we celebrate at Christmas crosses all boundaries.
If truth be told, the Christmas story itself, with its baby born in a stable, and heavenly angels singing to sleepy shepherds is much the same. It is quite wondrous, while at the same time a bit absurd.
Think about it, for a moment. The same God who is said to have created the universe, the same God who is said to be all-knowing, all-powerful and ever present, chooses to come to us as a baby—and not even a very special baby. This is no crown prince born in a royal palace. No, this is a baby born to a peasant girl in a no-account country. So unimportant that he and his parents don’t even rate a room at the local inn, and so he’s born in a barn. And his first visitors? The local dignitaries? The mayor of the town? No, the lowliest of men in the neighborhood—shepherds claiming to have seen angels.
But despite all the seeming absurdity, it is a story that we have hung on to for centuries. It is a story that has been told, and retold, and retold again, because it speaks so eloquently of Love.
In these days when we find it hard to separate fact from fiction, when fake news gets enough traction to cause a shooting in a pizza parlor, knowing that Love is real is more important than ever. And this simple story of a long ago birth gives us hope. Hope that Love can be found in even the lowliest of places.
And that's no blarney!