Archive for December 2011

Christmas Lives On

December 26, 2011

The day after Christmas we are still picking up shreaded wrapping paper and emptied toy boxes.  I feel like I have been stuffing myself with rich food for three days.  I think it’s because I have been stuffing myself with rich food for three days.  Christmas day 2011 has come and gone, but there are still evidences of that day all around.  Granted we will soon try to clean the house and I already have faint thoughts of starting some sort of diet to overcome my indulgences of our multiple celebrations with family, church(es), and friends.  What a Christmas!  We are up to six grandchildren and they help to make our family gatherings so very special.  Favorite moments that will become precious memories include the three newest grandbabies decked out in their Christmas outfits including the youngest in his Santa suit sitting on the sofa posed for shots taken on cameras and cellphones, though children under six months old do not fully comprehend the word, “pose.”  Sounds of laughter rang out as these precious offspring grabbed each other by the feet, by Santa’s hat and poked at each other’s cheeks (great facebook fodder).  Another very emotional moment for me caught me by surprise.  We had just finished a nice dinner at my daughter’s home when my oldest grandson sang Silent Night with perfect pitch in his sweet child voice.  It was not just cute, nor was it just a celebration that he was unmistakably musical, but it overwhelmed me to realize that the heritage of celebrating Christ’s birth, singing His praise, even worshiping Him was in process of being passed on to the next generation right before my eyes.  Cherished moments and memories I’ll not forget.

 

Christmas day may be over for 2011 and though many believers will continue observance of Christmastide for days longer, most evangelicals tend to move on toward the opportunity afforded by a new year to progress toward organizational goals.  Leading worshipers includes opportunity and perhaps even responsibility to direct their sensibilities connecting the things of God and Kingdom to the present context.  Rather than simply moving on to rather corporate business models of new beginnings in a new year, why not help our churches bask a bit longer in the great truth of Christmas that God is with us.  The power of the living church is found only in the living God.  Our Christmas message regarding the profundity of the birth of Jesus can hardly seem legitimate to unbelievers when we so quickly check its celebration off our proverbial list as if to say, “yeah, yeah, Jesus was born….Now, on to the next thing. “  Could worship leaders help point worshipers back from time to time toward the profound nature of Jesus’ birth?  Can we so quickly “move on” from contemplation of when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us?  Could we help the believers in our care to more deeply continue reflection upon ways in which the Lord is alive in our daily lives?  Could we help them slow down life pace to see and hear the Word in our worship?

 

Can we help worshipers continue the prayer we likely prayed in song more than once through the season?

 

O come to us abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel

 

May the living Spirit of Christ be made known in our lives, our churches, in our worship, and in our world today.

 

Paul

Pregnant

December 5, 2011

It was a Wednesday night church supper in the downtown church where I served as Associate Pastor for Music and Worship.  My regular routine was in full swing.  I spent much of the day preparing the weekly choir newsletter, studying for rehearsals and placing finishing touches on Sunday’s worship.  My wife, Ebbie, had run errands, gotten the boys home from school, and driven downtown to prepare for children’s choirs.  The regular routine included us eating the church supper meal separately, I ate in fellowship hall, and Ebbie ate in her choir room.  She usually dropped by to let me know she made it.  On this particular Wednesday night I was preparing  to sit down at a table where five or six folks were already seated and Ebbie walked up, I said, “hi”, and she whispered in my ear, “I’m pregnant.”

 

Talk about shock and awe!

 

We had tried for several years to get pregnant with our third child.  After two fun-filled boys who kept our home hopping and laughing, I really wanted a little girl.  We had given up on the idea.  And then, Surprise!  I did not know what to do or how to act on that Wednesday night in that setting.  I sat down and ate some of my dinner (I think), while trying to control my racing mind, which was flooded with questions, excitement, worry and joy, all at once.  I knew not to let on, but had several people including the pastor ask me if I was ok.  I said, “sure,” but was thinking, “if you only knew.”  My normal routine had been suddenly sidetracked at least emotionally as I began to process what I had heard.

 

For the next weeks that turned to months we let others in on our secret.  It was hard for me to contain myself as I prayed this would be “my little girl,” which by the way it was.   The process was not to be hurried.  It took how long it took, and we prayed for delivery to be at the appropriate time.  Though she was a little late (not the last time in her life), our little Rachel Elizabeth was born at just the right time.  Just as was the case with her brothers before her and all of our grandchildren since, the period of pregnancy was a time of great anticipation, more than a little angst at times, and a time of just exercising patience.  I have to say, however, that throughout the pregnancy I was excited.  I guess there’s such a thing as patient excitement.  Through those months I thought a lot about what life would be like with a little girl in our home.

 

As a part of Advent reading I came across this beautiful poem by English poet, Alice Meynell.  A Roman Catholic at the time with deep faith convictions, she begins the poem with a Latin quote from the Vulgate (a 4th century Latin translation of the Bible used in Roman Catholic worship).  The quote is read regularly in Advent season worship in Catholic worship.  It is the Latin translation of Isaiah 45:8, which I encourage you to read.

 

Rorate coeli desuper, et nubs pluant Justum

                Aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem.

 

                No sudden thing of glory and fear

Was the Lord’s coming; but the dear

Slow Nature’s days followed each other

To form the Saviour from His Mother

–One of the children of the year.

 

The earth, the rain, received the trust,

–The sun and dews, to frame the Just.

He drew His daily life from these,

According to His own decrees

Who makes man from the fertile dust.

 

Sweet summer and the winter wild,

These brought him forth, the Undefiled.

The happy Springs renewed again

His daily bread, the growing grain,

The food and raiment of the Child.*

 

In our impatient efforts for compressed convenience we often jump from the Annunciation to the manger birth, toss in some animals, jump to the spooking of shepherds to three Kings, wisemen, or magi (take your pick), and connect the famed Hallelujah chorus.  Like the impatient children we seem to have become, we want to get to the gift opening, and miss out on the sweet savor afforded by the mystery in the mundane.  We tend to be drawn more to a winged Gabriel hanging in the sky than a flesh and blood Elizabeth sharing days of anticipation and probable concern as the flesh and blood messenger inside of her leaps for joy.   We prefer the “sudden thing of glory and fear” to the “slow nature’s days.”  The real danger is that we miss the dazzling beauty of God subjecting Himself to His own design, “He drew His daily life from these, according to  His own decrees.”  He becomes one of us, fully human though fully divine.  Astounding! Puzzling!  Yet within this great mystery is fleshed our salvation.  Is it any wonder that Mary’s song (Magnificat) is likewise filled with awe?  It gives me pause to know that she did not sing the song immediately after an angel of the Lord (Gabriel) departed, but rather apparently only after she had spent moments with her equally pregnant relative, sharing their common condition.

 

Brothers and sisters in Christ who make music and set forth the sweet, sweet song of salvation in this season of Advent and Christmas, allow the mystery to soak deep into your own soul that you might help others to join the song.  The need of our day is not only to retell a story of a sweet baby born in a tough place surrounded by stinky animals, but to convey the One who has come to dwell among us, to turn us and our world rightside up.  Let our songs of Advent and Christmas be avenues of worship expression that wrap the best gift we could possibly offer, the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Who is “full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

 

Expectantly rejoicing,

Paul

*Advent Mediation by Alice Meynell


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