Sunday, December 16, 2012
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2012
I suppose that I have heard or sung literally hundreds, even thousands, of Christmas carols in my lifetime, yet none proved as memorable as the one I heard in early January of 2007, while on a mission trip to Cuba.
Our group of eleven travelers had decided to visit churches in Sancti Spiritus and the eastern half of the island just after the Christmas holiday, so we had bypassed Havana and flown to Camaguey in the interior. Hundreds of Cuban-American visitors packed the airports, the flights were all delayed for hours, and the inconveniences were many. To make matters worse, more than half of our group contracted food poisoning the third night, most likely from an under-heated soup tureen, and the symptoms began to manifest themselves as we arrived in Santiago de Cuba, over three hundred miles east, on the fifth day. Christmastide was turning into an ugly Epiphany.
Our final night in Santiago, those of us who were in good health joined forces with enough of the walking wounded to enjoy a nice dinner at a local restaurant. As we shared our meal together, we were filled with concern for our companions who remained ill and questions about the wisdom of our grand mission adventure. But then to our surprise, a musician quietly entered the room where we were the only diners, and began to play his guitar. Perhaps he had learned that we were a church group from the United States; maybe his choice of selection was simply a musical leftover from the Christmas season just ended. Nevertheless, we were all soon mesmerized by the beauty of his playing and we found ourselves singing those reassuring words which can never be forgotten:
Hark! The herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King.
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!"
Joyful, all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic host proclaim, "Christ is born in Bethlehem!"
Hark! The herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King!"
- John Finley