Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Advent 2012



             Two particular carols have always profoundly touched me each Advent and Christmas season.  One is a carol of the sheer joy of the holy season, while the other is much more poignant and haunting.  Whenever I hear or sing either one I am deeply affected not only by the melodic tunes of each, but by the contrast of how the magnificence of the Christ child's birth was in such humble surroundings.  While "Joy to the World" almost shouts in the splendor of the holy season, "In the Bleak Midwinter" quietly reminds that Jesus Christ came for us all.  These two carols touch me as no other carols I know. 

As I write this meditation I have just watched the destruction of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast.  Awaiting daily for news from close friends in the area, I was truly filled with sadness at just how cold those days and nights must be without power, without shelter, without knowing when life would again resume to as close to normal as it could be. Each day my daughter's best friend and her husband sent out a morning and an afternoon message so friends and family were aware of their plight.  They and their three-year-old son and three-month-old daughter were more fortunate than thousands of others, because their home sustained no damage.  Yet my heart broke when I would read "Is there anyone who can take us in for the night?"  Neighbors, family members, and others responded, yet they truly could not stay in their own home.  And as I read these messages day and evening, especially with the snowstorm that was to follow, the words to "In the Bleak Midwinter" echoed in my head.  For indeed they and millions of others were experiencing their own bleak midwinter!

Christina Rossetti's humbling words "a stable place sufficed" struck me as never before.  There were no cherubim or seraphim in Commack, Long Island, yet there were positively angels in their midst providing a haven for the night and on a lighter note, teddy grahams for three-year-old Jason.  Eleven days later their power was restored and they were in modern lingo "paying it forward" for others in their now close-knit community.  Kim made sweet tea for power workers from Texas while Ian and even little Jason helped shovel snow for those who had opened their doors for them.  "Yet what I can I give him: give my heart."  And today acts of kindness are still being bestowed throughout New England and neighbor is neighbor whether black, white, Latino, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc...and our Lord is there in the midst of them all!  "Joy to the World!"

Every Christmas Eve, we as a congregation gather on the front steps after the conclusion of our traditional worship service and the last carol we sing is "Joy to the World."  With trolleys passing by, guests at the inn next door gathered on the balcony, and passersby in Chippewa Square, our church family raises voices proclaiming the greatest joy the world has ever known.  That one grand old carol resonates as we part to begin family celebrations.  Melissa as a little girl used to sing or hum it all the way home in the car.  Melissa as an adult continues to sing it or hum it all the way home in the car!

It doesn't end there, however - as soon as Christmas Eve dinner is finished there is always the question: "Where's the CD?"  "The CD" refers to our King's College recording of "Joy to the World," which is the first thing we hear on Christmas morning.  It's perhaps fortunate we live in a corner house because it is sometimes really blasted!  Times may change, in fact in one way have already changed because last year we turned on Pandora rather than pulling out the CD.  Yet it is always the rendition by King's College Choir, and it just cannot be Christmas morning without it!  No stockings are emptied, no gifts are opened until we listen to all the magnificent verses.  Even for those experiencing their bleak midwinters, whether through literal storms or the storms of illness, personal strife, or sadness there is always joy...the joy of our Savior's birth!

- Janis Lewis



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