11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
Reflection December 25, 2016
Christmas: A Feast of Hope
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
The light in the darkness emerges from the union of the divine and the human, from the interpenetration of the infinite and finite. Christmas is the celebration of this union and, therefore, a feast of hope.
(From Starlight by Jack Shea)
We find ourselves once again gathered around the Christmas crib. If I were to summarize Christianity, I’d do so by citing the three most potent Christian symbols: the crib, the cross, the empty tomb. What better way to sum up Christianity?
The crib, the cross, the empty tomb reveal to us the true treasures of our faith. I find that such a distillation of the Christian message works for me. Perhaps it will also work for you!
Christmas begins the Christian story, although this story was prepared for throughout the vast expanse of the Old Testament. We owe much of our understanding of what Christmas means to the voices of the prophets. It’s disappointing that many Christians have such limited understanding of the prophets.
The meaning of Christmas, however, is not limited to the prophets. The meaning of Christmas can be easily discerned in the lyrics of our Advent and Christmas hymns/ carols. There is so much good, healthy theology in the lyrics of Christmas carols.
I believe the shining message of Christmas was revealed to us at our Candlelight Carol Service this past Sunday. Our service was, to put it mildly, GLORIOUS. I’m sad for those who were unable to attend and glad for those who shared this special service.
Yes, the weather outside was frightful but the warmth we experienced together was more than delightful, it was transcendent. I don’t use such exuberant words lightly.
As a church community, we owe a debt of gratitude to all those who were involved in this service from the setting up of the parlor (we moved from the sanctuary to the parlor because of the bitter cold) to the lovely fellowship after the service.
A special thanks goes to the musicians and singers who gifted us with their abundant talents: Jacob Haywood (our splendid organist/pianist and choir director), the Stegemoeller family (Aaron, Elizabeth, Adde and Lucy), Heather Kurut, Barbara Saks-Kober, Jerry Williams, and our all-volunteer choir (Ross Dring, Pat Dring, Reed Dring, Maureen Dring, Julie Dring, Beatrice Haywood, Heather Kurut, Millie Myren, Beverly Nickerson, Ed Short, Aaron Stegemoeller, Debbie Taylor).
Here are some lyrics from the carols that particularly touched me:
1) “Truly he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name all oppression shall cease” (From O Holy Night - sung by Aaron Stegemoeller).
2) “Oh, Rose of Bethlehem, How lovely, pure, and sweet, Born to glorify the Father, Born to wear the thorns for me.” (From Rose of Bethlehem, sung by Heather Kurut).
3) “Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask thee to stay close by me forever, and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, and fit us for heaven, to live with thee there.” (From Away in a Manger, sung by Heather Kurut).
4) “There’s a star in the east on Christmas morn. Rise up, shepherd, and follow. It will lead you to the place where the Savior’s born.” (From Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow sung by our choir).
5) “Said the night wind to the little lamb, Do you see what I see - a star, a star, dancing in the night - with tail as big as a kite.” (From Do You Hear What I Hear?, sung by Adde and Lucy Stegemoeller)
6) “Sweet little Jesus Boy, De worl’ (the world) treat you mean, Lawd. Treat me mean too, but please, Suh, fuhgive (Sir, forgive) us, Lawd. We didn’t know ’twas You. Sweet little Jesus Boy, Bawn (born) long time ago. Sweet little Holy Chil’ an’ we didn’t know who You wus (was).” (From Sweet Little Jesus Boy, sung by Aaron Stegemoeller).
I would be amiss not to mention the beautiful flute solos by Barbara Saks-Kober, the captivating saxophone solos by Jerry Williams and the wonderful piano solos by Jacob Haywood. While I find flute music pierces me to my core, I was so happy to have Barbara gift us with her music. And what can one say about Jerry “L.A.” Williams? A true blessing to us all!
Christmas is about the giving of gifts. Christmas is about the gathering of families. Christmas is about music and carols. Christmas is about the gift born into our world at Bethlehem. Christmas is about the grace of church community. Christmas is about Love Incarnate.
This past Sunday warmed my heart and gladdened my soul. I pray it did the same for all who had the privilege of sharing in our elegant, exquisite Candlelight Carol Service.
“He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness, and the wonders of his love.” Amen - amen!