Sunday, December 25, 2011

All my heart

There are ornaments and bric a brac to commemorate "Baby's First Christmas" or a "Just Married" Christmas and other such happy occasions. But I suspect it is the sad Christmases we remember best, the Christmas celebrations that come in hard times or when times are changing.

Tonight was one such Christmas, as the news slipped through the people gathered at church that someone, elderly and well-loved, had suffered a massive stroke and was not expected to live. It came to me between the two children's services that are the focus of my energy for much of November and December. And in the second service, the same words I had heard only 90 minutes earlier became more pungent, more clear, more true as I thought about this woman's life and her husband's loss.

Our lives on earth end, though God made us for eternity. This God incarnate we sing of tonight, this infant, died too, but leads us through death to life eternal. This God knows and understands our suffering, our grief, our loss.

Generation after generation sings of this, tells of this at Christmastime, and despite death, despite sadness, rejoices.

All my heart this night rejoices,
As I hear, far and near, sweetest angel voices;
“Christ is born,” their choirs are singing,
Till the air, everywhere, now their joy is ringing.

Hark! a voice from yonder manger,
Soft and sweet, doth entreat, “Flee from woe and danger;
Brethren, come; from all that grieves you
You are freed; all you need I will surely give you.”

Come, then, let us hasten yonder;
Here let all, great and small, kneel in awe and wonder,
Love Him Who with love is yearning;
Hail the star that from far bright with hope is burning.
(Paul Gerhardt, 1656)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

To whom we belong

Today was my father's birthday. He died 28 years ago, which is almost half my lifetime ago. He died when he was my age. Yet I still have a vivid picture of him in my mind, one brought to life today by much Bach and Handel. I stood in front of my children's choir, listening to the introduction to "O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion." I marked the beat and bounced slightly on my left foot and knew at once it was my father in me, it was what he would have done, the way he would have done it. Amazing. Last week this same choir sang this same piece at for a chapel service at the college next door. One of the students who was there told her friend, who is my son's girlfriend, that someone who looked an awful lot like Kris conducted the choir--his mother? Amazing what we carry with us, what we pass on. Amazing how we can recognize these marks of who we are and to whom we belong.