December 20th, 2011; Katharina von Bora Luther, renewer of the church, 1552
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! At this time last year, our family had the pleasure of taking the month to move into our home, and visit worship each Sunday at area congregations. The freedom of that month planted many seeds for ecumenical and interfaith engagement, and allowed us to see how other Christian communities in Fayetteville prepared for the birth of their Savior. It was an expectant time—waiting for Christmas, waiting to begin work and life at Good Shepherd, waiting for the birth of our third child.
Thank you to each of you for the warm and wonderful reception we have had into this community and congregation. We are so blessed to be here. It is hard to believe an entire year has passed, and we are preparing to celebrate our first Christmas together. It has been an eventful, and Spirit-filled year.
I still remember the congregational interview we conducted last summer. It was the feast of Mary, so the text for the day was Mary’s Magnificat. I have been mindful ever since of that text as a guiding text for us. We, like Mary, in this holiday season, are invited to respond with an unqualified “Yes!” to God’s announcement that Christ will be born in us.
One of the ways we do this is in our singing. We are a congregation that knows how to sing. We have so many great musicians in our congregation. And I truly believe that we focus on Christmas carols and singing during this holiday season because of their importance in helping us connect to God through the gospel of Christ.
Hymns mean something. Often, they mean much more than we can put into words, which is why they are set to music, and sung, not simply discussed. St. Augustine of Hippo is credited with saying, “Those who sing, pray twice.” Why twice? First, because when a prayer is set to music, it is more easily memorized, and so the prayer lives on in the voice and mind of the prayer. But even more, the music itself, especially if matched well with the text, does something in the brain and heart that does not come about through reading the text alone. Music, like math, is its own language, and close to the heart of God.
Many of us cannot articulate precisely why certain songs and music mean so much to us, or why we desire to sing them at special occasions and times. Instead, we simply break into song. In fact, to talk too much about it is, like explaining a joke, to ruin the effect. So as you prepare to gather with your brothers and sisters in Christ singing Christmas carols in praise of our Savior Jesus Christ this coming Christmas Eve and Day, spend the last moments of this week doing that which those who wait in faith find themselves doing gustily and freely: sing!
Singing together in Christ,
Pastor Clint +