is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hope Is a Star That Shines In the Night...

Maud Johnson (who has been a Chancel Choir member for over 50 years)
and Beth Barney (who now lives in Florida but has made her holiday return
to sing the Vivaldi Gloria with us as well as today's anthem) and me.
We lit the Candle of Hope today on the first Sunday of Advent, and I watched as my choir director's daughter and wife lit the candle, remembering that when I first joined the church 13 years ago, the song I kept hearing and singing was unfamiliar, but I loved it - it was called When God Is a Child, and we sang it today to mark the beginning of the Holiday Season.

Indeed, thirteen years ago, I was looking for a liberal Christian church like Florence Christian, the church where I grew up in Northern Kentucky. It was where I was baptized and where my sister ultimately became the church organist and where I was nurtured in the Disciples tradition of liberal love and abundant acceptance.  Someone suggested I visit Central Christian, and when I did, I found this as their invitation:

"Membership in Central Christian Church is open to all sincere Christians, irrespective of previous denominational affiliation, creed, mode of baptism or race." 

Hmm... "All sincere Christians, irrespective of previous denominational affiliation . . . ." This timely invitation came to me and etched itself upon my faith along with the knowledge that in our doubt, there is believing.   Funny as it sounds, it's true.  My faith became its strongest only after I lived through years of doubtful dust and guilt.  It was just after my Dad had passed away, my family was torn and scattered, my marriage was beginning to fall apart, my career was topsy-turvy and my life just seemed to be one big question mark.  Then all of a sudden, I found focus that bolstered my faith, as my curiosity centered around this new church, this new song: When God Is a Child...what was it about that hymn?!  I sang it, I hummed its melody and pondered its words, and even though my first visit to Central was in August, in late Summer, Hymn #132 in the Chancel Hymnal was on the worship lineup that week, and week after the weeks that followed.   So it isn't any surprise that one of the first things that attracted me to Central was its music, and I noticed that the choir usually sang an anthem that quoted the lectionary Scripture which corresponded with Dr. Mooty's sermons.  (Now, 13 years later, I'm grateful to have a great reserve of Scripture stored in the alto section of my brain because of that. It comes in handy when praying with folks who need words of comfort and joy.)

Finally, I of course joined the Chancel Choir, and at my very first rehearsal sat next to Margaret, Michael's wife, and soon thereafter, I realized that they were expecting their first baby...and it finally dawned on me why he loved that song so much!  He was so joyous and happy awaiting the birth of his firstborn child, he could not contain his delight in mere words, he had to sing it - and "when we sing, we pray twice: once in words, and once in music,"  as St. Augustine so well counseled.

So let's fast forward a bit and talk about today. Today, Michael and Margaret's Katherine is a young lady, she's also an acolyte, with an angelic face and sweet disposition...and it is once again Advent, and we find ourselves singing Hymn #132.  

Yipes.  Here I am trying to post my thoughts, and again, I digress...but I haven't forgotten about Hymn 132.  So I'll shut the heck up and post this, the first verse:

Hope is a star that shines in the night, 
leading us on till the morning is bright.
When God is a child there's joy in our song, 
the last shall be first, and the weak shall be strong,
and none shall be afraid.

Words by Brian Wren
Music: Joan Collier Fogg

Brian Wren also wrote the words to a number of other anthems, one of my favorites is Bring Many Names, and each of its verses address God in a different way-- as a "strong mother God," "warm father God," an "old, aching God" and "great living God."  It's comforting for me to know that I can speak to God in so many different ways, and that He is not relegated to being a bearded fellow up the clouds. It comforts me to know that when I take my thoughts to the Lord in prayer, that She listens to all my worries, accepts my praises and loves me and looks for me ... no, not just looks for me, but watches for me like a mother watches for her child to return home.  

Yes, that comforts me to know...and to me, comfort is hope.

Hope is a star that shines in the night...

Here too is a prayer we shared today in worship that spoke to my hopeful heart.  Perhaps you will love its message, too:

Ever present God, you taught us that the night is far spent and the day is at hand. Grant that we may ever be found watching for the coming of your Son. Save us from undue love of the world, that we may wait with patient hope for the day of the Lord, and so abide in him, that when he shall appear, we may not be ashamed; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

My prayer this Season is that I may continue to be blessed with Hope.  Hope that I may find more unique ways to see and show how God's love manifests itself through not simply words, but by my actions.  That is my promise, nothing more, nothing less. I pray for Hope...I pray for God to make me Hope-filled... hopeful that I can add joy to people's lives, and that as a redeemed and forgiven child of God, that I can be made worthy of the promises of Christ.  My prayer is to evermore rejoice in singing God's praises ... to truly be a doer of the word, and not a hearer only...

One way to put those thoughts into action is that I'm not going to be buying a lot of gifts to put under the tree this Holiday season.  Instead, I have adopted a kitten from the wonderful folks at Woodford Humane Society.  Even though I am giving Winslow a forever home, he is giving me so much more:  his trust, his love, his fear, his curiosity, his needs, his wants, his energy...and whew, let me just tellya, this kitty has energy!  He's a polydactyl (extra very thumb-like toes) and has proven it by climbing on my head, my back, all over me, when I least expect it...and purrs in my ear while trying to eat my earring...

I don't want to eat God's earring, but I have a feeling if I did, She would probably let me do it, and then forgive me. 

pray for peace, people, everywhere,

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