In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. – Luke 1:26-29 (NRSV)
“She was much perplexed … and pondered.” I suspect we have some inkling of what Mary might have been feeling over 2000 years ago. Perplexed pondering would be an apt descriptor of many of my conversations since the middle of March this year. We are all wondering what the holiday season will look like in light of COVID-19. The one thing which seems abundantly certain is that this year will not be like any other we have known. To paraphrase Captain Barbossa from “Pirates of the Carribbean” we are off the edge of the map. However, instead of finding monsters here, I believe we can find the hope, peace, joy, and love of the Advent season.
As you may know, Advent is the season leading up to Christmas, and begins the church year. The four Sundays of Advent each have a theme: hope, peace, joy, and love. This year for Advent, and the Christmas Season which follows, we are focusing our worship around an idea which was found written by an anonymous Jewish poet hiding from Nazi persecution in Germany during WWII. The sermon series is called: “I Believe Even When: Fill the Night with Music and Light.” And this is the poem found scrawled on that cellar wall:
I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining.
I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God even when God is silent.
Those inspiring words of hope and resilience sound a clarion call in the midst of our anxiety about a holiday season like never before. And the message of belief they proclaim will guide us through our Advent worship, and beyond. This year our Longest Night service and Christmas Eve Service of lessons and carols will both be virtual. The services will be recorded and available to you on YouTube on December 20th and 24th, respectively.
What may be most important for you to hear is that we need your help with these services! On December 6th, we will be singing a variety of songs and carols following worship, so I can include our voices in worship on those two special days. Also, I would love to have a picture of you and your family holding a lit candle (or candles)! During our traditional singing of Silent Night, we will be creating a photo montage of our friends and family symbolically surrounding not only the sanctuary, but the world, with the light of Christ. We will, quite literally, be filling the night with music and light!
If you can take a picture (or pictures) like that and email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, that would be greatly appreciated. If you are fairly local and any part of that process is difficult for you, please call me, or one of the elders, and we would be glad to come by and take a photo of you (and your family) so you can be included as well! (Socially distanced and masked, of course!) Part of the beauty of this type of worship service is we can include our extended family and friends from around the country, and around the world! So, let’s flood my email with your pictures!!!
This will be an Advent season like never before. But that offers us some unique and exciting opportunities to grow in our faith and deepen our walk with Christ. I believe … even when …