Get ready to sing!
The best Christmas greeting I've received in a long while is not a fancy card mailed in early December. It's an e-mail sent in mid July. It came from my Dean after the three-week summer residency of the ACTS Doctor of Ministry in Preaching Program, an intense time in my ministry. Among other things, Dean Billman wrote: "I hope now, even though it's not Christmas, you can 'rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.'"
How sad but true that the road to Christmas is such a weary one. We so busy ourselves with faithfully conducting the real business of Christmas and resisting the funny business of Christmas that, once the angels have sung, we are quite exhausted. I am not sure how well I hear the angels sing, let alone take in their song. Yes, I know all the words, and they touch me deeply. But I struggle to connect them with war, terror, divisiveness over issues of sexuality, cancer,... in tangible ways. What do the angels sing to these?
Elaine Siemsen, who provides our Preaching Helps from Christmas through Epiphany, tells us that there is more than angel singing going on. Dr. Siemsen describes the incarnation as "the wondrous song that God has sung to and through the cosmos." In Jesus, God is singing the Word into the very fiber of the cosmos. It is a song of freedom from oppression, of life and light. It's a new song, new to those receiving it and even to the One creating it. The angels' singing is a reflection of God's song; their song comes from the song that God shares with the inhabitants of the universe. We are called and invited to sing as well. We are invited to learn God's lyrics, to master God's tune, and to enter into God's harmony in ways that blend with our lives and our world. Together with all creation, we are called to echo the song of the Lord, to sing thanks back to God. And the singing, God and us singing together, will bring newness, life, and light.
This kind of singing calls for much more than familiar tunes and melodies, no matter how beloved they are. It requires that we listen long and deep for God's song before we offer even a note. Advent, then, is the time to prepare to hear and to sing God's new song. Carrie Lewis helps us to understand that preparation involves much more than individually getting our spiritual houses in order and to make a place for the Christ child in the manger of our heart. The readings for Advent call us to dare to hope. We dare to hope when we do not judge by what we see and hear but by the promises of God. We dare to hope when we remember the scriptures and that they were written to give us hope. We dare to hope when we turn away from injustice and become streams of water in the deserts that are the lives of the poor and the meek.
In these ways we prepare ourselves and our world to hear more than--or, better, to hear in, with, and under--the familiar carols God's new song of hope. Entering into God's song, we sing hope back to God and to the world. Not tired, sentimental hope, but God's freshly composed, newly orchestrated hope for us and for our world at this time in our history.
At this writing, Carrie is an approved candidate for ordained ministry assigned to the Southeastern Iowa Synod. A graduate of Valparaiso University and LSTC, Carrie worked for Allstate Insurance for three years before entering seminary. She works as an on-call chaplain at the University of Chicago Hospitals and especially enjoys working with children and their families. Carrie has a passion for studying the Bible and sharing its mystery and hope with God's people. I am very excited for the congregation that will one day call Carrie to be its pastor.
Elaine is Visiting Associate Professor of Religion at St. Olaf College. An ELCA pastor, she serves interim pastorates in Northeast Iowa and Southeastern Minnesota. She is married to Dennis (for 30 years) and is the mother of two talented daughters. A three-time graduate of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Elaine's publications include the recent Constructing a North American Theology through the Work of Joseph Sittler: Embodied Grace (Mellon Press, 2002).
I am grateful to Kadi for calling me to prepare for Christmas in July and to Carrie and Elaine for providing tools that help me do it. I hope that you will "rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing." I pray that the song you hear is new and vital and alive. I pray that you hear God's love for you and for yours, for this church and world that we share. And I pray that it inspires you to sing.
Craig A. Satterlee
Editor of Preaching Helps
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
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|Title Annotation:||Preaching Helps|
|Author:||Satterlee, Craig A.|
|Publication:||Currents in Theology and Mission|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2004|
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