For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given
Recently I attended a wondrous advent worship gathering near our Synod offices. It was just the breathing space I needed to make room for “advent” amidst the hustle and bustle of getting ready to be gone from the office for a while – including the cleaning that often goes with that pre-vacation time! But I digress….
As the gathering came to a close, the visiting choir leaned into a candlelit Silent Night. I confess to enjoying this seasonally early gift immensely! During the last moments of “sleep in heavenly peace” – sung almost in a whisper – as if on cue there was an electronic click, and a voice spoke into the darkness saying something like, “I’m sorry, I can’t make a connection right now.”
And that was it.
The song ended and people began to disperse. But I couldn’t shake the eerie timing of Alexa? Siri? Google? My mind went off – as it often does – and I began to wonder at the message in that clearly unintentional moment? Or was it?
I wondered, “How could it be that there is ANYONE who is unable to connect to the peace, wonder, awe of the birth of Jesus after experiencing the quintessential birth portrayal that IS Silent Night sung beautifully by candlelight? I mean, how many times will those moments be recreated between now and the end of the year or on into 12th Night? How many times will many of us (in the church!) participate in those moments and relish each one! They go deep in many of us – and they are a gift. But…
But… I’m sorry, I can’t make a connection right now… is also a real experience, and one that should be taken seriously by those of us who receive this birth of Emmanuel each year, and who strive to live and share the grace, the forgiveness, the new life that this tiny babe embodies for us and to us! It is important to remember, even while celebrating, that not everyone can connect to the words we have used, the music we have sung, the WAY that we have portrayed Emmanuel and Jesus to the world.
By grace, on the day of Pentecost, each one heard the gospel in his or her own native tongue! Our challenge is to recognize, honor and learn the many native languages around us, especially those that aren’t always so obvious, like generational, regional and cultural languages. Jesus is big enough and wondrous enough to transcend any of these languages and be born anew to those who speak them, and indeed, HE is already there – it is WE who must catch up!
By grace, through the depth and breadth of Spirit, may we be convicted to translate and share the story – the life – we know and love as the early disciples did!
And all this wondering makes me curious: for sure, Silent Night, Holy Night will continue to be a connecting point for many, but what else will stand with it? How else will we sing God’s new song about the holy birth? Let us find out this year, even as that holiest of nights approaches!
Blessings and Peace as you move into Christmas and on into the New Year.
Susan Faye Wonderland
Synod of the Trinity