If you dig a little deeper past Deck the Halls, Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, and even popular Christmas hymns like Joy to the World, Away in a Manger, and O Little Town of Bethlehem, you will find more obscure yet serenely beautiful Advent music. Could be you’re familiar with many of them, but as a rule, they’re not heard as often.
Falling solidly into this category is one of my mother’s favorites, There’s a Song in the Air. She also loved, Gesu Bambino. Did I stump you with that one? Maybe it’s a matter of trying to follow in her footsteps or possibly I just really love the rarely used, Once in Royal David’s City. Who knows? In husband, Bob’s, entire 26 year music pastor ministry I got him to include Royal David into a Christmas program ONCE. And may I just say, Dearest Beloved, it was well received. So there.
During these days of December in the midst of what Christians refer to as Advent season, we look forward to honoring the coming, the entrance, the arrival of Jesus. Maybe some of you are part of churches that light Advent candles each Sunday. It’s a lovely, moving tradition and I’m happy to say our new church home does indeed include this. And, just in case you’re wondering and for no apparent reason, I’ll let you in on a little secret that if perchance the wrong candle gets lighted on a given Sunday, Jesus still comes.
As during all other times of the year, but with special poignancy at Christmas, we each bring our own perspective, our own memories, our own distresses and delights to the manger of Bethlehem. It’s as if nerve endings are on high alert.
Perhaps the place where you find yourself this December may seem status quo and is not so very different from last year — there is certainly the sameness of the pandemic we thought most certainly would be past by now. Or maybe instead, for you, 2021 was a standout — a year among years and not soon forgotten whether for the good or the challenging or the surprising or the devastating or the joyousness or the darkness. This household falls into that second slot of non status quo.
A few days ago on my regular morning babysitting-day drive home with my youngest grand daughter firmly ensconced in her car seat and sporting her winter hat with puppy ears (all baby hats come with ears now), my mother’s favorite There’s a Song in the Air came barreling into my musical thoughts and left me in such awed amazement at the goodness of God that if it weren’t for my infant passenger, I’d probably have pulled over. At the same time my brain was scanning for the lyrics, my car arrived at the top of the southbound overpass on 11th Avenue North in Nampa. If you know this area of southwest Idaho, you might nod in agreement that the sight of the Owyhees sweeping into view from on top of anywhere on a white December morning is better than most anything. There has to be a little ignoring of up-close industrial areas that must be undertaken, but that’s really no problem. The snow covered mountains in the distance and the words to the remembered Christmas hymn spoke peace to my heart and I took a long, deep breath.
Last spring Bob put on hospital scrubs for the first time in many years and was thankful for full-time employment in a position that suited his medical skills and gifts — radiation oncology nursing –and we relocated from Oregon to Idaho. We were closer to family (some even making the move about the same time as we did), we found a house in a competitive housing market, and were deeply glad that he had never let his R.N. license lapse. And yet . . .
There was that small niggling voice on his left shoulder mockingly singing a relentless dirge of
death to ministry
death to vitality
affirmation of uselessness to God and church.
“Hang it up.”
“Pack it away.”
“Leave it in closets and boxes and behind closed doors. “
“Snap that lock on the guitar case.
“Close the piano lid.”
WE DID NOT DO THAT.
It is good to trust God.
It is important to trust God.
It is necessary to trust God.
It is commanded to trust God.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
We hung up the guitars and opened the piano. And waited.
Through a series of putting one foot in front of the other, ignoring the discouraging dirge coming from the left shoulder, asking the Lord where He would have us settle into a church home, and many countless other details, we are thrilled and in awe but yet not surprised that God has moved the mountain.
The good people of Nampa First Church of the Nazarene will have a new part-time interim worship pastor starting January 1. He will continue as a nurse full time and be helpful to the church and to the Kingdom when not at the clinic. We are already involved and getting to know wonderful new friends there. And we understand now why we were not guided to settle into other places that would’ve seemed what was more expected. Not all level paths carved through mountains go the way that’s expected.
The two of us sometimes just catch each other’s eye and nod a little, understanding that the other is saying, “Yes. There He is again. I see and I know you do too.”
As Christmas comes, dear ones, we hope and pray for great and awesome, peaceful and profound blessings on you and your household in 2022. They don’t always come in ways you could possibly anticipate. He who came as a Babe in the manger, the Christ Child, the Prince of Peace, will guide. Even through the dead center of mountains.
Oh, and there’s a Song in the Air. Don’t forget to sing.