Evening in Advent

Invitations had been sent for a little soiree after the Christmas concert, to be held at my house. Musicians always like to relax together after a performance. “What a great audience! Did you see the little boy in the elf costume? Santa was especially talkative this year.”

Wassail punch would be warm and festive on a cold December night, along with assorted sandwiches, my usual Polynesian crab dip, and the gorgeous chocolate cake I had been eyeing for months at the local bakery. It would serve at least twenty people, so this was the right occasion. I had never dared to purchase it before, but trusted it to taste delicious.

The house was ready: tree glistening by the fireplace, five stockings hanging from the mantel, and candles in place. Menu items were prepared and arranged on Christmas platters and bowls, with tiny labels on the dining room table to mark where each would be placed.

Then the snow began, just a dusting at first. It was beautiful, and I enjoyed watching birds at the feeder by the kitchen. Performance clothes were laid out and a hot bath waiting, when the email message arrived. “Concert CANCELLED due to inclement weather.”

Of course, this was a good decision for the sake of safety, as two children’s choirs were performing with the orchestra and many people would be driving on treacherous roads. As for the soiree, my house was ready, food in place, and Wassail punch fully prepared, just waiting to be warmed. A final to-do list lay on the kitchen counter—just three simple items. The beautiful chocolate cake sat on a silver platter anticipating hungry guests.

The evening turned out to be quiet and reflective, actually quite enjoyable. I was tired after all that work, and the snow continued to fall in its peaceful loveliness. I decided that getting ready for the post-concert gathering had been a meaningful process. And then it came to mind.

Preparing for a party is like Advent—anticipation of something very special, a time to prepare our hearts to receive the gift of the Christ Child. God’s own son would enter our lives, be a guest at our table, enjoy our company and the humble offerings we have for Him, and turn our lives around. He would impact the world as none other has done.

Fortunately, there was no cancellation of His birth so many years ago. Regardless of weather conditions and over-booking at the inns in Bethlehem, the Baby Jesus arrived safely. And the musicians performed. “Suddenly there was with the angel a heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men.’ ” (Luke 2:14)  Now that was a celebration, and it has been going on for more than two thousand years.

On that recent snowy night, one dear friend braved the weather and came by. We made a dinner out of the holiday party foods and cut two slivers from the scrumptious-looking chocolate cake. It was a perfect Advent evening!

Music, Life, Harmony

Music has always been a special ingredient in my life. It all began formally in the 4th grade with violin lessons under the patient tutelage of the school string teacher. Our childhood home was filled with dramatic arias of Saturday afternoon operas, broadcast from the Met. Every day after school my mother taught piano lessons in the living room, and I soon came to know each tune in the Ada Richter instruction books by memory. After students left we enjoyed classical music magically produced by heavy plastic discs using the technology of the day, a record player.  I recall leaping from a hassock in the living room and dancing to my heart’s delight, as the rich melodies of Handel’s Water Music filled the air. The image of an orchestra floating down the Thames River while entertaining the King of England fascinated me.

Today I refrain from leaping and have not yet played on a river barge, but I happily rehearse and perform with two orchestras and am grateful. My seat is at the back of the 1st violin section. Nestled between the grand piano and the magnificent harp, I love my seat and feel totally absorbed into the fabric of the ensemble. The ethereal sounds of the harp ring out beautifully on one side while the percussive tinkling of piano keys project on the other. It is truly amazing to be in the midst of this. My much smaller instrument provides gentle tones, fitting in but not overwhelming the others. Together we enjoy the experience of creating beautiful music.

Creating something beautiful together….…what would that look like in the wider world, I wonder? Perhaps respectful dialog marked by openness to others who think differently; perhaps a lovely blend of uniquely distinct voices, each graciously adding its special strength;  perhaps diverse sizes, shapes, colors, and textures, each with a desire to work and live peacefully side-by-side.

That would be real harmony. Indeed, it would just about be Heaven on Earth!

Christmas News

“I bring you good news……” from Luke chapter 2

Christmas is a wonderful time of year.  Many people fill their days to the brim with festive, joyful activities—fragrant times in the kitchen with spices, cookie cutters, and sweet sprinkles scattered about;  bustling times in shops where fresh garlands welcome us at the doorway and holiday tunes float in the air; creative times spent wrapping gifts with colorful paper or fabric and ribbon, yarn, miniature bells or holly sprigs. There are quiet times for writing Christmas cards and reading the sweet messages of friends and family that arrive from afar.

Christmas events in churches are for me the most marvelous celebrations! These begin with Advent wreath making and hanging of the greens and lead to joyful choir concerts and kids’ musicals, collections of food for those in need, caroling at nursing homes, and live nativity scenes. This year I will attend a bereavement service for those who have experienced loss. Together with candle-lighting, scripture, and lovely melodies of the ancient Taize tradition we will celebrate Christ’s birth. There may be tears but also comfort and healing. Indeed, Christ came to bring us joy and peace.

Christmas is a wonderful time of year in every season of life. May it be so for you!

“And an angel of the Lord appeared to them (the shepherds), and the glory of the Lord shone around them,  and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’ ”      Luke 2: 9 – 11

My heart breaks….

……over the events in Paris. Answers to the questions around hatred and violence seem to allude the finest statesmen, diplomats, scholars, military experts, leaders of all kinds. I certainly have no answer, just heartbreak. My morning devotional directed me to words of comfort which I share with you in the hopes that you will find meaning in them also.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law….If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another.”    Galatians 5: 22 – 26

Just imagine a world in which everyone embraced these words. Just imagine…….