Ending last Sunday’s sermon with an invitation to sing part of the Advent message with Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord left a few people scratching their heads. For some of them, it didn’t seem to connect with or flow from the rest of the sermon. I always love getting that kind of conversation going because that’s what a sermon really is, a conversation. I don’t get the last word; we do, together.
Years ago as a young girl, I learned the Isaiah 12:2-6 canticle:
Surely, it is God who saves me; I will trust in him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, and he will be my Savior. Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing from the springs of salvation. And on that day you shall say, Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name; Make his deeds known among the peoples; see that they remember that his Name is exalted. Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things, and this is known in all the world. Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.
At choir camp, we sang this to a Jack Noble White tune, and I so wish you could hear it as I do when I read these words. This link takes you to a recording of another choir singing it, if you would like to hear a rendition. Throughout my life, but most particularly in the moments of deepest darkness, those words and that tune rises from within, reaffirming what I know to be true but which may be hard to see, or even believe, in the moment.
It would seem I am not alone. Scripture is full of songs—of people giving voice to truth that may be at odds with the current evidence. Isaiah, Zephaniah, Zechariah, Mary, Elisabeth and so many others across the span of history proclaim what is real, what is true, what is essential, through poetry and song. One of the few times in our liturgical year when we hear the full story is the Lessons and Carols Liturgy, which we celebrate this Sunday. It begins at the beginning, weaving its way through history and into the future that lies ahead of us. The story hasn’t yet reached its end—we are part of its unfolding even now.
For this year’s lessons and carols, members of the Bishop’s staff from the Diocese will share in our celebration as readers, reminding us that we are not an isolated little band located only in Glencoe, but we are part of a larger community of Episcopalians, Anglicans, Christians stretching not only through time but also around this fragile earth, our island home. Jim Steen, Dent Davidson, Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, and Scott Lybrand each have profound ministries in the Diocese of Chicago, all of them touching St. Elisabeth’s, as well as being made possible by St. Elisabeth’s. Their names link you to a description of their ministry, but I invite you ask them to share what they hear and see God doing in the world and how they share in that work. Come and allow the story, our story, to sweep in and through you this Sunday.