Yesterday (Sunday) morning as I was reading my Bible and praying, I lifted up the Wedgewood congregation in prayer as I do most days. I looked at the time and thought about the worship services that would be starting soon. I thought about the in-gathering of food that we always did on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The children who came down the aisle loaded down with food for Good Neighbors. Then I thought about the choir and the Praise band who are already working hard on Christmas music. The adult choir will be singing the cantata soon and I’m sure they are having long practices getting ready for it. Then I thought about all the work that I would have been doing the week of Thanksgiving when I was a pastor – getting advent readers lined up, working on Christmas eve services, sharing in the choir practices, preparing an Advent Bible Study, making sure everything and everyone was getting ready for Christmas.
And I wondered, “How can I sing the songs of Christmas without my church?” My whole life I have had a church. When I was young, I had a home church. Then Tom and I had churches where we were serving. And for 30 years I had a church where I was the pastor, where it was my responsibility to prepare the church for Christmas through Advent. Now what? No home church. No church where I am the pastor. How can I celebrate the traditions of Christmas without the familiar rituals of my church? How can I sing?
I am not the first to ask this question or to find herself in unfamiliar territory as Christmas approaches. Psalm 137:4 asks the same question at a time when the Israelites had been driven out of their home land and wondered how they could worship God without the temple or their priests. “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” The Israelites were in exile and that change of place changed everything for them.
There are others who are in a foreign land this year, wondering how they will sing. Some because a spouse has died. Some because of divorce. Some because, for the first time, a child will not be home at the holidays. Some because of the loss of a job. Some because of a diagnosis of an illness robbing them of their strength and health. Some because they feel overwhelmed by responsibilities. They feel that they are in exile and they, too, are wondering how they will sing. How do you worship God when everything has changed?
The Linworth UMC choir director has graciously extended an invitation to sing the cantata with his chancel choir and to sing any other services I am able. I am thankful for this invitation because I will only be at a few rehearsals. Here is the answer to my question. How can I sing? When God closes one path, another way opens. What feels like exile is a chance to grow in faith. Even when we feel blind, God gently leads us and shows us his way – step by step, inch by inch, through pain, darkness, sickness, or sorrow.
How can I sing? How can I keep from singing when the music of my life has been written by God!