O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised. he is to be revered above all gods.
I love being a pastor. I love getting to spend time each week contemplating the Word of the Lord, reading from numerous texts, spending time in prayer, and working on a sermon for Sunday. I love getting to go out into the community to visit those who are sick, alone, afraid, or no longer able to attend church. I love representing St. John’s within Staunton through various organizations and events. I love the fact that people feel comfortable enough to spend time with me and share their stories. I love getting to participate in the life of this faith community as a pastor who serves the church and its people. But one of the things that I love most about being a pastor, is the fact that our church has a Preschool.
Every morning (while the school is in session) I make my way down to the classrooms and I try to greet every child and parent that comes in. I visit each room during the day and help the children with their letters, build giant block fortresses, and ask them questions about whatever I can think of. Most of the children “know” who I am, and they call me Pastor, but I believe they think thats my first name. Some of them are often confused by this adult who comes in to play with their toys regularly, and perhaps they see me as a giant kid (which I am).
Last week the Preschool children put on a pageant for their parents and families in our sanctuary. I was blessed to be offered to the role of narrator and I dressed up as a shepherd for my role (the kids were in costume as the various animals from the manger scene). After they had remembered for us the Christmas story, and performed a number of Christmas themed songs, they went to the social hall in order to change out of costume and wait for the parents to join them for a reception. My job was to talk for 5-10 minutes to all the adults so the teachers would have enough time to get everything ready.
Now, bear in mind, that many of the people in attendance that night do not attend any church. Their children are affiliated with a Preschool from a United Methodist Church, but that night might be the only time of the year that they step forth into a sanctuary.
So, I gave a very brief sermon about the meaning of Christmas and the importance for everyone in the room to love their children; not just with presents, but with real and tangible love; caring about what they’re interested in, supporting them throughout their lives, and taking the time to show them they are loved. When it was clear that I had expended my theological and homiletical thoughts, I did what any good Methodist would do, and I picked up my hymnal.
I encouraged everyone to stand and join together with Hymn 246 “Joy to the World” and those people belted their hearts out! I couldn’t believe it. Here I was standing with a bunch of random adults, most of whom do not attend church, and they were singing Joy to the World in harmony and with gusto!
The psalmist writes, “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.” For many of us, Christmas Eve is that one day where we get to sing some of our favorite hymns in church: Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, Angels We Have Heard on High, Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful, Joy to the World, etc.
Whether church attending or not, whether filled with faith or doubt, whether excited for Christmas or afraid, there is something about singing that allows the truth depth of our souls to break forth into the world. Wherever you are on your faith journey this year, I hope the words and the tunes of your favorite Christmas songs can help to reignite the flame of faith in all of our hearts.
“He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness, and wonders of his love, and wonders of his love, and wonders, wonders of his love!”