Dear people of El Camino Real,
As we go toward this late stage on our Advent pilgrimage, I am reminded that this has been a year of Advent. Despite our tendency to solve or fix, we have been called to walk the way of Mary and Joseph through uncertainty; and, during these nine months, each of us has made new discoveries about our relationship with God and our neighbor.
During this Advent of unknowing, we have been reminded that we are a people of faith, walking the Way of Love. We love our neighbor, wear our masks, and donate generously to those affected by COVID. We also know that in this pilgrimage, we tap into our Creator’s gifts of innovation, pivoting to be New Church.
My mother lives in a retirement community deeply affected by deaths and illness due to COVID. She has spent the past nine months secluded in her apartment, learning to use technology to connect with friends and family. She figured out how to worship online and loves to comment in the chat about the sermon and share in prayer.
What hit her hardest, though, was the fact that she, who knows every alto line in the hymnal, could not attend choir practice and worship to sing.
One of the people in the retirement community figured out how to do an audio recording of a choir; he assembled six singers virtually, and trained them to sing over their phones. The result was an audio clip of “Silent Night,” sung by my 88 year-old mother and her friends.
A critical ear would pick up on the fact that they aren’t quite in unison—that they don’t blend. Yet, these voices between them have 480 years of faithful journey on this planet. Their rendition of “Silent Night” is the combined prayer of people who know of the birth of the Christ-Child and walk the path of hope, no matter whether it’s 2020 or any other year. Despite safety guidelines that prevent us from singing with our lungs and mouths together, we carry a song in our hearts that is filled with hope and joy.
During this Christmas, I encourage each of us to sing in the shower, in the car, on the hiking trail—to raise our voices in this ancient form of prayer. Because long ago, in Bethlehem, on a quiet night, those who gathered were few, and their song rested gently in their hearts; that same song continues in our hearts today and always.
I wish you a very Blessed Christmas-tide.
Bishop Lucinda Ashby