You can chant this prayer with the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA by following the link to their website.
O Emmanuel, leader and desireSr. Joan's Meditation for today is as follows:
of all the nations, you set
captives free, comfort the
lonely; you feed the poor and
the hungry. Come be born in us,
God of Life.
December 23I'm always learning a little something more about "being in the consciousness of where Christ is in life. . . "
Jesus Emmanuel has already come.
It is not a matter now of Christ’s
being where we are; it is a matter of
our being in the consciousness of
where Christ is in life and where He
is not as well. Where is Christ for
you? Is there a place in your life that
you know down deep is not in the
spirit of Christ at all?
— Joan D. Chittister, OSB
It was Sunday morning. Advent IV. The phone rang in the choir room.
No one usually answers but, because the snow storm had left 10-14 inches of snow the night before, a member of the choir thought she should because. . . well, because the Christmas pageant was scheduled for that morning and an important 'character' might be calling to say s/he couldn't make it . . . or, would be there after all.
Or, because maybe, just maybe, the organist/choir director was calling to say that he had been able to get out of his driveway after all and was on his way and she wouldn't have to play the piano.
This is the church. We are nothing if not about hope. Sometimes, hope against hope.
Not this time.
"Hello," said the voice on the other end, "this is the mother of Jesus. Is the Christmas Pageant still on?"
Only in the church could you get a call like that and no one would flinch.
"Yes, yes it is" said the choir member, "We're all expecting Jesus."
"Good," said the mother, "I'd hate to bring him out in this weather for no good reason."
It was only after she hung up that the other choir members who had been listening in burst into raucous laughter.
I conferred briefly with the choir. No organ. Just piano. Hmmm . . . do we really want to do "Tell Out My Soul" with a lean choir and no organ? Okay, here, we'll change things round a bit and make it easier with a hymn everybody know, "O Come All Ye Faithful." Yes, that's the ticket. Well done.
Down the hall, I passed the Coordinator of the Christmas Pageant. "Okay, angels? One, two, two three . . . good, over here, please. Animals? Good . . . a few sheep, a lamb, and. . . uh . . . a goat. Right, then. Over there, please."
Everything seemed in good order as he continued, "Stars? Careful, now. That's the new star, remember? We don't want to break it like the old one. How would the shepherds find their way to Bethlehem? Careful . . . careful . . . careful. . ."
I ducked behind the wall, listening in admiration as the man was making order out of the chaos that lurked at the fringes of this very young but nevertheless madding crowd.
"Okay, shepherds? Thank you. Over there, please. Wise men? Grand. Over there, thank you. I think we've got it covered."
Suddenly, I detected a note of anxiety in his voice. He was stammering, "Where? Where? . . . Um . . . Where?" I poked my head around the corner and saw the look of the very beginnings of panic start to cross his face.
"Where are the Three Kings?" he asked, almost pleading. No, definitely pleading.
I looked over at the Three Wise Men who looked more like three wise guys. They were smirking. Definitely smirking.
"Umm . . . ahem," someone said, "The Three Wise Men ARE the Three Kings."
A flicker of something like a combination of horror and relief crossed his face and then he resumed total control, "Right then, very good. Off we go."
The parents who were 'subbing' for the children who couldn't make it because of the snow storm were giggling softly amongst themselves. I couldn't tell if they were laughing at the Wise-Men-Three-Kings joke or because they were starting to enjoy their second chance at a childhood Christmas Pageant.
I suspect it was a bit of both.
Up the stairs they went to be greeted by three violins rehearsing "Silent Night." In the kitchen, the wind instruments were fitting in a few more rehearsals of the songs they were going to play. The energy was intense. I was amazed that, for so few of them, they sounded grand. Not at all like the pick-up team they were.
Impressive. Very impressive.
Oops, another problem. Only one torch bearer. What to do? Might she carry the gospel book in procession? Ah, that would do nicely. Just the cross and the gospel book. Perfect.
Except, she was brand new at the task of torchbearing and was really just now mastering the art and science of walking and carrying a stick with a lit candle on top of it whilst wearing a long robe.
She had never carried a gospel book in procession before. Her eyes began to reveal her anxiety about that. Not to worry. There will only be one torch. The procession would be a bit asymmetrical but that would be oddly in sync with the rest of the morning's festivities.
It's all to the glory of God, anyway, and I believe there is ample evidence that S/he absolutely delights in innovation and creativity. It's all perfected in the doing. Didn't St. Paul say that to someone, somewhere?
The congregation was a bit thin, but larger than I expected, given the wretchedness of the weather. The few. . . the brave . . .the members of St. Paul's, Chatham.
And so, it began.
I must say, this was the best Christmas Pageant. Ever. I know. I say that every year and every year I mean it. But, really, this one was the best. No question.
The Baby Goat insisted on sitting in the Angel's lap, but that was okay because it was her big sister, after all.
A few of the stars got a bit of a case of 'Ants-in-the-Pants," and the Wise Men had moments of being wise guys, but mostly everyone was very well behaved.
The three Narrators were positively brilliant, reading their parts with a seriousness that belied their ages.
Mary and Joseph looked completely serene as Baby Jesus sucked on his pacifier and was blissfully quiet the entire time.
And everyone, everyone remarked that this Christmas Pageant had the most Christmas spirit of any of the Christmas Pageants anyone could remember.
The Christmas Stories in scripture tell us that Jesus was born into "a low and mean estate". No organist accompanied the heavenly hosts and choirs of angels. No torchbearers - not even one slightly nervous newbie - lit His way. No one organized the chaos or hushed the clamor of wayward sheep and itchy, distracted angels.
Indeed, no snow plow came to shovel the "snow on snow" out of the driveway to the manger "in the bleak midwinter, long, long ago."
And yet, Jesus came.
Jesus was very much present with us - Emmanuel = God with us - this past Sunday.
Sr. Joan's meditation reminds us that, "Jesus Emmanuel has already come. It is not a matter now of Christ’s being where we are; it is a matter of our being in the consciousness of where Christ is in life and where He is not as well."
Yup, our Christmas Pageant was all that.
All that, and much, much more.
Come, O Come, Emmanuel.