The Christmas season is filled with wonderful music. With a few exceptions, I love it all, and I delight in taking it in almost everywhere I go this time of year. I enjoy the music coming through the loudspeakers at the mall, I look forward to long drives where I can settle in and listen to songs that have been my favorites for years, and I wish I had time to take in more concerts.
This past Sunday, many of our middle and high school students at St. Paul took to the streets of the Quad Cities to share the joy of Christmas music in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and at a few private homes. There’s nothing quite as simple or gratifying as Christmas caroling. There’s no rehearsal needed, and heart-warming smiles from those we visit are almost guaranteed. But the best part is not singing for others. What I love the most is when the folks we visit with our tunes sing with us.
One of my favorite theologians is Sam Wells. He delivered a Christmas sermon several years ago where he pointed out that most of us approach this season and day thinking about what we can do for others. We want to get a perfect gift for someone, donate food or clothing for those in need, or create the perfect holiday experience with meals, etc. for our family and friends. Wells says we’re often disappointed, because we’re using the wrong preposition. Christmas isn’t about for, it’s about with. After all, the good news isn’t just that God is for us, but that God is with us.
I know that in the days ahead, I need to think less about what I can do for others and what others can do for me. I need to think more about how I can be with others. One of my favorite Christmas traditions at St. Paul happens on our last night of confirmation in December. During our closing worship, all the kids and sponsors gather around the piano as Pastor Sara plays and we all sing “Silent Night.” There are no microphones, we can see one another’s faces, and we are very much with one another as God is with us. May there be a moment like that for all of us this Christmas.
–Ryan Bailey, director of faith formation