This Advent, the Discipleship Committee is encouraging our members to engage in a self-study of Luke A. Powery’s book, “Rise Up, Shepherd! Advent Reflections on the Spirituals.” Each Sunday during worship, we endeavor to explore one of the spirituals featured in the book. On December 3, that spiritual was “Rise Up Shepherd, and Follow.” On December 10, a guest soloist will be singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” The following Sunday, December 17, Leila Roos and Eric Flicker are scheduled to present “There Is a Balm in Gilead” as a duet during the prelude. Then, finally, on December 24 at 10 a.m., the congregation will join in singing “Go, Tell It on the Mountain.”
Africans who were enslaved in the American South used music to profess “hope in seemingly hopeless situations” by calling for “light in the midst of darkness” and “love in the face of hate.” “‘Advent’ means ‘coming.’ In particular, it refers to the first coming of Jesus Christ into the world in a lowly manger and the second coming of Christ, who will return as reigning King to redeem all of creation.” “Bringing the Spirituals and Advent together is a way to pray for a double blessing of hope.”
“Joining the message of the Spirituals with the overall narrative and movement of Advent is also a way to bridge worlds that do not normally converge – a cultural musical literature of faith born in slavery and pervasive in the Black Church and a high liturgical sensibility of the church calendar, in this case, Advent… This intermingling of cultures and traditions is a sign of the Spirit and unveils that the divisiveness of the day need not be the way forward. The twain can meet.”
Indeed, “the future God has for us” is “a blending of time, culture, tradition, race, gender, and class into a beautiful bouquet of unity where all walls of division vanish.” In Advent, we keep our eyes fixed on “the reconciliation of all things, the bringing together of difference in the unity of the Holy Spirit.”
Let us pray: Dear God, it is Advent. As we await the birth of the Christ-child, we remember that he came to disrupt time and to show us a new way. Today, we pray for a more perfect world, where hostilities and divisions may cease. Help us to hear the cries of the oppressed as those who long for Christ’s coming. Then, give us hearts made ready to do your will. Amen.