During Advent this year, I will be reflecting daily using this Advent Photo Devotional. The word designated for December 5th was #Greet.
Yesterday morning pastors, staff, and other ministry professionals from the southern portion of the Southwestern Washington Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) gathered for an Advent Eucharist service with the bishop at the church I am serving. One of the hymns we sang as we gathered together was “Awake, Awake, and Greet the New Morn.”
The Advent hymn by Marty Haugen has grown on me over the years since college. It’s words speak of a message of hope, something we need this time of year as the rain falls, violence continues, and fear (and in my opinion insanity) runs rampant.
“Awake! Awake, and greet the new morn, for angels herald its dawning. Sing out your joy, for soon he is born, behold! the Child of our longing. Come as a baby weak and poor, to bring all hearts together, he opens wide the heavenly door and lives now inside us forever.
To us, to all in sorrow and fear, Emmanuel comes a singing, his humble song is quiet and near, yet fills the earth with its ringing; music to heal the broken soul and hymns of loving kindness, the thunder of his anthems roll to shatter all hatred and blindness.
In darkest night his coming shall be, when all the world is despairing, as morning light so quiet and free, so warm and gentle and caring. Then shall the mute break forth in song, the lame shall leap in wonder, the weak be raised above the strong, and weapons be broken asunder.
Rejoice, rejoice, take heart in the night, though dark the winter and cheerless, the rising sun shall crown you with light, be strong and loving and fearless. Love be our song and love our prayer and love our endless story; may God fill every day we share and bring us at last into glory.”
The words of verse 2 particularly strike me today. “Music to heal the broken soul and hymns of loving kindness, the thunder of his anthems roll to shatter all hatred and blindness.”
I am challenged today to want to greet anyone and everyone, but particularly those people who right now are being the subject of people’s fear and anxiety. These fears and the way people are projecting them on other people, based on nation of origin, faith, religion, etc., as well as the proposals of some (like Donald Trump) to isolate or alienate based on these differences is wrong. It’s against my faith which calls us to greet, welcome, and care for our neighbor, the stranger, the refugee, etc. From a faith perspective, its obvious to me. But also, from a civic standpoint it is too. The country that I am a citizen of, the United States, is built on the principles of equality and freedom regardless of viewpoint and differences. Any proposal that tries to limit based on that is problematic at best, and down right dangerous (or worse) if enacted.
My response to all of this fear today, is to greet. It’s part of the work of ministry, but also of being someone in community. How do you greet others? With a warm hello? A smile? Who are you going to greet today, and who might greet you?
Source: “Awake! Awake, and Greet the New Morn,” Marty Haugen, (Chicago, IL: GIA Publications, Inc., 1983), OneLicense, found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 242.