Just a quick note. We’ve posted Pastor Rick’s message from the 2nd Sunday of Advent on the Pastor’s Page.
On Sunday, December 9, 2019, the Peace Light of Bethlehem was presented to our church during our morning worship service by Scout Leader, Sherry Kreps. The Peace Light campaign was originally organized in 1986 by the Austrian Broadcasting Company and was part of a large charitable relief mission call “Light into Darkness” for children in need in Austria and abroad. Since 1989, there has been a great deal of cooperation between Scouts and Guides in many countries, which has allowed the light to travel through Europe.
To celebrate this season, we invite all who would like to be in the presence of the Peace Light to our service on Sunday, Dec 16 or Dec 23 at 10:00 AM, or Christmas Eve at 6:00 PM.
Each year a child from Upper Austria travels to Bethlehem to retrieve the light from the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem that has been burning continuously for over 1,000 years. The light is then flown to Austria from where it is distributed at a Service of Dedication to delegations from across Europe who take it back, with a message of Peace, to their own countries for use at ecumenical services throughout the Continent. Scouts, boys and girls and Guides then take the light on to houses of worship, hospitals, homeless shelters, prisons and any other public places-to anybody who appreciates the significance of the gift.
The Peace Light first came to NY in 2001 by Canadian Scouts who brought it to Ground Zero. In 2002, the Peace Light was delivered to the Boy Scouts of America by Belgian Scouts. In 2003 the light didn’t make it to the US but fortunately members of the diocesan Scouting committee had kept the 2002 Peace Light burning.
In 2004 the Austrian Scout Movement, Austrian Airlines and Boy Scouts of American International Division arranged to bring the Peace Light to New York on Dec. 4th. Two security guards and the international commissioner of Austrian Scouting, flew from Vienna with the Peace Light in two explosive proof, British mining lamps, fueled by smokeless paraffin oil. Just 11 days earlier, Austrian Scouts had extracted the light from the eternal flame of Bethlehem.
In 2011 the flame shared in New Hampshire traveled to West Hartford, VT where it was given at a “Service of Hope” to honor those families still recovering from Hurricane Irene. In 2012 Scouts from all over New England brought the Peace Light to Newtown, CT in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Also, in 2012 Scouts in the NY area presented the Peace Light to Hurricane Sandy victims and to the rescue workers who responded to the needs of those who suffered significant loss of their homes and all their possessions.
These are just one of dozens of different lyrics for the beloved hymn, “Silent Night” or in the original German, “Stille Nacht.” This year is the 200th anniversary of the first time that song was heard, on a Christmas Eve in 1818. I am fond of this one for the wording “Softly glitters bright Bethlehem’s star..”
There are many origin stories for this hymn but all of them focus around a single Christmas Eve evening and a somewhat urgent situation requiring a response, right now! Here’s one of my favorite versions:
“On Christmas Eve of 1818 the young priest of St. Nicholas parish church in Obendorf, Germany faced disaster. The organ had been incapacitated by mice. The chance of fixing the instrument before the evening service was nil. Father Joseph Mohr was not a man to just give up however. He pulled out a poem he had written several years before called “Stille Nacht”. Mohr took his poem to the schoolmaster and organist of a nearby town, Franz Xaver Gruber. He asked that Gruber write a melody to accompany the poem on guitar. In several hours, Gruber had the music done and the carol was played for the first time that night at the Christmas Eve service.”
Most of the stories follow the same theme, a poem left languishing suddenly brought to life due to some urgent need. I love the fact that this was first performed on a guitar and can just imagine the candle light in that church on a cold Christmas Eve, worshipers huddled together in anticipation of Christmas morning and then Gruber performs this soft, compelling song. If there was a dry eye in among the congregation I would be surprised.
There is another story surrounding this hymn, one that portrays our fragile human condition. It was during the Christmas truce in World War I. The soldiers on both sides in the awful, cold, trenches of that terrible war started to sing this song in English, French, and German across the desolate landscape of that battlefield, bringing the hope alive for a brief moment. As romantic as that sounds, the tragedy is that the war would rage on for another four years. We celebrated the 100th anniversary of the end of that war this Veterans Day.
This Advent, as we prepare ourselves for the birth of our savior, we are going to journey through this beloved hymn. We are going to start a search for our own “Star of Bethlehem,” trying hard to reconnect with our faith, with what it means to “follow.” We will explore the challenges of following a star, or Christ, just as the shepherds and magi did. We will ask the questions:
How do we know if we are following the right star?
How can something that seems so far away steer us to finding our faith?
When we hear the angels calling, will we be afraid or filled with joy?
Finally, how do we receive the “abundant grace” promised in this hymn?
Our Advent Series Begins on December 2nd and will end on Christmas Eve.
December 2nd – How do we use silence to connect with God? (from verse 1 “all is calm, all is bright”)
December 9th – How do we relate to the shepherds, who were at first fearful? (verse 2 “Shepherds quake at the sight!”)
December 16th – How do we share “Loves pure light in our life?” (verse 3)
December 23rd – Can we appreciate the grace given through Jesus? (Verse 4 “Abundant grace for our intent”)
December 24th Christmas Eve, 6pm Family Candlelight Service
So, plan your Sunday’s ahead. We are going to listen for our own “Stille Nacht.” We are going on a journey, guided by a star, shining so brightly, I promise we wont get lost along the way.