My most cherished New Year tradition is participating in the Harmonia Sacra singing held at a nearby church building--an event that has been going on for 114 years or so. Believe it or not, I haven't been at all of them (although Moriah might tell you that I'm older than 114). ;-) But since we've moved back here to the Valley, attending that singing has become, for me, a very special part of welcoming the new year.
And so it was this year.
It's hard for me to capture in words the significance of this event. I could tell you that I took Josiah, David, Tobin, and my dad along with me; and my heart swelled as I watched Tobin behave so well despite the length of the singing and his unfamiliarity with the songs. I could tell you that I rejoiced when we began to sing "Hosanna," and David leaned over and whispered excitedly that this was the song he had been hoping we would sing. I could tell you that Josiah sat beside his grandpa and sang bass on some of the songs, his changed voice coming in handy when hitting the low notes. I could tell you that my mother wasn't with us (it's late enough in the evening that it makes it pretty challenging to have her come to it), and I remembered the years that she was there, and I missed her. I could tell you that Jeff kept Shav, Moriah, and Benjamin at home; and I was so grateful for the gift of time that he gave me--that he gives me every year for this singing. I could tell you that the bonnet-wearing Mennonite lady behind me said, "I'm your neighbor Wilma's cousin," and we chatted about Aunt Martha's back trouble. I could tell you that further down that row sat another Mennonite lady who said, "Davene, I babysat you when you were little," and when she asked me if I was going to lead a song this year and I told her I didn't know, she said, "Oh, I hope you do!" even though in their church, a woman would never lead a hymn. I could tell you that the feeling of community was strong in that place--not just among those who gathered on this first day of the year to sing, but also with those faithful ones who once sat in those pews and sang those songs but who have now gone on ahead. I could tell you that once again, I was struck by how many of the old, old hymns in that songbook deal with the theme of dying--and how I thought that, if a person meditated on those songs, it would help a person achieve the goal of Jesus in Hebrews 2:14-15, "...to free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." If you pondered those words and made them part of you, you couldn't--you just couldn't!--be afraid of death. I could tell you that I thought that an ideal way to die would be to attend the New Years singing in, say, 2077, and then come home and lie down to sleep, those melodies still ringing in the ears and the words still soaring in the heart, only to slip off to glory and awaken on the other side. What a way to walk through the doorway called Death.
The song I chose to lead tonight was inspired by one of the books I read in 2015, Vera's Journey. I still want to write more about that book someday; but for tonight, I'll only say that Vera mentions this song--this hymn of victory over death, this longing for heaven, this fulfillment of Hebrews 2. And because of her, I was inspired to lead it--and hopefully to live it--here on this first day of a new year.
What a meaningful way to begin.