Last evening, Kathleen and I went with friends to the annual Christmas concert put on by the music department of Southeastern University, an Assemblies of God school here in Lakeland, Florida.
For most of the evening the large stage was packed with musicians: first a jazz ensemble, then a band made up of brass, woodwind and percussion instruments, then an orchestra featuring a wide range of stringed instruments, and finally a massed choir of rich young voices.
The music was glorious. It took us through the Christmas story again. We recognized the timeless Christmas carols and many of the other tunes from generations past.
When it came time for the audience of 400 or so to join in, we sang with joy the great music of Christmas: Joy to the World, the Lord is Come; O Little Town of Bethlehem; Hark the Herald Angels Sing; and more. The energy of faith and hope were in the singing. This is what Christians believe!
Earlier in the day I had heard the news from around the world – the ceasefire in the Middle East was holding, but with uncertainty; a rogue nation, North Korea, was setting up for another firing of a long range rocket capable of carrying a nuclear warhead; fugitives from the super storm, Sandy, were still without power, heat or water. And FEMA was still not coming through as victims of the storm were complaining with growing bitter frustration.
Yet, there we sat listening to this large assemblage of young, talented musicians telling with voice and instrument that there is hope for the world and it centers in the Advent of our Lord’s coming. The extended Christmas story is quite simple: He came! He comes! He will come again!
He came to be born in the humblest of circumstance. He — the ascended Christ — comes in the person of his Spirit to his followers in their deepest distress. “I will not leave you orphaned,” he promised, “I will come to you.”
And he will come again. What a blessed benediction the third promise declares for all who await his appearing: “May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (1 Thess. 3:13).
It is now the day after we left that vaulted auditorium last night. But the promise of that hour, carried into our hearts with timeless melodies, and etched into our minds with divine poetry, will not fade. For those who believe, there is hope in this life and the life to come!