December 19, 2022
“Let all mortal flesh keep silence and with fear and trembling stand; ponder nothing earthly-minded, for with blessing in his hand Christ, our God, to earth descending, comes our homage to command. ” ~ Words by St. James, 4th century, translated into English by Gerald Moultrie, 1864.*
The most amazing thing has happened repeatedly in this Advent Season. Our Jr. Choir, composed of very active elementary school children have taken on an entirely different persona when participating in worship services and concerts. They can be (almost) climbing the walls, swinging from the ceilings, unable to sit or stand still for the length of a song, and wildly ringing their chimes at random moments during rehearsals. Although they have been instructed in “sanctuary behavior” by the choir director: reverence (respect for God), respect (respect for others), and dignity (respect for yourself); rehearsals in the sanctuary have been a bit chaotic.
The most recent test for all involved (leaders, helpers, and children) was the Singing Christmas Tree, a St. Paul’s tradition. A structure of five levels of risers is assembled in the chancel, draped in green cloth and Christmas tree lights. More than twenty adults and ten children who have been rehearing since October climb into position and present an open-to-the-community dress rehearsal and two free concerts of Christmas music for the Woodstock community at 7 pm on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
The children occupy the first row of the risers. They sing along with the adults on some songs, they sing and ring chimes during “Caroling, Caroling.” They sit silently for some of the songs. We adults have fretted about how to handle disruptive behavior in the middle of a concert.
That’s where the ancient carol, “Let all mortal flesh keep silence,” comes in. They have! Remarkably, miraculously, the children did just that. Perhaps there is something so transcendent about the Christmas story that the human response is silence and reflection when presented with the incomprehensible reality of God descending as Jesus. For a small sliver of eternal time our full attention is drawn into the mystery.
May we all keep silence long enough to ponder this mystery. ~ Anne
*Here is a link to listen to Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, performed by Fernando Ortega https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wl4u8lnDQs