This Advent season, we have been reading the Christmas story through the eyes of the oppressed, which continued on Christmas Eve with a service of music and meditations focused on reading the Christmas narrative through the lens of Jesus as liberator. We gathered for a simple worship service at the beautiful Pilgrim Chapel in midtown KC.
For a prelude, we listened to the recording of Simon and Garfunkel’s “7 O’Clock News/Silent Night“, a piece which has an old news recording layered over the music of a familiar Christmas carol. The juxtaposition and tension of the two was a reminder of how our world sings songs of peace, yet allows war and injustice to go on.
Our Curator, Nick shared the following quotation from Thomas Merton to start the night:
Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, his place is with those others for whom there is no room. Christ’s place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, who are tortured, bombed, and exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in the world. Christ is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst … With these Christ conceals himself, in these he hides himself, for whom there is no room.
Throughout the evening we made time for silent meditation and prayer, and our Assistant Curator Wendie Brockhaus shared a brief meditation on the power of Advent and how Jesus’ arrival on the scene was a sign of liberation for the oppressed. The stories of Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, Jesus, and the shepherds all point to this good news; and the marginalized get a front row seat to the Nativity instead of the wealthy and powerful. We responded to this message by singing “We Shall Overcome” and sharing a guided self-reflection time with the following questions:
- Have you ever been in need of a place to stay (physically, emotionally, spiritually) and felt turned away?
- How might Christ be “born in you” today? This year?
- What does our city need? Our world?
As a closing ritual signifying our commitment to being a community of action and reflection, we lit each other’s candles and shared intentions for the coming year, singing “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round“. The message of Howard Thurman in “Now the Work of Christmas Begins” was the spirit we took with us as we were sent back to our homes and communities:
Now the Work of Christmas Begins, by Howard Thurman
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.
On Christmas Eve we took a love offering for our neighbors at Uzazi Village, a local organization working to decrease black infant mortality and racially-based perinatal health inequities. If you’re able, we invite you to make a donation as well.
If you would like to contribute to the cost of our shared meals and conversations, we invite you to donate by texting the word “give” to 816-656-3310.