Reflections from the Organ Bench by Kenneth Dake
Posted on December 2, 2014 by Ken Dake

Surprised by Joy

This Sunday, December 7 at 2:30pm the Marble Music Ministry presents its biggest event of the season, our annual Advent Concert with The Marble Choir and Festival of Voices, along with chamber orchestra, narration, dance, and exquisite lighting. This year’s theme centers on the journey from shadow to light, from despair to hope, from longing to joy.

In last Sunday’s sermon Dr. Brown invited us to ask ourselves what we really want for Christmas this year, and what are we willing to do in order to receive it. His Advent sermon series – A Season of Waiting – is about those things we deeply desire that are worth waiting for, no matter how long it takes. And it is about the way in which we wait – pro-actively, creatively, and expectantly. I’m often reminded of a favorite quote by the late Stephen Covey: “The essence of happiness is the willingness to sublimate what we think we want now to what we know we want eventually.” What do we want so much that it is worth the wait? Wisdom? A life partner? A meaningful legacy to others? A deeper faith? Lasting joy that transcends circumstance?

I’m delighted to announce that for the first time we have commissioned a new work which will be premiered at this year’s Advent Concert! David Sisco's "Worth the Wait" is a profound composition in contemporary style with soloist Kristin Gornstein accompanied by the orchestra. It brilliantly captures this idea of Advent as a season of waiting “for something true.... for something more” and of being open to receive God’s divine gift for us in new ways.

Another feature of the concert will be four dances performed and choreographed by Marble congregant Jere Hunt. (To learn more about Jere visit jerehunt.com) The concert opens with “Lux Aurumque,” a mystical, other-worldly composition by Eric Whitacre. The combination of Whitacre’s shimmering, ethereal harmonies with Jere’s choreography will beckon us to a place of quiet reflection as we await the coming of the Light into the world. A bit later in the program, the orchestra will play Ennio Morricone’s famous melody, “Gabriel’s Oboe” as candles flicker throughout the darkened sanctuary and Jere interprets this soaring music through dance.

The Festival of Voices will sing a beautiful song made famous by Amy Grant and arranged by Craig Courtney: “Breath of Heaven.” In this tender ballad Mary wonders aloud if she is in over her head, if she is really up to the task to which God has called her. Amidst her fears she prays, “Do You wonder, as You watch my face, if another should have had my place? But I offer all I am for the mercy of Your plan. Help me be strong, help me be, help me.” How many of us have moments when we begin to doubt the very things we once felt sure of, and we feel paralyzed by our own inadequacies in fulfilling God’s call?

Two masterworks of Mendelssohn will provide a majestic contrast to much of the other choral repertoire: “There Shall A Star from Jacob Come Forth” is excerpted from his seldom-heard oratorio Christus, and concludes with the Epiphany chorale “How Brightly Shines the Morning Star.” Toward the end of the concert the magnificent closing chorus from Elijah “And Then Shall Your Light Shine Forth” will rattle the rafters with full orchestra, combined choirs and organ. The concert which began in stillness and quiet reflection (Whitacre’s “Lux Aurumque”) will culminate in a blaze of light and joy through the inspiration of Mendelssohn.

Perhaps no text better sums up this journey from night to day, from shadow to light, than Samuel Barber’s setting of Twelfth Night. Laurie Lee’s words paint a desolate landscape: “No night could be darker than this night, no cold so cold, as the blood snaps like a wire and the heart’s sap stills, and the year seems defeated.” But beneath the harsh dissonances of the music (and the harsher realities of everyday life) there springs hope: “For see, beneath the hand, the earth already warms and glows... for those with shepherd’s eyes there are signs in the dark, the turning stars.... for out of this utter death He’s born again... His birth our Savior.”

This Advent will we be given “shepherds’ eyes” with which to recognize and pursue the signs of rebirth and new life amid the cold and barren landscape of our time? Will He be born again in the valleys of our life?

It is when we think we can wait no longer or journey no further that we are most likely to receive that for which we truly yearn – “something true, something more.” It is in the “final mile of pilgrim kings, the mile still left when all have reached their tether’s end” that we will be Surprised by Joy, discovering Christmas anew and only then realizing that it was most definitely worth the wait.

To order tickets for the concert, click here.

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