The first weekend of December is always a special time in the Atlanta University Center. That is when the Morehouse and Spelman Glee Clubs present their combined Christmas Concert. The music is always amazing and inclusive of many cultures and various traditions. For many people I know, that concert begins the Christmas Season.
As wonderful as that concert was, my Christmas Season actually began a day earlier on Thursday, November 30 at 11:00 am in the Chapel of the Interdenominational Theological Center. The Chorus sang beautifully under the director of Dr. Lisa Allen-McLaurin, Helmar Nielsen Professor of Music and Worship at ITC, but they were less than fifteen in number. Dr. Willie F. Goodman, Professor of Pastoral Counseling and Director of the ITC Chapel Program worked with Dr. Allen-McLaurin to develop a narration to complement the music. He and four ITC students read the narrative.
The audience did not fill the Chapel and no seats were reserved but those who came did not leave the same. The music anticipated the coming of the Messiah. It articulated the longing of the people for the one who would deliver them. The music reminded us of Mary’s wonder and obedience even in the midst of her doubts and fears. Though small in number, the voices soared and proclaimed the hope that is so essential to the real meaning of Christmas.
However, in between each musical selection, the narration reminded the audience that Christ was born at a time of turmoil and uncertainty and it identified that same turmoil and uncertainty as part of our own reality. The narration also made it clear that hope is always needed when times are tough and when the odds are stacked against the powerless, the marginalized, and the oppressed. With the pathos of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” echoing in the background at certain times during the concert, we were reminded in true Sankofan methodology “that we have been here before.”
The concert in ITC’s Chapel was not the beautifully synchronized, large-scale production, with over 100 choir members I experienced that Friday night at Morehouse College. Instead, it was a reminder that even during the joy and anticipation of Christmas there is injustice and suffering, pain and struggle, dehumanization and death. The concert in ITC’s chapel also reminded us that in the midst of all that is out of order and chaotic, the human spirit leads us to hope; hope for a savior who will establish justice and peace. The miracle is that the Messiah, the Christ does come. He enters into the chaos and injustice of the past and the present. The anticipation of his coming is fulfilled and the hope that because he comes the world will be better takes hold. However, with the arrival of the Messiah we are made aware that the work of making the world better is what the Messiah, the Christ has commissioned us to do.
“O come, o come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel.” We await the celebration of your coming with anticipation and hope. But now our hope is that we will have enough Christ in us to be the embodiment of the hope for a better world, which begins with a Christmas that is full of hope. I wish for you a hope-filled Christmas; one that inspires you to accept your commission to bring about a world of justice and peace.