A few weeks ago I had the privilege of presenting a program of music for the annual Garner Presbyterian Women's Christmas Dinner, an event that one of the attendees remembers occurring every year since at least the mid-1970s. The night was shaped by a charmingly unsophisticated beauty: a delicious potluck salad supper with a chicken casserole entree; glittering holiday table decor; thematic, hand-crafted table favors; bow-tied male servers; and holiday-attired female party guests connected to each other within three or four degrees of separation. If a woman whose life had only extended into the 1970s had been granted the opportunity to revisit such a night - much like Thornton Wilder's Emily – I believe she would have had a difficult time understanding just how much time had passed on this earth.
In some ways the activities of the evening seemed an intentional preservation of celebrations past. And that night, in addition to enjoying a wonderful, traditional church supper, I relished how the event revived memories of childhood that connected me to what felt like simpler times – shopping festooned downtown streets while Christmas music played on loudspeakers, delighting in the magic of nighttime snow while hurrying from one family-owned store to the next, trusting your mom and dad to take good care of you no matter the driving conditions, and anticipating the joy you believed each carefully chosen gift would bring.
My memories were so easily relieved that night, in part, because of my hostess, a former member of my hometown church who watched me grow up and heard me sing some of my first church solos. That night she had sealed the aura of yesteryear for me by inviting my sister to the event as well. Jill, forever my little sister and only sibling, is the sole person who also knows what it means to be known as "one of the Bowden girls" – something we were called several times that evening, even though neither of us has literally held that status for more than two decades.
Interlocked lives. Powerful impressions. Steadfast faith in a future, fully realized.
As I stood before those women, sharing stories mixed with musical messages, I remembered what it meant to be young and what it meant to grow up. Welcomed back into the wondrous world of my youth, I felt the story of God come to earth once again and witnessed how its power joins lives in a hope that does not disappoint.
Welcome to our world, Messiah. Come into our lives and show us what it means for the kingdom to come to us - Immanuel. Then help us live the message every day. May it indeed be so this Christmas and into the coming year.
*Yes, there is sound in the vlog below, a song even, but not right at the beginning.*
God bless us, every one.