Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve in Dark Times: Still, One Can Dream. And Hope.

I am, I have to admit, a pushover for flashmob videos, though I have a feeling the flashmob phenomenon has peaked. The world has taken a dark turn from the heady period in which this concept performative concept broke on the scene, when it seemed that European union and the election of an African-American president in the U.S. might herald a new age of international cooperation in which the human community might strive to overcome some of its old, deep hatreds and work to build a better world for all.

Then those hatreds began reasserting themselves with a vengeance, and heinous individuals who know how to exploit them for their own gain began rising to power, and here we are: the world is very different this Christmas eve in 2017.

Still, one can dream. And hope. And that's what this video of a flashmob singing "Es ist ein ros' entsprungen" in the Cologne main train station several years ago helps me to do.

"Es ist ein ros' entsprungen" has long been one of my favorite Christmas carols — starkly beautiful, with sweeping reverential cadences and lyrics that are so theologically rich. I will never forget the Christmas we spent with kind friends in Hamburg, who took us to St. Catherine's church at midnight on a snowy Christmas eve in 1993. The church was bombed during the Allied bombings that reduced Hamburg to rubble, and has been rebuilt.

A choir sang "Es ist ein ros' entsprungen" and then Dr. Peter Cornehl of the University of Hamburg preached about how we cannot adequately remember and celebrate the light we believe Jesus brings to the world — the light we believe Jesus is for the world — unless we bring that light to bear on the dark places in our society today. He spoke about how people like Jochen Klepper, whose wife was Jewish and whose family was singled out for torment by the Nazis, resisted the darkness as long as they could — until the Klepper family finally saw no escape other than suicide.

Then we sang Klepper's hymn "Die Nacht ist vorgedrungen." That Christmas eve service was one of the most moving I've ever experienced.

Wishing all of you a peaceful and holy day and night . . . .

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