December 10, 2023—Episode #4917


Conductors: Mack Wilberg and Ryan Murphy
Organist: Andrew Unsworth
Announcer: Lloyd D. Newell

“Joy to the World”
Music: Lowell Mason
Lyrics: Isaac Watts
Arrangement: Mack Wilberg

“How Far Is It to Bethlehem?”
Music: English carol
Lyrics: Frances Chesterton
Arrangement: Mack Wilberg

“Of the Father’s Love Begotten” (organ solo)
Music: 13th-century plainsong
Arrangement: Andrew Unsworth

“There Are Angels Hov’ring Round”
Music: Spiritual hymn
Arrangement: Ryan Murphy

“Go, Tell It on the Mountain”
Music: Traditional hymn
Arrangement: Ryan Murphy

“Hallelujah” from Messiah
Music: George Frideric Handel

The Spoken Word

Gathering for Christmas

December 10, 2023
By: Lloyd D. Newell

For well over 100 years, The Nutcracker ballet has delighted audiences at Christmastime. The ballet opens with family and friends gathering on Christmas Eve. The gift of a nutcracker unleashes a fantastic adventure for a little girl named Clara, complete with gingerbread soldiers, dancing snowflakes, a handsome prince, and a sugar plum fairy. Audiences around the world love the imaginative story, the unforgettable musical score by Tchaikovsky, and the fanciful choreography and sets. But at least part of the magic of The Nutcracker happens in gathering—the coming together of different people, not only onstage but also in the audience.

Gathering is also a big part of the magic of Christmas. Something about this season brings families and friends together. In some cases, we’re continuing a tradition of generations. In others, we’re hoping to start a new tradition. Either way, we sense that Christmas is meant to be shared, to be experienced together. It involves giving and receiving and connecting.

In a sense, gathering is an act of faith. We gather at Christmas because we believe—among other things—in each other, in humanity, in the ambitious promise repeated every Christmas of peace on earth. And as we gather, something special happens, something sacred even. We wish each other joy and happiness. We look past differences and see common hopes and desires. There may still be misunderstandings and disagreements. That’s almost unavoidable when people gather. But even if it’s only for a few hours, our gathering takes us a small step closer to peace on earth.

Just like the family in The Nutcracker , many families gather on Christmas Eve. One common tradition is to read the Christmas story found in Luke chapter 2. There we read about “good tidings of great joy.”[1] We repeat the angelic plea for “peace, good will toward men.”[2] We read about the holy gathering around the humble manger. We reflect on the teachings of Jesus Christ. And those words, if we let them, change us. We feel more inclined to open our hearts to others. Our love for the Lord strengthens our love for each other and for all of God’s children. We feel moved to gather, to truly come together, different though we may be. And as we gather, we feel God’s love, because it’s His love, ultimately, that draws us together.

[1] Luke 2:10.

[2] Luke 2:14.