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The monthly Sing For Joy newsletter contains a letter from the program's host, Pastor Bruce Benson, along with a listing of music selections for each program and the corresponding scripture readings. If you'd like to receive a complimentary subscription, fill out our online request form for either the print newsletter or the electronic newsletter.

December 2018 Newsletter (Year C)
Christmas Good News, by Pastor Bruce Benson

A mother’s carol, a baby’s cry:
What sorrow and joy they both express.
If she had known how her son would die,
Would Mary have said so firm a “Yes?”
-Clay Zambo

You will hear the poignant words above sung on Sing For Joy’s program the week of Advent 4. The Gospel reading assigned for that Sunday is the story of Mother Mary’s visit to her family relative, Elizabeth; and the suggested Psalm of the Day is Mary’s Magnificat. The story, from Luke 1, feels like it wears a smile. Delighted older Elizabeth greets her younger relative, Mary, with words of honor and grace, and both of them share in the wonder, anticipation and hope of their pregnancies. It is a lovely and loving encounter. So why undermine or bruise that loveliness with a reminder of less-than-loveliness to come? “If she had known ... would Mary have said so firm a ‘Yes?’”

Whenever Christmas and Advent texts refer to the suffering that awaits either Jesus or Mary, as Zambo’s text above does, one can almost feel an involuntary wince or nervous squirm shared by those who hear the words. Please, we want to say, can’t mother and child just be sheltered from the world’s trouble for a few days? Herod and his murderous crew will show up in the story soon enough; for now, just let the poor baby sleep. Is it such an awful instinct that prompts us to protect mother and child from having to face a cruel world so soon after birth? No. But neither can we, who know the story, hide for long from the story to come.  

The lovely stories of Advent and Christmas can be good news in two different ways. Let’s give one way an uppercase “G” — Good News; and the other a lowercase “g”— good news. Both are good. One — the lowercase good news — offers the goodness of a much needed distraction. There is enough trouble, threat, violence and hatred in the world to make all of us welcome a seasonal distraction from having to think about that all the time. A season of gift giving, love, animals gently watching over a newborn in a manager: we welcome that change of subject and mood. Forget the ugly side of life for a few days, and join others at a simple manger in Bethlehem. Christmas as a distraction isn’t a bad thing. It is good.

But not capital “G” Good. For a story to be that kind of Good News, it has to be more than a pleasant distraction. It has to address the real, broken world in a redemptive way. The stories of Advent and Christmas, in the end, want to be heard as Good News.

That is why the Church’s music of this season, and Sing For Joy’s programs, do not avoid the real world into which the infant Jesus was born, the real world that would both break and fill Mary’s heart. It wasn’t because Mary looked away from the threatening world of her vulnerability that her soul magnified the Lord. It was because she could see Immanuel: God-with-us in that very world. With Mary this season, we can all sing for joy.

Peace be with you,




Pastor Bruce Benson

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Sing For Joy is supported by listeners like you. We are in the midst of our fall fund drive. Please consider a gift and help us make our goal of $12,000 by the end of December! Have questions or want to donate by phone? Call us at 507-786-2600.

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December Playlists and Programs

Playlists are ready now, and each show will become available to stream on the Friday before the week begins.

December 2, 2018: First Sunday of Advent (Year C)

December 9, 2018: Second Sunday of Advent (Year C)

December 16, 2018: Third Sunday of Advent (Year C)

December 23, 2018: Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year C)

December 30, 2018: First Sunday of Christmas (Year C)

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Lanterns and candle on altar of Boe Memorial Chapel at St. Olaf College
Memorials and Honorariums

Thank you for your gifts in memory and honor of those close to your heart.


Marian W Kinzinger

Dr. Alvin Charles Rueter (1921-2008), founder of Sing For Joy

Eugene Sukup


our daughter, Evelyn Audi Lisi, 1997

the marriage of Dorothy Kellogg and David Lindsey

Dr. Lilya Wagner, my first organ professor

To include an honorarium or memorial when you give to Sing For Joy, simply include the name(s) and occasion(s) in the comment box, as well as who should receive an acknowledgement letter and a mailing address.

Donations can celebrate a personal milestone such as an anniversary or birthday, or honor a loved one who perhaps also enjoyed music, all while furthering the Sing For Joy mission to bring sacred choral music to listeners around the world.

Sing For Joy is sponsored by:

Sukup Manufacturing Co., St. Olaf College, and American Choral Directors Association (ACDA)