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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.

January 2019 Newsletter (Year C)
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The Journey of the Magi, by Pastor Bruce Benson

If January is coming soon, the Magi of Matthew’s gospel must be nearing the end of their journey, impatient, no doubt, as most travelers are when they get close to their destination, perhaps asking each other the question on the lips of every back-seat child: “Are we there yet?” To be sure, they have already arrived in one way, putting in wonderful appearances at thousands of Sunday School pageants during the Advent and Christmas seasons, probably wearing colorful bathrobes and ill-fitting makeshift crowns. But their official arrival day on the Church’s calendar comes in January: The day of Epiphany, or Epiphany of our Lord, January 6. On that day, the assigned Gospel reading is the story of the Magi from Matthew 2. This year Epiphany of our Lord occurs on a Sunday; and you can be sure that Sing For Joy will feature music for the occasion.

Epiphany is a day that doesn’t sit quite comfortably in its seat. It squirms a bit; it fidgets, not sure what it is meant to be or do, or if it is in the right place. Is it a doorway from the Christmas story of baby Jesus to all the stories of adult Jesus that follow? Yes, sort of. It wants to be that. But most of the world has put away the ribbons, the bells and ornaments, left behind all that Christmas stuff, disheveled and forgotten, and moved on to New Year’s parties and back to work. Epiphany of our Lord celebrations, therefore, tend to feel like an awkward circling back to Christmas, like someone lost in the woods. After all, didn’t we do Christmas a couple weeks ago? And didn’t we sing: “Sages leave your contemplations, brighter visions beam afar; seek the dear desire of nations, you have seen his natal star” (Angels From the Realms of Glory, stanza 3)? That is obviously about the same Magi we are asked to consider all over again on Epiphany. Why do that? 

There is, I suppose, no final conclusive answer to that question. We do it mostly because tradition invites us to do it. But it is worth remembering also that Christmas and Epiphany try to hold together two traditions, or, two ways of keeping the same tradition. Christmas and Epiphany are both part of the church’s Feast of the Incarnation. Churches in what are often called the “Eastern” tradition (Orthodoxy) honor the Incarnation in early January with the stories of the Magi, the birth of Christ and the Baptism of Christ all at once. The focus is on the greater idea and mystery of Incarnation — The Word-made-flesh. Churches in the “Western” tradition added a nativity celebration in late December, focusing more specifically on birth. 

In our Western context now, maybe we should think of the Magi as visitors from the East, that is, from the “Eastern” tradition, reminding us that Christmas is about more than a baby in a manger, it is about the mystery of Immanuel: God-with-us. Thus we are invited to sing along with the Magi on the refrain of We Three Kings: “guide us to thy Perfect Light.”  And yes, the Sing For Joy program for Epiphany includes We Three Kings. Sing along!

Peace be with you,

 

 

 

Pastor Bruce Benson

The Journey of the Magi, James Tissot, ca 1894: the collection of the MIA, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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January Playlists and Programs

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

January 6, 2019: Epiphany of Our Lord (Year C)

January 13, 2019: Baptism of Our Lord – Lectionary 1 (Year C)

January 20, 2019: Second Sunday after Epiphany – Lectionary 2 (Year C)

January 27, 2019: Third Sunday after Epiphany – Lectionary 3 (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.

IN MEMORY OF:

Mary Jean Barnes

Andrew E. Bicsey, a WWI vet

Barbara Byrum

Isabelle King

Jennifer Koenig

Dayton and Margaret Lauthen

William Ray and Lou Ann Litton

Donal E. McGonegal

Alice R. Muus

K. David Rollins

IN HONOR OF:

all our vets

Bruce, John, Jeff & Carolyn

Pastor Jim and Dorothy Christopherson

John Ferguson

Sharon Kathy

Parents: Lyle & Joan Rich

Trudy Symonik, for her faith during her journey home

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)