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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 to subscribe.

November 2019 Newsletter (Year C)

Pastor Bruce Benson

For the Beauty of November

The church year that begins with Advent, and winds down with Ordinary or Time-after-Pentecost season, is hurrying toward its end: the celebration of Christ the King Sunday the last week of November. Sing For Joy programs for this end-of-year time have already been prepared, and depending on what the November landscape is like where you live, you might think the final text to be sung on the last program of the church year is quite out of place for the season. You will hear two settings of the hymn For the Beauty of the Earth, with a reference to "hill and vale and tree and flower, sun and moon and stars of light." Poor timing, right? There are, to be sure, places where flowers bloom in November and the trees look as lush as they do in June, but that certainly is not true for most of North America and countries of a similar latitude. It is likely that many Sing For Joy listeners, you included perhaps, will hear the sunny melody and words of For the Beauty, while outside your window a bleak cloud deck smothers the "sun and moon and stars of light," and flowers are mere skeletons of their summer selves. Gray and beige are everywhere, color is just a memory.

The Gospel reading for festive, celebratory Christ the King Sunday sounds the way November looks; it is part of the crucifixion account from Luke's gospel. This story and cheery hymns about the loveliness of the earth are both jarring when they come together in late November. One doesn't fit the season of the natural world, the other is out of season with the church year. Each must have more suitable timing than now, surely? Well, yes and no.

There are brighter, cheerier seasons than November, yes; but true beauty is rarely just skin deep. November has its beauty, even if on the surface it can be difficult to see. Nature's austere retreat before the cold of winter need not be seen as a triumph of bland over beauty, or a sign of weakness and a failure to cope. November's beauty is not flowers, greenery and bird song, it is the beauty of wisdom and awareness and recognition. November knows what's coming, and prepares; it doesn't give up on summertime beauty, it safeguards it in dormancy for re-arrival in the new year. 

And the story of the crucifixion is not a story of the defeat and un-kinging of Jesus. The gospels tell the story as the re-imagining or re-envisioning of what kingship means. The world doesn't need another king who mounts campaigns of death, destruction and intimidation on neighbors. It needs a king who refuses to do that. The crucifixion is like November: there is more going on than meets the eye. 

The final hymn of the year sings this summary in its final stanza:

                             For yourself, best gift divine     

                             To the world so freely giv'n

                             Agent of God's grand design,

                             Peace on earth and joy in heav'n.

That's a pretty good sneak preview of Advent and Christmas too!

Peace be with you,

Bruce Benson

Pastor Bruce Benson

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