1. Occurring, found, or done often; prevalent.
2. Shared by, coming from, or done by two or more people, groups, or things. (Lexico.com)
1. A feeling that something is the case. A faculty by which the body perceives an external stimulus; one of the faculties of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.
2. A feeling that something is the case. (Lexico.com)
A shared knowledge derived from our personal and collective senses. (bertrim.ca)
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Cheryl had her earbuds in her ears, listening to music, trying to outlast the boredom of the recumbent bike she was peddling. I curiously asked what she was listening to and she unplugged just long enough to let me hear the choir singing Handel’s Messiah. “And the glory of the Lord will be revealed” they intoned as she contributed her own voice to the sopranos.
It’s a prophecy from Isaiah 40.
Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” – Isaiah 40:1-5 (NIV) (emphasis mine)
It was an inevitable highpoint each year for me; a warm and unforgettable awakening of my senses.
When I was a pastor, our church was the place to be on Christmas Eve. Like everything else during the season there was quite a lot of preparation to carry out the traditions we had built into the event. In addition to preparing a brief homily for the evening, there were plenty of additional details to be seen to: advent wreath, lighter for the candles (and backup lighter just in case), order of service, readings, singers, ushers, assistants, lights, props, AV, musicians, and personal candles for each attender.
The crowd would happily squeeze into the pews – regular attenders, visiting families, friends from the community, people we didn’t know – all smiling and generous with their Merry Christmases.
The climax of the evening would come when the sanctuary lights were dimmed and the candles of the Advent Wreath lit, ending with lighting the centre Christ Candle signifying Jesus’ birth into our world. Two volunteers would then come forward and light their personal candles from it and walk slowly down the centre aisle, transferring their fire to the candle of the person at the end of each row. These would in turn share their flame with the person next to them and so on until the church was filled with warm, glowing points of candlelight.
I can still recall the orange glow spilling across the room and I can still sense the shared reality of darkness to light. The symbolism was inescapable, made all the more powerful by our physical participation. Senses alive.
To this day I can see the glowing faces turned upward as we sang together and I can still hear unified voices reliving that first Silent Night and proclaiming Joy To the World.
When the final ‘Amen’ was pronounced, flames would be snuffed out resulting in thin wisps of smoke waffling toward the ceiling. The more responsible of the adults and children would inspect nearby candles to ensure there was no glow left on the end of the wicks.
With the work of worship complete, the enlivened celebrants would file out quickly (it was Christmas Eve, after all). Still, they seemed to have more than enough time to pause, smile, hug, shake hands, greet warmly, share generous blessings and give best wishes.
The warmth and unity came from a deeper place. We had gathered for a common purpose, to “prepare the way for the Lord”. Our senses had been engaged and together we had re-confirmed an undeniable truth in our hearts. Jesus has come. God is with us.
As Isaiah might say, The glory of the Lord had been revealed and all the people had seen it together. It was our common sense.
Do you have those kinds of memories? Are you making memories?
Do you have a way to reinvigorate the truth of ‘God with you’?
This year I am suggesting that you find a worshipful place or event where you can join with other believers to have your senses enlivened and your heart warmed.