Do You See What I See?
When I was a boy, we had an old turntable with a cabinet for record albums, probably like every family had in the 1970s and before. In these days of songs available on demand, electronically, every time of day and night, it seems impossible that this old-school Magnavox combination of electronics and furniture ever existed. Yet for years, it was what people knew. If you wanted more music, you had to get more records, or listen for hours to hear the song on the radio.
One of the songs I waited all year to hear on those old 33s was “The Little Drummer Boy.” We had the Abbey Choir version, with a boy in a green head-scarf playing a snare drum, with a big star shining behind him on the cover. (Yes, I had to look this cover up.) I was only allowed to listen to Christmas music around Christmas. This time of year, when the snow began to fall, and excitement began to build for Christmas, I would also grow excited to hear this song.
“Do you see what I see?” This song begins with the night wind speaking to a little lamb. To a boy, this question seems perfectly normal. I didn’t know that wind didn’t speak, and that little lambs didn’t hear. “Do you hear what I hear?” said the little lamb to the drummer boy. It started as a whisper in the night wind, passed along through the most improbable of messengers.
This message made it through the shepherd boy to the mighty king. What was the message? A star. A song. A child. And peace. What kind of an odd message is this? My literalist young brain didn’t appreciate the poetry of suggestion contained in this narrative. But it loved the music. And the questions.
Do you see what I see? I see a way of life that is changing, as much as it has changed from a piece of ubiquitous living room furniture with a few dozen records to something that a child can carry in her pocket that holds 10,000 records.
I see a stunningly beautiful church that has all the colors of the rainbow, and a lot of empty seats in the pews on Sunday mornings. This is not new. This is not unique to Trinity. This is not something that people should feel sad or guilty about. This is simply the reality of a world that has changed from a place where your mother would have played a popular tune on the piano, to a place where you can google 40 different versions of that same tune and listen to it on your wireless earbuds.
I see a village of Park Forest that needs some work. I do not see the village as it was, but I see the village as it could be. Not as it will be, because I can no better see what will be than I could see a 128 gigabyte microSD memory card as a four-year-old child in 1979. I knew records. I could never have imagined something like I have today with me at all times, with over three straight weeks of music on a chip the size of my thumbnail.
I see an opportunity to reshape what it means to be a church. Not only to change the record. Not only change the song. Not only change the technology on which we listen to the music, or the singer singing it. But to re-envision what it means to hear that song and to sing it forward.
Beyond all the forms of how we bring the Christian religion to life, the ways in which we meet to “do church,” to keep it going and to support it as an institution, I hear that faint, bewitching song sung from the wind to the lamb to the child to the king. “From God’s lips to your ear, kid,” I can hear God speaking in the voice of George Burns.
What is that song? It is ancient, and the words change in every age. Yet the blood that beats at its heart is ever the same. Because, you see, this is a living song. It is a song that cannot die, no matter how many times the singer dies. The original language is beside the point. The number of verses, whether it rhymes, all this is window-dressing.
What matters is this: that the song starts in the heart of God, illumines the Christ child in the night so long ago, reflects off the rough wood of the cross, and bounces off the empty tomb on Easter morning.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to tell you what I see for Trinity. I don’t know if I can see Trinity as you see it. As we prepare for our special congregational meeting on December 16th about our future and decide whether we want to make some decisions about that future, can I ask you a favor? Can you teach me your song about Jesus, and about Trinity? Can you tell me if I’m getting my song across to you?
Could I see what you see, and hear what you hear? And could we listen to the song together, help each other remember all the words, and write it out in the language that only our church can properly speak so that others may hear it?
May God bless you in this holiday season, and every day of your life!