Sunday, January 4, 2015

Love, Hate, and "Silent Night"

Epiphany Sunday, 2015:

Epiphany of the Lord, 2014

By Deacon Lawrence N. Kaas
January 4, 2015

Epiphany is still Christmas, especially for all of us who are Gentile. The gifts we have received really do not compare to the greatest gift of all--- the babe of Bethlehem, the word made flesh and dwelt,s amongst us, is the precious Son of the Father.

Music is a part of this special gift, for music is a gift from God. How many of us are put in a mood of joy and hope through music, especially Christmas music. I listened to the sound of music a week 10 days ago and even after hearing it many times it still seemed like the first time. We can even here in our minds, Bing Crosby's White Christmas and if you are on a little more of the low brow side of music you may hear Elvis singing I'll have a blue blue blue Christmas without you.

It is special for me that my granddaughter comes to my house and takes the guitar and sits in the middle of the living room floor and plays and sings, and of course this time of year, Christmas songs.

Psalm 98 was one of the Psalms we heard at Christmas and was Isaac Watts favorite song. In fact he paraphrased the Psalm and put it to music. We know that, as, "Joy to the World, the Lord is come, let Earth receive our King." We are particularly influenced by the last verse, "he rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and the wonders of his love, the wonders of his love."

Now I have three short stories for you and then a question: I'm sure many of you are country music fans and have heard of Travis Tritt. Like many country music stars he spent his early years playing in bars, and he goes on to explain that many of these were dangerous places, with drunks starting fights over the smallest matters.

But he found a unique way to keep the peace in such situations. For he says, any time things get too rowdy, he would begin singing, and playing, "Silent Night." Here's how he puts it, Silent Night proved to be my all time lifesaver just when bar fights start getting out of hand, when bikers are reaching for their pool cues and rednecks were heading for their gun racks, I start playing Silent Night, it could be in the middle of July -- I didn't care. Sometimes, I swear they even started crying, standing there watching me sweat and playing Christmas carols.

This year was the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall built on August 13, 1961 it was to keep the East Berliners from fleeing to the West. It fulfilled that mission for 28 years. Months before the fall of the wall, citizens of Leipzig, in East Germany, decided to peacefully protest their imprisonment behind that wall. Their movement was called the Velvet Revolution. It was then, and seems to be now, a most unusual protest movement. For you see the people of Leipzig met in a local church on Monday nights to sing hymns and pray. An amazing thing happened, starting out with about 1000 people in two months that grew to 300,000 people. A military officer was asked why didn't you put down this protest? His answer, "we had no contingency plan." The wall came down!

Many of us have seen the movie, The Bridge over the River Kwai. This bridge was to be constructed by prisoners of war who had to deal with degradation and desolation and mistreatment besides. What I don't remember of the movie was how these men on Christmas of 1944 were given a break from work detail and were even given a bit more food. In one of the barracks a soldier began to sing Christmas Carols, gradually all around camp the men began to join in and finally they sat there in the yard in a great circle. Gordon, one of the prisoners said, " God touched us that day." Gordon said, it was the most sacred event that he had ever been involved with. No preaching, just men United by their common misery, singing of God being with them. We were touched by God, they said.

Now my question; if history proves that the worst degradation of man can be overcome with song, why are we hearing hateful protests? A lady I know was at the Mall of America two weeks ago and witnessed the protest and she said we had to get out of there you could feel the hate from the protest that was going on.

Does anyone truly believe that blind evolution would have given us a world that blends together a soprano, alto, tenor and bass to make the most pleasing sounds on Earth? For music is from God, for music of Christmas is defiantly from God. Music can do things that nothing else can do. Music can change the world, music can change hearts, music gives us hope. So I hope and pray you will leave here today with the sound of Christmas music singing in your hearts, giving you hope, peace and joy.

Our Bishop has asked us to remember that this is immigration Sunday. He said in his letter: On this day we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who have come here from other countries. We also reflect on our own responsibilities, as loving Christian communities, to welcome them and advocate for policies which respect their human dignity and promote the well-being of their families.

We would have a hard time disagreeing with this policy because are we not all immigrants? I am a second-generation immigrant because my father came over to this country from Holland when he was 12 years old with the rest of his family. He tells me that they even had received a wireless from the Titanic, but didn't respond because they were too far away plus the fact they didn't know what a Titanic was.

I also hear stories of how our parish, Our Lady the Angels was built by Irish immigrants, and there-fore was given the name the Irish Church.

Recently, I met a lady by the name of Maria, a beautiful Hispanic grandmother, so at one point I asked her how long she has been here in the United States. She said, all my family has been here for generations, born just this side of the border with Mexico. Thankfully the question did not offend her and she preceded to tell me stories of her family's life here in the US.

We could go on with this type of stories and never be able to tell it all, but, as we listen to the news of the present and near past we find, it seems, that the whole world is on the move. Stories coming out of the Middle East of people taking great risks to go to countries like Italy for example, and other European countries. Legal or illegal becomes a mute question when desperation dictates that one has to flee from one's own country. So was the case with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, having to flee to Egypt to protect their child.

So as this Mass continues, pray for the present-day immigrants, some that you know and some you wish you knew better. Amen.

So you all be Good, be Holy, preached the Gospel always, using Words and Holy Actions.

'Thank you' to Deacon Kaas, for letting me post his reflection here.

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