Singing in the rainy streets

Dec 4, 2015 by

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The year was 2006. Jesse and I had just spent a lovely afternoon walking the nearly empty, wet streets of Chicago. We made it to LaSalle Street Church just in time for the Christmas Eve Service. I was tired, hungry, cold, and feeling homesick for my Kansas family. All I wanted was to sing some familiar carols and go back to our Chicago apartment to exchange gifts and watch another Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode. Just when the worship service was about to start, a ragged-looking man entered the empty row in front of us with enough bags to fill the entire row. His soggy clothes and bags wreaked. I was not happy. That is, until the worship leader asked us to stand for the opening hymn. That’s when I realized that this filthy-looking and filthy-smelling man had a beautiful tenor voice. Not only that, this man knew all the hymns by heart. His voice was so beautiful that I closed my eyes and just listened to him sing each and every stanza of each and every hymn.

This memory came back to me this past week as more experiences of violence and brutality have been exposed, this time in the streets of Chicago. As I would expect, many of the good people of LaSalle Street Church took to the cold, wet streets. They left the comfort and warmth of their homes and sanctuaries and stood in solidarity with all those crying out for greater justice. The current events in Chicago and in our broader world inspired one LaSalle Church member, Lenora Rand, to write the following reflection: “This Is No Time for Those Happy Little Christmas Songs.

As I read this article by Lenora, I began to imagine our Advent characters like Jeremiah, Zechariah, John the Baptist, Mary and Elizabeth walking through the streets singing about the dawning of greater peace. And as I read Luke chapter 1, I began to wonder if the aging priest Zechariah had a beautiful tenor voice (so beautiful that when he was struck mute it must have been quite a loss). Here is one of the songs Zechariah sang, and who knows, maybe his son John also sang his way through the wilderness as he prepared the way of the Lord?

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Rain, cold, or shine, I hope the second Sunday of Advent is filled with songs and prayers that call forth the dawning of peace on earth. Here is one more interesting article for those of us who wish to sing our way through Advent.

Ruth Harder is the pastor of Rainbow Mennonite Church in Kansas City, Mo. She blogs at, where this first appeared.

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