Thursday, December 21, 2006

Probably the sweetest and sanest moments I have with my husband are every morning when we pray and read the Bible and other devotional material. Mike says the Bible comes alive for him when I read it.

"The family that prays together, stays together," my father often said in his Sunday sermons. There was no "family altar" in our home, but we didn't eat until the blessing had been said, and when we were small children, he listened to bedtime prayers as he tucked us in for the night and gave us each a kiss.

I used to think it strange that the preacher's family didn't observe a time of family devotion. Daily individual Bible reading was required if we were to rate 100% on the offering envelopes turned in at Sunday School, along with attendance, punctuality, tithing, lesson read, and a couple of other items I can't recall. In this way, personal piety was scored on a weekly basis. Some of the teachers even awarded gold stars on a giant wall chart so the faithful were recognized for their faithfulness (a good way to encourage feelings of pride and spiritual superiority, rather than humility?).

After we learned to read, my sister and I took turns reading aloud the daily devotionals at bedtime while Daddy listened and helped with the hard-to-pronounce names. Each of us was a good reader, not like some of those other children in Sunday School who stuttered and stumbled and mispronounced and didn't pause at commas, and used a monotone from beginning to end. The coaching we got from teachers at school was reinforced by our father, who thought the Bible deserved all the drama and expression of a Shakespeare play. When the Sunday School teachers grew weary of having each child struggle through a verse from the weekly lesson's passage, they would often call on a good reader to do it all. I was frequently chosen for this honor.

So it is with a truck load of memories and emotional associations that I will give the Old Testament reading in St. Philip's Christmas Eve service. While the adult in me loves the message, the child in me will be there, too, enjoying the spotlight. God, help the adult in me to deliver this reading in a manner that honors the Prince of Peace, not "Little Miss Sunbeam."

The First Lesson: Isaiah 9:2-7

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness-- on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

No comments: