we had quite the day on sunday...an amazing day of advent...a uniquely holy day for us as a family.
it began with church, which, in some ways, felt anything but holy, what with yours truly dressed up in a giant chicken costume as part of the nativity scene (i know, you forgot about the chickens in the manger, didn't you?). and while the tone was fun and light, there was a holy joy underneath it all, as a couple dozen of us, mostly children, found a way to tell that most profound story, that hope is here, all because of a humble baby. we told the story from the perspective of the animals, those very same animals that isaiah had predicted generations before would someday live in peace with one another...the very same animals that scripture says are still longing for the fullness of redemption, when everything will be made right. so there was quite a but of clucking and mooing and hee-hawing as we told this story with as much creative energy as we could, with great joy and much laughter. it was a good morning. we followed that by a big luncheon at the church, full of extended family, sharing in God's blessings around the table, a tremendous symbol of the kind of love Christ came to finally bring.
from there we were blessed to be able to board an amazing vintage train, a collection of restored train cars from the early 1900's, that runs in sunbury at this time of year under the moniker "the holiday express." it was a remarkable experience. some dear friends of ours from church are very involved in the restoration of these cars, as well as the running of the holiday rides, and they had asked us to come and be their guests on the train. from the moment we arrived, with a light snow falling, and with our friend, dressed as a turn-of-the-century train employee, coming to greet us through the snow, it was a delight. we boarded the train, and were led to our special seats in the dining car, as Christmas songs were played through the above average sound system.
we settled in, enjoying watching the falling snow as we left the station, bouncing to the clackity-clack of the gorgeous train. soon, our friend came by and punched our tickets (and punched letters into the boys' tickets, just like on "the polar express," which was soon read to all aboard the train) and after that we were visited by santa, buddy the elf, the grinch, frosty, rudolph, and others. the staff came through and sang with us, as we sang a robust version with perry como of "there's no place like home for the holidays," and others. what a blast. it felt like we had somehow transported into a distant past, and for a few moments, shannon and i thought we were bing crosby and rosemary clooney, singing, "snow, snow, snow" in the dining car. it was a special ride.
but the day wasn't done! the evening took us up to lewisburg, to rooke chapel on the campus of bucknell university, where each advent is accompanied by a stunning lessons and carols service at the chapel, with the bucknell chorus and handbell choir. we stood in the still-falling snow until the doors opened, and then we entered into a truly beautiful couple of hours.
the music was unbelievably good. and powerful. the tall, lanky director has long white hair and especially long thin fingers, all of which have led to us referring to him as the "wizard of music," a title which he most assuredly lives up to. he directs with a clear passion, and obviously is able to pull from his singers and ringers a kind of spirit that resonates in the soul long after the bells have stopped clanging. we were blessed to hear some great arrangements of traditional carols, some brand new pieces, some pieces from around the world, including an energetic one from africa, as well as sing along to several carols. the service ended with candlelight, and silent night, followed by a ringing of the bells that rivaled even the joy of old scrooge himself when he learns from the boy below that he hasn't yet missed Christmas. the bells were stationed throughout the chapel, and they rang and clanged with abandon, pronouncing and announcing that we haven't yet missed Christmas; that the darkness has not won; that hope is here, that we should cluck and clack and clang our way to telling this joy to the whole world, anyway we can.
click. clack. clang. amen.