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Devotion: Hodie!

Prior to every performance, the choir gathers together and one of the members shares a devotion. Sometimes the topic is one of the compositions or the text, sometimes it is about centering on what is happening at that very moment. Tim Sheie, a member of the bass section, is frequently called upon to give the devotion. After arriving at the airport in the early hours of Saturday, December 21, 2013, the choir flew to St Louis, Missouri and then boarded buses that took the to Christ Church Cathedral. There was a quick sound check, a buffet lunch and then everyone convened, dressed in black robes and crosses, in the second floor choir room prior to the 2pm performance. Here is the devotion provided by Tim Sheie that cold winter afternoon.

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Choir members often share a common experience of ‘choir dreams’ — forgetting folders, singing the wrong music, and worse...mine recently was to reenact a scene from the movie "Remember the Titans" where Defensive Line Coach Denzel, aka Paul (the Bass section leader) Wilson, gathers the basses together in the huddle and says: “You make them remember forever the day they heard the National Lutheran Choir...”

Now that I’ve totally distracted you, I will now also try to refocus you on the concept of time, and I’ll do this antiphonally between our program's Proclamation and moments in the choir's history:

1.  It was the year that King Uzziah died…

This is not trivia — not vague tales nor myths nor fables — but specific things that mark our place in time and the little space on earth that we occupy with our loved ones.  Milestones come and go — you are the child, children are born, parents pass away, you become the parents…weddings, divorces, funerals, more births, houses, moves, jobs…in fact, some of us had children before some of us were born…and yet the God who watches each sparrow also watches over you. 

2.  It was the year of the 194th Olympiad…

The Bible has this wonderful technique of identifying the important stuff — so many times we read: "what happened, in the year of...it was someone, son of someone else, daughter of someone else…" The proclamation (below) at the center of our program is a perfect example of that, placing the nativity squarely as the single most important turning point of history. 

Many ages after the world was created,
when God, in the beginning, formed the
heavens and the earth; long after the great Flood;
some two thousand years after the birth of Abraham;
fifteen centuries after Moses and the passing over of Israel;
a thousand years after the anointing of David as king;
in the sixty-fifth week as Daniel’s prophecy takes note;
in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad,
the seven hundred and fifty-second year from
the founding of the city of Rome;
the forty-second year of Octavian Augustus’ rule;
in the sixth age of the world, all the earth being at peace,
Jesus Christ, Eternal God, Son of the Father,
willing to hallow the world by His coming in mercy,
was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judea,
God Made Flesh.

3.  It was the year that Larry [Fleming, NLC's founder] twirled his cross...

I confess, I was one who struggled changing the word ‘christian’ to ‘catholic’ in the Apostles Creed. Yet for me, I will continue my silent protest at the reclassification of time: I will continue to use B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini, in the year of our Lord) rather than the generic ‘Before Common Era,’ because it was the pivotal event in time, when God came to us in a form that we can understand, that we can love back.

4.  It was the year that Tim Schmidt [NLC bass] processed up the aisle in wet, black socks...

Someone said once that ‘time is simply God’s way of preventing everything from happening all at once..’   Hymn writer Isaac Watts looks at time from God’s perspective, both looking back and looking forward:  O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, be Thou our guard while troubles last, and our eternal home.” And the best linear simile of all in the hymn:   “Time, like an ever-rolling stream…

5.  It was the year that Quirinius was governor of Syria...

Henry van Dyke, clergyman and poet of the early 20th century, may be familiar to you as the writer of the text for ‘Joyful, joyful, we adore thee’  to the Beethoven 9th tune...but is also known for another quite profound text: 

"Time is too slow for those who wait,  too swift for those who fear,
too long for those who grieve,  too short for those who rejoice,
but for those who love – time is eternity"

6.  It was the year the A/C went out on the second [NLC tour] bus...

Many of you sitting here are totally stressed, tired, doing all you can to get your game face on, and to focus your remaining energy on our task at hand. How many times have you frantically made lists and done errands all the way through Advent, and having finally arrived at Christmas you experienced no peace?  Or do you feel like you’re simply trapped in Narnia, where it’s always winter but never Christmas?

7.  It was the year there was frost on the balcony wall of the Basilica of Saint Mary [where the NLC performs its Christmas Festival in the Twin Cities]...

You are not trapped in some circular Groundhog Day, but freed by Christ to live fully each day. The promise of the Nativity is then guaranteed by the Resurrection, and you are — Hodie! —  today and forever part of the story. (Who would have known that three years of high school Latin would finally pay off for me as a choral singer?) And when you read through the program texts, note that nearly all of it is written in present tense — Hodie Christus natus estToday Christ is born — today the Saviour has appeared — today the Angels sing on earth — today the righteous exult…

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight. 
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight. 
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight. 
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight

We pray:

O let my soul live, and it shall praise Thee, for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forevermore.