I was wondering around Wikipedia and noticed that they have entries for each day of the year in which people post seminal events that happened on that day. I immediately looked up April 8, since today is my birthday. And to my surprise found both happy and sad events had occured on my birthday that meant something to me personally, including the first performance of George Frideric Handel’s oratorio The Messiah, occurred in Dublin, Ireland in 1742 and in the Nazi POW camp at Flossenbürg, pastor and theologian and author of The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was hanged in 1945.
I am a big fan of Handel’s Messiah and Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship. My wife and I will always remember a special Messiah experience we had. It was
Spring Christmas Eve and we were in our van, going down I-95 through South Carolina on our way to Daytona Beach to visit my family. It was about 4 in the morning and the there was a light to medium fog blanketing the roadway. Not enough to prevent you from driving but enough to filter out most of the surroundings and give you this wonderfully mystical sense that you were driving down a road that had become spiritually alive. The radio was tuned to FM and we considered ourselves fortunate to have found a classical station, when suddenly the familiar cords of the Hallelujah Chorus began their triumphant march into the night. We were immediately transcendent as we lifted our voices with those of the oratorio, belting out our efforts into the parting mist. It was a uniquely glorious four and half minutes that we have never forgotten.
It is moments like that when God feels close enough to reach out and touch, while at the same time you feel one with creation and the purpose of life.
I have also appreciated the message of Bonhoeffers book, since discipleship has been a key part of my Christian ministry over the years. The cost is the cross, whatever yours is to bear, yet all crosses lead to the same place, our own personal Golgotha, just as it did for Bonhoeffer.
Since it is my birthday, I want to ask a present of all of you who read this; I want you keep me in your prayers today, even if only for a little while. Thank you, and may God richly bless your day as you go about the many good works he has prepared for you to walk in.
Grace and peace.
Update: 7:55 a.m. I had remembered Spring around Easter but my wife reminded me it was Christmas Eve. My memory has always been focused on the fog and the visual and auditory experience, as well how they combined to create a special moment of shared worship. Now that I think about it I do recall that it was Christmas Eve and we were driving straight through from Baltimore so that we could arrive in time to get settled before midnight services and gift opening. Sometimes when we hear the Hallelujah Chorus together, even after all these years (it will be 25 years ago this coming Christmas that the experience occurred – how about that, a significant anniversary approaching), we have a brief flashback to that singular moment and see in each other’s eyes the sparkle of recognition.