Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent begins ... with the Hope for Africa Children's Choir

Last year I kept a daily Advent blog that included links to YouTube videos, one for each day of Advent. I won't be doing that this year for two reasons: (1) I couldn't possibly come up with 24 new songs (and besides, it's all here in the archives of my blog if you really want to review it), and (2) being a seminarian, I can't promise I'll have time among exams to actually do it justice. But I do want to set a goal of posting something each day of Advent. It's a discipline for me to slow down to that degree.

This morning I attended Holy Eucharist at Christ Church in Alexandria. It's a very lively parish, but the big highlight for me was a visit from the Hope for Africa Children's Choir. This group of Ugandan children, ages 9-15, is touring the U.S. while the kids are on their summer break (that is, October through January or so). They were amazing. Their harmonies were impeccable, their drumming was delicious, and their style was everything I could wish for from an African choir -- think Ladysmith Black Mambazo, but much younger. And not only did their music fit well with the First Sunday in Advent, but it was also perfect for World AIDS Day on December 1. They also performed after the service in the adult forum, and in more than one song, they sang candidly about AIDS, calling it "the mother of all evil." Some of the kids are HIV-positive, and all of them have lost loved ones to the disease. They smiled and charmed the pants off us, but it wasn't the kind of charm one could laugh about, because they were singing about tragedy. Their music was full of a joy so deep it made me want to laugh and cry all at once.

I so wish this group had a CD out. I understand there's one in the works. I did find a couple clips of them on YouTube, but nothing of very good quality, and certainly nothing that comes close to capturing their spirit.

After church and the forum, I waited for a bus to take me back home for lunch with my family. I resisted the automatic urge to put on headphones, especially since I still had the Ugandan kids' music in my head and didn't want to lose it quite yet. It was 65 degrees and sunny -- the perfect day, and unusual for late November. I thought, "Now, this is a great way to start a new church year."

In the afternoon, Sarah and I hunted for and finally found four blue Advent candles. At Holy Cross this morning, Sarah and Christy had made a styrofoam wreath with a few greens on it. I added our new candles, and we lit the first one over dinner tonight.

This Advent, I want to stay awake. Just like Mary Poppins urged, but without the irony.

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