Some years ago, the church where I was serving sponsored a production of the famous opera by Gian Carlo Menotti, “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” We were fortunate to have a Minister of Music who knew the music for the whole opera, and who had played it a few times with an opera group. This group traveled to our town and members of the church made the sets, and sang in the chorus. It was a fine production played to a packed house. Proceeds from the event went entirely to a local non-profit which provided transitional housing for homeless women with children.
For those of you who have not heard of it, this opera (based on Italian folk tales of the Nativity and Epiphany) is a retelling of the story of the Magi from the point of view of a young disabled boy named Amahl, who lives in poverty with his widowed mother near Bethlehem. Here is a brief synopsis:
“One night, Amahl sees a bright star in the sky and he tells his mother to go look. She brushes him off, distracted by her concern over their bleak financial future. That night, three kings come by their modest hut and knock on the door, asking for shelter. They have traveled for a long time, following that same star which Amahl spoke of. They bring with them treasure and gifts to give to “the child” who has just been born and who will reign over all. The mother becomes momentarily blinded by the lure of the gold they have brought and makes an attempt to take just a bit of it, and she is caught red-handed. Much to their surprise, a gift far greater than the gold is given. Blessed by the child, Amahl finds himself suddenly cured of his disability.”
I enjoyed the beautiful opera that night. It was truly a night I will always remember. It captured my heart and the hearts of all who attended – filling us with beautiful music and inspiration – which is a great way to enter into the spirit of the season. But the most meaningful moment for me was a few days later, when a delegation from our church visited the non-profit organization that would receive the proceeds from our event. We had a tour of the transitional housing apartments and learned more about their program designed to help families get back on their feet. It was a great and humble honor to be able to present them with a significant check to help their mission to the ones, whom we know Jesus came to lift up – the lowly, the hungry, the homeless, the refugee, the abused, the powerless, the despairing.
It reminded me of what Mary sang when she learned she would give birth to the Messiah. Mary sang a song of hope: “God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. (Lk 1:52-53)
This Christmas when Mary’s child is born, let us remember that this is a gift that is far greater than gold, as Amahl and his mother learned. In the midst of our celebrating with honored traditions, let us also remember that Jesus is a gift of God’s love and deliverance from the forces that don’t care about things like goodness or society’s most vulnerable ones.
Our God is sending us a Savior at Christmas. May it be a night that you will always remember; a night when you see clearly, maybe even for the first time – God’s hope for all the world!
I wish you and your loved ones, a very blessed Advent and Christmas Season!
Yours in Christ’s Service
Reverend Linda C. Hey