Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas with "When Swing Was King" -- An Appreciation and a Personal Invitation

The ministry of “When Swing Was King” is never without moments of profound tenderness and compelling joy.  They occur in the hearts of residents as they connect to the music, the pictures, the history, and the memories.  And they occur sometimes in the residents’ conversations with one another, with family members, with facility staff, and with Claire and me.  There is always some laughter. Sometimes there's a few tears.  There are always stories.  There are always warm expressions of appreciation.

And there is always, in our hearts as we drive away, a deep sense of the privileged honor it is for us to serve people in this way. Thank You, Lord.

Because we go to the same facilities every month (some for 2 ½ years now), we have made some pretty tight friends.  And we have lost some of those friends: Glen, Rita, George, Doc, Marta, and several others, including, of course, my Mom.  You can see how "When Swing Was King" is a ministry that is emotional and intense for us, stimulating a deep appreciation of each program, each conversation, each touch. 

Christmas amplifies this intensity even further.  Memories related to Christmas are not only more deeply etched in our soul, they are more poignant and beloved – even the ones that underscore a sense of loss.

Therefore, even though our regular performances of “When Swing Was King” are hailed by our audiences as wonderful and warm, the Christmas edition really takes things over the top.  The pictures are chosen not only to reflect the 1940s and 1950s but the exquisite beauties of Christmas that are common to all eras.  There is a festive and welcome feeling when one looks at candles, colored lights, snow-covered rural churches, and Christmas trees. The music of the Christmas edition is special too. It's a nice mix of fun and faith (Yes, Virginia; the two can be compatible!) and so it includes winter songs, Santa songs, homecoming songs and yes, sacred songs that speak explicitly of the ultimate “Reason for the season.”

I do not use the microphone to preach a sermon. But neither am I afraid to include in my WSWK commentary an appreciation of the religious significance of the holiday. It's only common sense. It's Christmas, for crying out loud.

For instance, I refer to the historical foundations of the holiday; namely, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, He Who was the Lamb of God Who would one day bear the sins of mankind. I talk a bit about the profound religious truths contained in the Christmas carols. For a couple of them, I explain the story of the song's origins.  And, every time Frank Sinatra concludes his 1947 rendition of “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” (the 4th song of the program), I remind the audience: “That, of course, is the timeless message of Christmas – ‘Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.’”

All elements of this "When Swing Was King" edition are appreciated by our audiences and, while we love people grabbing our hands and thanking us and telling us it's the most wonderful Christmas program they've ever seen, what we are most blessed by is hearing the chorus of voices (even in the memory-impaired facilities) sing out the words of "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "O Holy Night" and "Let It Snow" and "White Christmas" and all the others.

Yes, we are absolutely thrilled at the powerful ministry that "When Swing Was King" has proven to be...month after month. But there's something about Christmas that, as I noted above, takes it over the top.

If you would like to experience a bit of what I'm talking about, there are still several Christmas editions of "When Swing Was King" coming up at senior facilities here in our area. Give us a call or check the schedule at the Vital Signs Ministries website to see when.

Or you could always drop in to the gym at Faith Bible Church (1555 S 27th Street, north of Martha two blocks and one block east of the interstate) next Sunday morning at 9 o'clock. Claire and I will be doing the Christmas edition of "When Swing Was King" in full that morning (45-50 minutes) and serving up fresh breakfast pastries, coffee and tea to go along with it.

After the program, you can zip on over to your own church or, if we dare to ask, please consider sticking around to be part of the worship service there at Faith Bible Church. We don't try to produce worship stage shows at Faith (we feature only a keyboard, a drum and a song leader), but you will find a remarkable fellowship of Christian activists there from a variety of backgrounds, all walks of life, and with experiences in all kinds of relevant ministries for the Kingdom. And the sermon you'll hear will be relevant, interesting, and carefully reliant on the text of Holy Scripture. Rare stuff.

So why not give it a try? At least for a special Christmas break from the routine? The rolls, donuts and the Christmas edition of "When Swing Was King" will be served up at 9. We hope you can make it.