Sunday, November 30, 2014

Resources for Advent

Today, Sunday, is the First Sunday of Advent. It is the beginning of the liturgical year and the beginning of the season of preparing for Christmas, the celebration of the Incarnation. It is and always has been my favorite time of year, originally, when I was a small child, because of the fun and presents, and still now that I have the (if I may be so bold) intellectual and spiritual maturity to appreciate the significance of the season to redemptive history. But enough about me, and more about Jesus!

I would like to highlight two devotional resources for this Advent season.

The first is a new devotional by Ray Pritchard (my former senior pastor), Why He Came. You can get the ebook for FREE on Amazon today through Thursday (after that it will cost $2.99). Ray's seasonal devotionals (he usually writes one for both Advent and Lent each year) are always good; I highly recommend you download a copy for yourself!

The second is the fourth edition of my Musical Advent Calendar. I started this in 2011, my first year out of college, and have been blessed with positive responses from family, friends, and colleagues over the years. A bit about it for those of you unfamiliar: 

Each day from December 1 through December 25, I will have a different Advent- or Christmas-themed song featured here on my blog. The twenty-five selections are a mix of songs from across the centuries and styles, and are performed by an equally wide variety of artists. Each day’s post will be live at 5 AM Central Time. You may visit the blog each day or, to have the posts delivered directly to your email, please subscribe to my blog if you have not already (see the "Follow by Email" feature directly below my picture in the right-hand column). Please feel free to share my calendar with the people you know!

And those are just two of what I am sure are many, many other resources that focus on Christ, the Word become Flesh, in the context of this Advent season. Are there any others you would recommend? Please share in the comments below.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Achieved is the Glorious Work

Last night, the Wheaton College Artist Series presented Haydn's THE CREATION with John Nelson, conductor.

It was easily the most complex production of my young career. According to my boss, Tony Payne, Creation at Wheaton was also the most complex production of his over three decades at Wheaton. After well over half a year of coordinating, discussing, organizing, and re-organizing the details of all that was involved in all the activity leading up to and surrounding last night's concert, I think it is safe to assume that all of my colleagues and I, not to mention all the Wheaton students who were involved, are now breathing a collective sigh of relief. I was actually in a bit of a daze at church this morning, and not just because of the lack of sleep. After months of continuously thinking about this project, with all the details and their multilayered connections, spinning in my head, I woke up this morning with the very liberating feeling of no longer needing to mentally hold it all.

This is not a confession that I almost had a break down or anything like that. Sure, there were moments when I was, as I put it to a friend yesterday, "professionally annoyed." And of course I know I did not do everything perfectly; I certainly hope to learn much from this experience to apply to my future work. But, truthfully, I am also breathing a sigh of satisfaction, and I think that is true for the others as well.

There are so many things I could say about the Creation at Wheaton project. Hearing from music students about the thrill of rehearsals with John Nelson. Seeing a group of high school students engaged in their special workshop. Witnessing the fine work of my student staff, aptly executing every task I assigned to them (I must pause here at say thank you to Matthew James, Anna Krcek, Cathrine Peistrup, and Sameah Villaca). I was also, at the risk of sounding conceited, very gratified to see people use the hashtag #WheatonCreation that I created for the whole project back in February. Needless to say, I have yet to fully process everything (and being still short on sleep as I write this, I will likely not finish doing so today.)

So I will simply offer a few reflections on last night. First, we had a tremendous audience, both in scope as well as in style. Moments like that, when Edman Chapel is alive with energy and excitement, are always special, and last night took it to a new level. Everyone was enjoying the evening.

Second, we had a tremendous group of musicians. Wheaton College is indeed blessed to have such quality student music ensembles. They performed with such passion last night, no doubt driven by the fact that the piece they were performing is a part of their faith. I was in the backstage corridor with the ensemble directors when the students all came back at the conclusion of the performance, and it was so special to see 260 very happy musicians walk past us.

And third, I had the unique experience of having one of my best friends from my days at Wheaton College, my senior year roommate Nathaniel Olson, as one of the featured guest professional soloists!

All told, an experience I will not forget anytime soon. I am so grateful to have been part of it.

And now a couple pictures from last night...

My senior year roommate and one of my best friends from Wheaton, Nathaniel Olson, sang the role of Adam in THE CREATION.

Maestro John Nelson, flanked by the soloists and backed by the Wheaton College choirs and orchestra, greets the audience to begin the concert.