This past Sunday evening, our church hosted an ecumenical offering of “Advent Lessons & Carols.” I was blessed by the area pastors who joined in reading Scripture, the sense of unity as Christians from a variety of denominations gathered together for song and reflection. And the music, offered by Diane Penning alongside of our own music ministry, was transformative.

One song in particular struck me as deeply meaningful. It is “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” published in 1934 by Robert MacGimsey. Though he was not a black composer, MacGimsey spent much of his early years in Louisiana around the African-American community and he wrote the song in the style of an African-American spiritual. One of the greatest renditions is the one offered by Mahalia Jackson (you can easily find it on YouTube), but Diane’s offering was also tremendously powerful.

The difficulty of truly seeing Jesus in Advent

Everett Patterson’s picture, called “Jose y Maria,” reimagines the Holy Family in contemporary times.

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