Sunday’s Scripture ~ James 1:19-27
Andrew and I are high school sweethearts. We met as 16 year-olds in our church’s handbell choir – and as they say – the rest is history. We dated through our remaining years of high school and on into college. In December 2004 we got engaged outside the Japanese archway that is affixed in the World Showcase Lagoon (not sure Walk Disney calls it a lagoon, but I am!) at Epcot. We are very fortunate that have friends, students, colleagues, and congregants that work for Disney and invite us to spend the day with them in the parks around our anniversary in December.
As a special treat when we visit Epcot in December the Disney’s Candlelight Processional is in full swing. The Candlelight Processional is a mass choir/mass orchestra ensemble that sings its way through the Christmas story while portions are spoken by a celebrity narrator.
A few years ago we attended the processional not knowing who the narrator would be and I was stunned to learn that Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin would be the narrator that evening. If you are not familiar with Marlee, you should know that she is deaf. She lost most of her hearing by the age of 18 months, but loss of hearing did not hold her back in life or keep her from her dreams.
I cried through the entire processional. Marlee spoke the Christmas story to a hearing crowd…she spoke the story perhaps without any significant knowledge or awareness of what her own voice sounds like.
The most moving moment of the evening, however, was listening to her sing.
Silent Night. Holy Night. All is calm. All is bright. Round yon virgin mother and child. Holy infant so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace.
In her final words to the congregation gathered that night she bid each of us to do what we could to ensure all people would sleep in peace.
I will never forget this evening with Marlee. She couldn’t hear the Word; she was physically stopped from doing that. But her deafness did not impair her from doing the Word, from speaking truth in love and truth to power in a very public forum.
She connected hearing and doing/speaking and doing in such an incredible way for me that evening. She spoke with integrity. She spoke with conviction. Yes, she’s an actress by vocation. But this, my friends, this was authenticity.
Marlee spoke “pure and undefiled before God, the Father” and challenged all who could hear – and those who can’t – to do what we can so that all may sleep in heavenly peace.
I heard. And I’ve been doing. And I’ll keep on keeping on.
Prayer: “Lord, whose love through humble service bore the weight of human need, who upon the cross, forsaken, offered mercy’s perfect deed: we, your servants, bring the worship not of voice alone, but heart, consecrating to your purpose every gift that you impart.”* Amen.
*”Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 581.