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Talking Drums

This past Thanksgiving Day, we had our annual Thanksgiving service in Old Brick. Among the congregation sat a woman I have never met in church before. After the service, I stood outdoors and had the chance to visit with her. After a brief chit-chat, I asked, “How did you find Christ Church?”

“I found you online,” she responded.

“Are you visiting family in the area for Thanksgiving?” I asked.

“No, I am not. I live right here in Columbia, but I felt I had to worship today and give thanks to God because God has been so good to me. For all that I have been through this year, I have to worship today. I have no idea what would’ve happened to me. I am not supposed to be here, but I am here, and I am eternally grateful. I really needed to be here to give thanks, to pray.”

I thanked her for worshipping with us, wished her well, and blessed her for her sense of gratitude.

A few days later - last Monday, late in the afternoon - I picked up a call:

“Good evening, Christ Church, this is Fr. Manny. How may I help you?” was my greeting.

“Good evening, Father,” responded the caller. “I was wondering if I can come in and pray in your church.”

“Sure, you may come in," I said to her. "The office is closed, but I would be happy to open the door to our smaller Old Brick Church building, so you can come in to pray. I will be here when you get her. Just call when you arrive.”

"I should be there shortly,” she responded.

Right after I got off the phone with her, I went to Old Brick, opened the doors, checked the heat, and turned on the lights.

About ten minutes after I returned to the office, there was another call: “Hello Fr. Manny, we are here,” she said. When I went out to meet her, I saw two people - a husband and a wife. They introduced themselves and said to me that they needed a place to sit quietly and pray. “We believe that this season of Advent offers us an opportunity to reconnect through prayer and we thank you for offering a place for us to pray,” the husband said to me.

I said, “Well, I am so glad you are here to offer a prayer. Prayer is important and I am glad you are doing this together,” took them to Old Brick, showed them where to turn off the lights after their prayer, and demonstrated how to lock the sanctuary upon leaving.

I am sharing this story with you because Advent not only announces the coming of God’s one gift, but it calls upon us to be ready. And in many ways, prayer is one of the ways in which we get ourselves ready and prepared. Prayer is our response to Advent’s talking drum.

I grew up learning that our community has long had talking drums. Yes, drums that talk. I have always wondered to myself how a drum can talk. You may also wonder how. Drums don’t have mouths like you and I, so how do they talk? And what do they say? Centuries ago, when ancestors in my native Ghana didn’t have the luxury of cell phones and other modern means of communication, they relied on those talking drums to communicate.

Whenever I hear those talking drums, I get a chill and wonder how could our ancestors have known the message the drummer intended to convey? To understand the message of the drum is to be discerning. Advent is also about our ability to discern the future of our life in God, and often times those become possible in moments of prayer.

The human purpose is about light and the human enterprise is solely for the purpose of glorifying God with that light, and every fiber of our being reaches out for that light that overcomes all darkness. But if we are covered in darkness, how can we glorify God?

Advent is the talking drum that reminds each of us that we are light, and our purpose is to glorify God with the light that we are. This would mean casting away the works of darkness and, through repentance, turning away from our past ways. The talking drum invites us to do something radically different; it invites us to inaugurate a new future with God, one which promises a new life in Christ Jesus.

Advent is about preparing the way of the Lord - this would mean listening to what the drum is telling us about ourselves. For whatever reason, we simply cannot stop ourselves from challenging God’s place in our lives. Advent’s talking drum is an invitation to re-evaluate God’s place in our lives. More than that, it is about whether we are ready to hear the words of the prophet crying out in the wilderness - prepare the way.

The talking drum of Advent is about creating a new sense of alignment for us, one where we will have to open our ears to the constant drum beat of John’s words: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is near” But know this, repentance isn’t a one-day or a momentary event. Repentance is an ongoing process to which we have to commit ourselves, and this becomes possible when we are in tune with ourselves through prayer.

This Advent season, there are many different opportunities for prayer - whether personal or corporate. Like the three people I referenced earlier, I invite you to turn your ear just a little bit, you will hear Advent’s talking drum.

It is a drumbeat that invites you to prayer.



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