Grace Notes in the Desert

Grace Notes in the Desert is written for the saints of Rio Grande Presbyterian Church and the surrounding community.

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Grace Notes acknowledges we need God's grace and forgivness as much as the desert water.



I remember when the world of Christmas carols opened up for me around the age of 8 when I found them in an old book lying around my parent’s house. I marveled at the lyrics whose melodies I did not know at the time.

Now, forty or so years later, I still marvel at these hymns and how they endure, not just as wordless tunes played over shopping mall speakers, but as the Gospel-in-Miniature. “O Little Town of Bethlehem“ could have been written about any street in this still dark world of ours where:

“…Above thy deep and dreamless sleep/The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth/The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years/Are met in thee to-night

Written by Phillip Brooks (1835-1893), Philip was a preacher and patriot in the Episcopal Church who held a Doctorate of Divinity from Oxford and taught at Yale. Harvard College even established a house in his honor dedicated to “the ideals of piety, charity and hospitality.”

Silent Night”, a hymn we close with at our 5:00 pm Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, is sung, the same time, each year, in an Austrian Church in Salzburg (near the place where it was composed by two men, Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr who first sang it a capella on a Christmas Eve in 1818 after their church’s organ broke down). They sang these words:

Silent night! Holy night!/ Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from Heaven afar,/ Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,
Christ, the Savior, is born!/ Christ, the Savior, is born

The same words troops on both sides of the border would sing, together, during the First World War in French, English and German (because it was one of the few songs they all knew by heart) in a rare Christmas Eve cease-fire called “The Christmas Truce.”

Merry Christmas, Peace, and Goodwill to All!
A Pastor in the Desert