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      Prepare Slower

      A reflection on Advent 1 upon playing Bach's "Sleepers Wake" Cantata December 1, 2020
      Filed Under:
      Pr. Sebastian

      Matthew 25: 1-12


      A week and a half ago, 

      I started to practice my violin part for the Bach Cantata 

      that is part of our service this morning. 

      When I first took a look at it, I realized: 

      “oh my goodness, this is a difficult part.”

      I started tackling the most challenging movement, 

      the one we just heard right now, 

      and I scolded myself: 

      “I really should have started looking at this earlier. 

      Why did I wait till now to start practicing?

      I’m so out of shape, will I ever be ready?”


      But then I realized how very busy I’ve been the past few weeks with the worries around congregational meetings and the rising COVID numbers, and recognized, well, 

      probably, it wouldn’t have been possible to start preparing before I did. 

      It was what it was.


      In any case, I needed to get down to business. 

      My strategy was to get the most amount of correct notes in the fastest reasonable tempo or speed that I might need to play. 

      I also listened to two recordings of ensembles that I admire, 

      and aimed for a tempo that was quite brisk.


      We then got to the first and only rehearsal last Thursday, 

      and I had in my mind the tempo we would need to be playing at. 

      But we soon realized that despite the fact that we had all envisioned a quite sprightly and quick tempo, 

      no way was it going to work with us spread out so far from each other… 

      4 meters distance spread for the singers, 

      the oboe up on the balcony, 

      the cello 10 meters away from me. 

      We were rushing, and tripping over ourselves, 

      because we had in our minds for our preparation a particular speed that would just not work in the space and with the COVID-safety distances, 

      let alone the sheer complexity of this incredible piece of music.


      We needed to slow things down, so we could hear each other, 

      follow each other, and play and sing together. 

      And when we slowed down, and adopted a more realistic attitude to what was in fact possible under these conditions, 

      things started to fit together.



      Perhaps this is a good illustration for where we are as a society right now in the region during this red control level anticipating Advent and Christmas.


      We may have in our minds a rushing around, a frenzied, fast pace…

      which may sound good under normal conditions,

      but just doesn’t work in these pandemic times.


      This Advent 2020, we need to set aside our previous preparations, 

      our preconceived notions, our busyness and more than ever, 

      try to slow down, so we can connect with each other, 

      hear each other 

      and help each other.



      We are in an unknown situation just like the bridesmaids in our Gospel reading, who had no idea what they were preparing for 

      while they waited for the bridegroom.


      As we prepare our hearts and minds and spirits for 

      Jesus’ first coming in a stable, and his second coming in glory, 

      let us this year “prepare slower”, be gentle on ourselves and others, 

      manage our expectations to more realistic levels 

      given the situation we’re in, 

      and remember that God’s love will sustain us through this 

      long COVID winter. Amen.

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