During worship at United Church Homes' Fairhaven Community, we light a candle each week in Advent as we travel the four Sundays to Christmas Eve. Each candle represents a different theme during the Advent journey. While the first three Sundays reflect hope, peace and joy, the fourth Sunday this year, Dec. 23, represents the theme of love.
One of the scriptures for the fourth Sunday has embedded within it a beautiful song sung by Mary to God. She sings out of the hope she has as an expectant mother. Mary sings out of the peace she feels in not having to walk the journey of pregnancy alone, but rather in community with Elizabeth. She sings out of her joy in recognizing that those deemed last by society will be first. And, Mary sings out of love for the One who has called her. It is a powerful song.
Transformational Power of Love, Music for Those Living with Dementia
I serve older adults, some of whom are living with dementia. Like Mary and those around her, music may be transformational in the life of older adults living with dementia. According to the Music and Memory program, “An April 2018 study reports that ‘objective evidence from brain imaging shows personally meaningful music is an alternative route for communicating with patients who have Alzheimer’s disease.’ The research, published by a team at University of Utah Health in Salt Lake City in The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease, demonstrates that familiar music may facilitate attention, reward and motivation, which in turn makes it more possible to manage emotional distress in Alzheimer’s.”
I have seen firsthand how music and love transforms lives, literally giving voice to the voiceless.
During an Opening Minds Through Art art session for residents living with dementia, the group was singing various familiar songs, as is our practice. Beside me was an artist I had never heard talking, up to that point. As we were singing, I suddenly recognized a new voice around the table. I looked to my left and witnessed the artist singing. I was stunned. Although I had known this person for a while, I had yet to hear the artist speak. There, however, in the midst of feeling safe, respected and loved by the surrounding community, the words to the song we were singing began to flow from the artist’s lips. The artist looked directly into my eyes as she smiled and sang.
I was moved to tears.
The artist continued to sing bits and pieces of the songs we sang during the art session. Like Mary, I believe that she was singing to the world out of the hope, peace, joy and love she felt during that session. Her voice for me, like Mary’s voice, sang out to those who have been deemed least by society. I believe the artist, through song, was communicating to all present that she was experiencing abundant life in community. And, like Mary’s song, Bella’s song, I feel, was a song of love.
Sing a Song of Love
This Advent season, and beyond, how might we sing a song of love? How might our words bring kindness in the darkness of the season? How might we sing for those who are unable to sing for themselves? What is the song our community would sing, if we sing together?
Blessings this Advent season.