“Upon a winter night,
Was born the Child, the Christmas Rose,
The King of Love and Light.
The angels sang, the shepherds sang,
The grateful earth rejoiced.” Frederick Martens, music by Pietro Yon (1917)
As you know, my younger brother died several years ago on the day after Christmas or Boxing Day or the Feast Day of St. Stephen. I still miss him.
The last Sunday in Advent, Advent IV, the day before Christmas Eve as I was preparing in the early morning to go to the eight o’clock service, I heard on our National Public Radio Station (NPR) a piano arrangement of Gesu Bambino. This is Italian Christmas Carol with O Come All Ye Faithful for the chorus with the music written by Pietro Yon and the lyrics by Frederick Martens.
Suddenly I felt my brother’s presence. My brother sang this as a solo at a Christmas program when he was ten or eleven years old in the basement of the Baptist church in our hometown, West Point, Virginia. He was taught Gesu by the minister’s son, Bobby Pleasants, who also was an organist and my piano teacher. I wonder where he is now. I give thanks for Bobby for the gift he gave me today by teaching my brother to sing this ethereal Christmas anthem so many years ago. I see and hear my young brother singing like a cherub in the candle light, lifting his head and his eyes as he strains for the high notes, singing with all his might.
This was a Christmas gift from my brother. He was physically very strong. I have many mobility issues. This Christmas Eve we had two very large services at St. Mark’s. I have been concerned whether I could physically serve as one of the deacons at these demanding services late at night where almost a thousand people will attend. That morning before Christmas Eve I was empowered. I felt my brother and his strength beside me. I had no doubt that this was something I could do, and I still feel his strength and love throughout these twelve days of Christmas.