Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Tis the Season!

'Tis the season to celebrate, to rejoice, to feast, and so we have - thus the quietness on our blog for the last few weeks! But now, we'll post a few highlights of our Christmas celebrations that have taken place from December 3rd, through the present.

First off, was the Muligano Christmas gathering at our house shortly after arriving home from the Faith & Freedom Tour. No pics of this party, but we had my mom's local relatives (ie. her brother and his family) over for an afternoon and evening of fun and, of course, feasting. Telephone Charades brought many laughs throughout the evening...

Next was the Koeppen Family Christmas at our home where we had most of Dad's extended family here. We actually managed to get a picture with everyone in it (aside from my Dad's parents who had already left). The original is, of course, much clearer than this scanned in copy, but you get the idea!

Part of the fun of the evening was gingerbread house making, singing carols around the piano together, eating, catching up...

.. and the young cousins getting to know each other better!

Following that came the biggest celebration of the month. Our church's Christmas Celebration on December 17th.

Aside from earlier rehearsals and such, the event sort of started on the 16th, with a day of major cleaning, decorating and rehearsing at the American Legion Hall that our church rents as our meeting place. Oh, yes, and preparing the feast:

The guys really got into the cleaning...

Then came Sunday. Following our regular morning church service, we had a feast - Turkey, multiple potato dishes, cranberries, dressing, salads, sweet potatoes, breads...

And then, we gathered back together for the primarily musical celebration of Christ's birth. We started out with our chamber ensemble playing a selection of Christmas carols that the congregation joined in singing under the able direction of our very own Jonathan Erber.

Then came a series of ensembles:

a handful of piano solos and duets....

a hastily organized - but not too bad sounding - choir...

ah, yes - the bluegrass ensemble performing "Go Tell it on the Mountain"...

...a collection of our younger members sang "Silent Night" to the harp accompaniment of Raeanne Carlson,

A baroque recorder quartet played "Good Christian Men Rejoice," another piano duet, and then our chamber ensemble returned to play some excerpts from Handel's "Messiah" We did hand scores out to the congregation... maybe in future years we'll be able to do it! :-)

We did also have soloists come up to sing a couple of the pieces - "O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion" and "Come Unto Him" (the soprano half of "He Shall Feed His Flock").

Our chamber orchestra/ensemble was made up of a fine group of musicians -
4 violins, 3 cellos, a flute (actually two flutes that took turns), and Dustin Webb ably contributed piano, harpsichord or organ as needed!

Thanks to all who participated in making this a great event (including the cleaning/decorating crews!). While it was a first endeavor of the sort, there was certainly a lot of talent contributed, and we look forward to seeing how God will use the gifts He has placed in our church in the coming years. It was certainly one of the most joyful and beautiful celebrations of the year! Praise God for giving us such a wonderful season to rejoice in together! Glory to God in the highest!

Ah, then a few days later came our annual highlight: LaSalle Bank's Do It Yourself Messiah in Chicago! Our group numbered around 70 this year and we again got a whole train car reserved to ourselves. Friends came from north, south, east, and west to join us as we traveled the hour and a half train ride into Chicago. We caught up with friends we hadn't seen in a while, and got to enjoy those we see frequently as well.

Our train was delayed during the course of the trip and so we arrived at the Opera House after the doors were already opened! That was a first for us and we've been attending since the late 1990's - (we can't determine which was our first year, but I'm thinking it was '99). Amazingly, the crowd was considerably sparser than last year and we ended up with seats for us all within the front few rows of our respective sections. Partly, that was due to the fact that most people stopped when the saw "reserved" signs on a few rows of chairs and sat behind them - not realizing that there were about 10 rows in front of the "reserved" seats that were not reserved!

As always, the concert was amazing - singing through that much heavy theology with three thousand people in Chicago's Opera House is quite the experience! Each year my prayer is that "the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped." Old Testament prophecies interwoven with New Testament fulfillments, covering the sinful state of man as we walked in darkness, to the promise of a Savior, His birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and triumph over the kingdoms of this world, the work of the church in carrying out His commands, the comfort and hope that we have in Him and His promises, and then ending with "Worthy Is the Lamb" and the several minutes of "Amens" - and all of it set to appropriate and incredible music that so well expressed the emotions and message of the words... How can it not be a highlight of the year to have the opportunity to sing such an incredible and inspired masterpiece?

This picture was taken from where we did not sit... the top balcony!

For some of us, one night of it was not enough, and having obtained tickets for Friday evening... we went again!! Which made Saturday slower for some of us, but we still managed to get all the necessary food preparations done! Sunday was church, and our Christmas Eve with Grandpa, Grandma, Aunt Jill and Uncle Don as posted about earlier. Monday was Christmas Day at our house with Jeanine & Jeremy coming over with their spouses and children for our Christmas Feast - and an afternoon and evening of giving and rejoicing! Truly a wonderful time of the year to remember the most wonderful event in world history: The incarnation and birth of Christ. Hallelujah!


The VHS said...

I always enjoy reading through your beautifully written updates.

The pictures are very enjoyable as well.....Happy New Year!

Anna for the VHS

rivera said...

Belated Merry Christmas and we pray that you all have a wonderful start to the new year and hope it continues throughout!

Much love and many hugs!
Vic and Chrissy

Jack McDonnell said...

Hello there!

I found you blog through the Huber's, which I found through Wesco's.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that you look like you have a great family and a LOT of good memories!

Do you guys live near Chicago? Our family lives about two hours south of Chicago.

Jack McDonnell

The Huber Family said...

Looks like tons of fun...boy do we miss everyone!
The Christmas season is by far "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!"

Love to you all from the Hubers.


Tara Janelle said...

Great pictures! I took a few at the Do-It-Yourself-Messiah, but they didn't turn out very well. Great description too!