God loves me dearly

God loves me dearly, grants me salvation

God loves me dearly, loves even me…

I was standing in the front of the church dressed in my Christmas finest — floor-length dress with plaid skirt and white ‘blouse’ top, black patent-leather shoes, white tights, and a bow in my hair.  The place was packed.  We had practiced and memorized each word to each song and all the words of the Christmas story…”And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field…” Our grandparents had driven an hour to see the event.  This. Night. Was. Special.  The most important night of the year.

He sent forth Jesus, my dear Redeemer

He sent forth Jesus, and set me free…

Mrs. Hollenbeck had stood in front of us week after week making sure that we knew each word, enunciated clearly, and sang as loudly as we could. She smiled when we sang and always said, “Good job!”  One by one we stood in front of the microphone and shared our lines as loudly and clearly as we could…”For unto you is born this day in the city of David…” The most important night ever.

Now I will praise you, O love Eternal

Now I will praise you, all my life long…

When every song had been sung and every line had been said, we processed down the middle aisle to the back of the church where the elders stood smiling at us and holding brown paper lunch bags that were filled with peanuts in the shell, one big orange, one beautiful apple, a candy cane, and a few other Christmas candies.  This bag was pure gold.  The narthex (usually called a fellowship hall now) was crammed with families and coats and hugs and smiles.  We bundled up and were transported from bliss to bliss…from church to Christmas Eve merriment at home.  The best night of the year.

Therefore I’ll say again, God loves me dearly,

God loves me dearly, loves even me.

Yesterday we were visiting my in-laws and worshipping with them at their little country church in the middle of Michigan’s Thumb.  We sang this song, even though it’s not Christmas, even though it’s not even Advent.   As we sang it, I was transported back in time to the front of Zion Lutheran Church in the early 1970s.  I was standing with all my siblings and all the other children of the church, saying lines and singing songs that would sink down into the fabric of my soul and would begin to define who I am.

I was reminded yesterday of that — of who I am.  I am more than wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, writer, teacher…I am a child of God.  And God loves me dearly, loves even me.  And you.

For God so loved the world [and me. and you.]

that he gave his only Son,…

John 3:16

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