Felicia Patton is a lifelong Chicago native and worship leader at Urban Village Church. Felicia received an undergraduate degree from North Park University followed by two graduate degrees from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.
Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord. (Isaiah 2:5, NIV)
How do we tell the story
How do we tell the story of Jesus through song? I have asked myself this question every year when starting to plan for the Advent/Christmas season. When I first started as a choir director, I pulled out all of the bells and whistles in order to give the congregation a story they would never forget. There were fireworks, and Jesus came down from the ceiling (please note that liberties were taken in the retelling of stories for entertainment purposes only). My conducting baton was a light-saber that would light up purple and lead the ensembles in a magnificent dance of liturgy and song. The ideas that flew out of my brain were endless. I loved everything about planning it. After every successful Advent/Christmas season, I would nap and have a good burger. I deserved it; I had made God proud. I could rest. But after a few years of consistent work and fatigue, I found myself dreading the upcoming seasons. The expectations had been set, and I was struggling to find inspiration. The demand for something new and familiar had me stuck in my own head. My brain was empty and dark. I wondered how I could spark the light within myself while telling the story of the light of the world. See what I did there?
The expectations had been set, and I was struggling to find inspiration.
I struggled to find a response to that question. How could I find new inspiration within the biblical stories that have been told for many years? In order to find new inspiration, I had to step away from what I knew, and I had to listen. I got so comfortable with what I thought I knew about these stories that I didn’t turn to God for inspiration. In order to get out of this rut, I had to stop and reflect on my practices as a leader and develop new practices in order to lead the communities that I have been privileged to serve in a thoughtful and informed way.
The first practice I implemented was to start each season with a renewed mindset. Think about it in relation to a physical light. When a light goes out in our house, we would change it, right? If we cannot find the light (inspiration), we might have a burned out light source. If we are depending on a burned out light bulb which initially had light, but is not a source of light anymore, then we should change it. Are we listening for the voice of God, the light, or are we depending on what God gave us in a previous season? But what do we do with the light we have used? We recycle it. We can recycle this wisdom and impart it in the people that we lead. When led by the voice of God, any light can burn out, but is not unusable.
Are we listening for the voice of God, the light, or are we depending on what God gave us in a previous season?
A Light Source
Working without a light source is not a good way to lead. As leaders, we have to refresh and renew our ministries. We cannot do this without a light source. One of the texts in the 2019 planning guide for the United Methodist Church is Isaiah 2:5: “Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” That brings to mind the song, “Jesus, the Light of the World” written by Mrs. James Vincent Coombs. The text speaks of walking in the light, a phrase that resonates with me deeply. If we are to have light in our ministries, we have to “walk in the light” of God in our everyday lives. If our relationship with God is constantly being renewed and allowed the space to grow, the light will never burn out. But the only way to have space for the “light” is to make space for it. We cannot get so weighed down by expectations that we do not allow ourselves to grow as leaders. If we do not make space or change the bulb periodically, the light within us is doomed to burn out.
Jesus, the Light of the world
Beautiful light (well it’s a beautiful light)
Come where the dewdrops of mercy shine bright (Oh Lord)
Shine all around us by day and by night
Jesus is the light of the world
— Mrs. James Vincent Coombs, 1898, Public Domain
Find “Jesus, the Light of the World” on hymnary.org