Reflection on “God, With Joy We Look Around Us”
A seminary classmate, Richard Lanford, was serving as the pastor at St. Peter's United Church of Christ in Skokie, Illinois, when the Ku Klux Klan announced they were going to have a rally in front of a Cook County Courthouse a few days before Christmas. Richard asked that a new hymn be written that the churches in the community could sing to counter the hate group's rally. The hymn tune is a traditional Christmas tune, reflecting the season of year when it was first sung. The hymn has since been used by many churches as part of their annual celebrations of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday.
We hope and pray that there is less prejudice than there used to be -- that things are getting better-- but we still see attitudes of hatred, intolerance and fear in too many places. You know where it exists in your own community. You know the work that still needs to be done.
Colossians 1:19 reminds us of the meaning of Christ's coming into our world:
"For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross."
Jesus Christ is the one who tears down the walls that divide us. What walls of hatred and prejudice need to be taken down in your community? In your life?
When this hymn was first sung by churches struggling to respond to a Klan rally in their community, they had a creative response beyond the hymn. In addition to inviting people of faith to attend services in their houses of worship, they also encouraged them to pledge money for a group working to end racism, the Southern Poverty Law Center. So, even as the Klan rally was going on outside, people of faith were responding with acts of worship, peace, and justice.