I received a most wonderful gift from my Mom this Christmas: a CD recording of my Dad reading the prologue to the Gospel of John (chapter 1, verses 1-14).
Dad was a layreader at the Episcopal church in which I grew up; layreaders wore vestments and read portions of scripture during worship services. Dad loved this opportunity to serve and regarded it as a most sacred duty. In his preparation he would study the passage to be read, learning what he could about its context and intent. He would rehearse the passage aloud again and again – and again – until he felt he had captured its essence and could deliver it properly.
In the Episcopal liturgy, the congregation stands to hear a reading from one of the Gospels. My Dad projected that same reverence from the pulpit as he read. His unhurried and deliberate reading allowed listeners to consider the words they heard. It seemed to me that my Dad read from his heart, and that was never more evident than when he read the introduction to John’s Gospel, a passage he loved dearly.
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Susan and I used her old portable cassette tape player to record my Dad’s reading in his hospital room. His voice was weak and he stumbled through one section of the familiar passage. He died six days later. The tape was played at the Christmas Eve service a couple of weeks following Dad’s death, introduced as follows:
“One of our layreaders who especially liked to read the prologue to the Gospel of John at this service, and to be called upon to do it, was [my Dad]. Those of you who knew and loved him know he did it well. He’s not able to be with us physically this year because he got a call to come up higher. He got a better offer. But just before he died, from his hospital bed after a long bout with cancer, he gave us a Christmas gift in a recording of the reading of the prologue of John. And he’s in a different part of the church now which enables him to be with us here present, as well as with his family who is celebrating Christmas elsewhere. So I’ll ask you to stand, please, for the reading of the prologue to the Gospel of John by [my Dad].”
Last Christmas was the first time that my Mom and sisters had listened to that recording since my Dad died. At my sister Katie’s suggestion this year, my Mom had it produced and gave it to each of us. What a great gift. Lauren and Zack heard my Dad’s voice for the first time. I was instantly transported back to those final days of his life 25 years ago. And we were all powerfully and poignantly reminded of the Light that continues to shine in the darkness.