…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

Lake Wobegon Comes to Sacramento

By Eric Chaffey


William Taft Chaffey 1929-2010

It has been quite a long time since have written on this blog. There are a couple of reasons for that. I had started to write a post in October and then my father died on October 16th. My father had a special love of Christmas and particularly the Christmas church services that were part of his childhood. So it is with love and appreciation that I am submitting this blog post in memory of my father, William Taft Chaffey.

I’ve liked the humor of Garrison Keillor for quite a while. As part of his radio program called A Prairie Home Companion, there is a segment called “News from Lake Wobegon.” It’s a fictitious sketch about life and the happenings in a small town in Minnesota. Often as part of the news mention is made of Lake Wobegon First Lutheran Church. On Friday night this week, I was the organist in a presentation of Lessons and Carols that combined the forces of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church where I am the organist/ music director and Gethsemane Lutheran Church which is about a mile away from us.

After the service during the refreshments, one of the people attending remarked that it seemed like a Christmas service in Lake Wobegon and she thoroughly enjoyed it. That thought has stuck in my head ever since so I thought I should write about it. These were my thoughts as I wrote last night.

It was a little bit of Lake Wobegon in Sacramento. The Lutheran Church that I play for and another close by combined forces for a Service of Lessons and Carols of Christmas. Their music director conducted the choir and I played the organ. It was all familiar carols, and scripture readings with various different lighting settings and choir configurations. The two pastors plus one other portrayed the Three Wisemen as they sang “We Three Kings” as a trio. They were even dressed in costume!

There were a couple of misty eyed moments for me, as I played the organ. My father had always loved Christmas hymns and the Christmas eve services that were part of his childhood. Needless to say the apple didn’t fall very far from the tree. A couple of times I felt like I was aware of him very close by. One of those moments came when the choir and congregation sang, What Child is This. The second verse in part recalls the prophesies concerning the atonement both from Isaiah and what Simeon tells to Mary in the Temple:

Why lies he in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, Fear! For sinners here, the silent word is pleading.
Nails, spears shall pierce him through, the cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail! Hail the word made flesh! The babe the son of Mary.

The third verse is more upbeat and represents the angels, Wise Men, and our response to the birth of Our Lord:

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh, come peasant and king to own him.
The King of Kings salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise the song on high! Let singing fill the earth and sky!
Joy, Joy! For Christ is born! The babe the son of Mary.

The Nativity www.lds.org

There were other moments as well. There were a couple of things that I brought away from the experience tonight. The old familiar story that has been told for hundreds of years still holds a special place in my heart and is a great source of comfort that although life circumstances change, some things will always stay the same. Another that I’ve known previously but still was reaffirmed was the realization that while there is a veil that separates us, the spirits of our beloved friends and family are never terribly far away from us. Among other things my father struggled with during the last few years of his life, one of the most frustrating for him was increasing hearing loss. Tonight he heard and perhaps even sang along with some of his favorite Christmas carols.

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One Response to “Lake Wobegon Comes to Sacramento”

  1. Rex Goode said:

    Eric, I’m so glad you’re back posting. I didn’t bug you about it so you could deal with your dad’s passing in your own time. I’m glad you’re able to process about him. This site is blessed for your presence here. It is sad to me that our church has gotten away from big Christmas celebrations other than our First Presidency devotional. My local stake has an annual singalong that includes a few special numbers, but it just isn’t like when I was younger. The ward where I spent my teen and early married years had an annual Night of Music in December. The small choir performed a lot of wonderful Christmas music. We rehearsed it beginning in about August. Our little cultural hall was full each year for those concerts. The whole community came to see it. The ward where I live now has a Christmas dinner that includes a very few numbers, usually not the choir. This year, because our choir director moved away this month, we aren’t even singing in sacrament meeting. The philosophy in our stake is that time spent in lots of choir rehearsals is better spent at home with the family. Our choir rehearsals are short and as close to the meeting block as possible so as to minimize time away from home.

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