It is dress rehearsal night for the annual Christmas Candlelight service at the local university. As usual, nerves are frayed.
The veteran director, at other times a jovial prince of a man, is unhappy with what he hears. The handbells aren’t balanced well with the brass, nor even with the choir. His stress is handed off to the technical staff as they scramble to set up the correct microphone array.
Lighting, entrances, even the correct height at which to hold a music folio—all of these details must be attended to. A spectacular presentation depends on the tiniest of details.
There was a day when I too was caught up in the stress and nervousness of the moment. My part is so small, minuscule even, but the charged atmosphere has a way of affecting everyone.
Tomorrow, this has to be perfect! We can’t miss a step!
Funny. Tonight, I sit in my place and, instead of worrying about the details, I wonder when I got old.
I was a young man when I started doing this. The members of the student choirs were my peers, young adults who had been sitting at their parents tables just weeks before. That’s no longer the case.
These students could be my grandchildren. My grandchildren. The thought hits home and I let it sink in.
What am I doing here? What purpose can be served by my presence in this gathering?
My mind forges ahead as I consider that many—perhaps most—of these young people would not agree politically with me. In fact, they would most likely oppose some of my most cherished ideals vociferously.
They probably even eat sushi!
Once started down this road, it is easy to barrel on to the bottom at full speed. I enumerate mentally all the differences I can see (and some I can’t) and suddenly, I feel as if I am surrounded by aliens. We are so different.
What am I doing here? I ask the question once more.
I jerk into cognizance, realizing that the white-haired man with the baton is back on the podium and the aliens, I mean—choir members, are standing and ready to sing.
Quickly finding my place in the printed music on the black stand before me, I begin to play the horn along with my fellow ensemble members. With a gesture here, and a short comment there, the man with the stick draws each musician further into the composition.
Before I know it, the answer I sought mere moments before is all around, literally all around, me. Beautiful music, no—soul-moving tonality, emanates from every point of the compass.
It is not seamless. One can sit back and pick out the trumpet notes. The bass voices singing in the back may be distinguished from the sopranos standing closer.
Not one of us—not one—loses his or her identity in the mingling of voices which has occurred. A mosaic, yes, even a patchwork of sorts has been assembled from all the diverse human voices, the odd shapes of brass instruments, and the different sized bells.
Did I say it is not seamless? I’m not sure that is true. The end product, for all its variegated shading and changes in texture, is truly unified. All parts, equally, are integrated into the stunning result.
This. This is why I am here.
Old man that I am becoming, I was intended to be here, at this moment. Each of the youngsters in the choir was destined to be part of this memorable composition of voices and instruments.
A short time later, as the instruments sit quietly and the voices begin an acapella piece, I marvel.
So many different voices. Such varied family backgrounds. Such diversity in religious doctrine.
All singing about one thing. One person.
One Baby. One Savior.
I close my eyes, listening to the young, yet ancient, voices. I can’t help it, I seem to hear angels singing. I’m not saying the choir sounds like angels. I have no evidence to base such a statement on, having never heard an angelic message.
The shepherds, on the other hand—the shepherds heard it. (Luke 2:13-14)
Do you never wonder about the eclectic mix of folk who knew about the little Baby’s birth? Angels certainly, and shepherds, and an inn-keeper. The magi would come, in time. Of course, there was Mary and her husband, Joseph.
All worshiping the same Baby. The One who came to save all of us.
All of us.
Soon, hundreds will sit in the hard wooden pews of this beautiful cathedral. Side by side, they will sit and sing, and listen, and worship.
Rich and poor, educated and illiterate, liberal and conservative, white and brown and black—they will worship. Together, they will worship.
And then, from one candle, a thousand will be lit in this auditorium. What a picture!
A brilliant picture of His purpose in coming to earth. From one Light, all who live in darkness will live in light. (Matthew 4:16)
I’ve watched the worshipers with their candles. Some boldly hold them up high. Others sit gazing at the flickering light with their hands on their laps. Still others look to see what everyone else is doing with their candles before they position theirs.
It matters not. The whole room is awash in light. Every corner is illuminated.
The voices stop and again, my musing ends as I am brought back to reality. Tomorrow, we will make music together again, if the Lord wills it.
We will worship the child. Together.
Still, I wonder.
What if we held our lights high through all of our lives, blending the brilliance together?
Would it be possible to make beautiful music with folks who are different than us for all of the years we live?
I would love to see that beautiful patchwork quilt—and listen to that heavenly music.
Glory to God in the highest. Peace on earth to men.
It is what we were made for.
Worship changes the worshiper into the image of the One worshiped.
(Jack Hayford ~ American author/pastor)
. . . so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world . . .
(Philippians 2:15 ~ NASB)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.