The memories of my childhood Christmases include nighttime family gatherings, fancy dress coats, candlelight…and Christmas pageants.
The Christian school I attended had a pageant every year. No matter the theme of the show, the evening concluded with the entire elementary school singing excerpts from Handel’s Messiah. Quite an ambitious piece for 5 to 11 year olds with no formal training! Each grade was assigned a section (I remember loving the year I was old enough to sing the “wonderful counselor” portion) and we all came together to finish with the hallelujah chorus.
There was always a pause before the final hallelujah. We collectively held our breath until the director signaled it was time for the dramatic finale. That pause felt like an eternity, but it was maybe a couple seconds.
Then it was time. We drew in a gasp of air as the director raised his hands…and we let loose.
We left it all on the stage. I remember being exhausted at the end as if I’d used up all my energy singing that one word.
It seems Advent is a lot like that pause. We’re holding our breath, waiting.
Christmas is that moment we inhale as the director’s eyes light up and we realize he’s about to give us the freedom to reach our full potential. It is the imbuing – the indwelling of love, grace, peace, and trust.
And then? For the rest of our lives we open the floodgates. We pour out of ourselves every bit of love and gratitude: for what has been done for us, for what we’ve done for others, and what we believe others can do. We finish the song of our lives spent, exhausted because we held nothing back. We loved fiercely, we celebrated unashamedly, we served tirelessly, and we journeyed collectively.
I wish I had a recording of one of those elementary pageants. I’m sure it did not sound as glorious to the audience as it did in my own ears. I bet it sounded like a bunch of kids projecting at the top of their lungs: a little off-key, but full of zeal. It wasn’t perfect, but I know it was heartfelt. That’s the way I want to live.
So maybe this year when you hear the hallelujah chorus you will think of this story and smile…and maybe you will be encouraged to live and love well.