They Can’t Take That Away From Me

I have a reputation for being something of a Scrooge at Christmastime. It comes with the territory, sort of; in my line of work, Christmas is so challenging. You always disappoint somebody, it seems. Church programming at Christmas is a challenge, to say the least.

And yet…it is a joy. There are exquisite moments.

But somebody’s always left wanting a little something more, or something different.

So I find myself struggling, every year, to claim some part of Christmas for myself. It’s difficult. Eventually, I get there; but often it is at 10PM on Christmas Eve, when the work is all done and I’m home with the kids. We light candles and sing songs and dance and open one gift and go to bed and have a grand day on December 25th.

Up until that time, it’s intense, stressful and challenging.

This year is much the same; and yet…

(Two of my favorite words these days…)

And yet, there are two bright shining spots. One has been months in the making; the other, a last minute surprise, a gift of grace that warmed my heart, made me cry and brought a huge grin to my face. Simultaneously.

Painting the set

First, the planned event: Behold the Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson. I’ve posted about it before, but it is upon us now, and I am overwhelmed with excitement. Sunday afternoon we had all the players in place, and the dancers, the percussionist, the hammered dulcimer – all connected with the parts we’d been working with for months and it was magical. I’ve never been so excited about Christmas music. I hope you’ll come experience this with us (December 17, 6PM; December 18, 9:30, 11:15 and 6PM)

And the surprise event? I accompanied my dear friend Kevin (also singing in Behold the Lamb of God) in a Christmas concert. Kevin not only works at PCC, he also leads a terrific ministry called Encore, focusing on folks who live in places like Chesterfield Heights, a local retirement community. Tonight he was the singing pastor, and we covered not only holiday standards like “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “Let It Snow”, but also a few traditional holiday carols and a couple of standards, just for fun (“They Can’t Take That Away From Me”,  “Stardust”, etc.) Kevin is a huge fan of Sinatra and that era, and I’m a huge fan of Kevin and any jazz standards.

Kevin at Behold the Lamb rehearsal

It was a wonderful evening, with an opportunity to play some beautiful music on a nice digital piano. But what struck me was the spirit in the room. Folks gathered to simply be in the moment, and the music not only created a special moment, it also struck chords of nostalgia and memories that were almost palpable in the room. As Kevin sang “The Days of Wine and Roses”, you could feel the room change, as if folks were piecing together memories of times gone by and changing the atmosphere as they did so, slipping in and out of the present and the past as easily as I shifted chords on the keyboard.

Music is so powerful. I felt so blessed and honored tonight, to use the gift I’ve been given to bring an hour of beauty, joy and memory to some precious people. As they clasped my hands and thanked me, one by one, I noticed the record of the years on the faces I saw. Lines, creases and crevices on hands and faces that were open and kind, appreciative and, in that moment, filled with joy.

Tonight, I felt as though I did not disappoint. I brought something of value to people who expected only light entertainment, and were pleased with what they received. It was so refreshing, so precious, and so meaningful on many levels. So gracious.

The spirit of Christmas was very real to me this evening. I didn’t see it coming. But I’m sure glad I was there.

A few of the folks thanking Kevin.

The dynamic duo.

Kevin and his remarkable bride Candy.

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