Last weekend my bonus mom gave us four tickets to the Messiah Sing-In. It’s been a long time since we’ve been to one. But in this post I alluded to why this is such a favorite and long-standing tradition for our family.
The first time I went to the Sing-in was on a date (see, I told you it was a long time ago). I had broken my front tooth the day before (long story) and since it was Thanksgiving weekend, I could not see the dentist until the following Monday. I looked like a walking jack-o-lantern, which would have been great if it were Halloween, but a little scary for the Christmas season. I painfully tried to carry on a scintillating conversation with my date while covering my mouth (and my shame). This was completely ineffective. And it was impossible to keep my mouth closed at an event where you sing for two straight hours. This ranks at the very top of the list of my most embarrassing dates of all time.
However, it was a great story to tell the kids on the way to the venue, miming the silliness of singing in public while attempting to cover my front teeth with my upper lip, looking like I had any number of physical and mental impairments.
It was all silliness aside once we arrived at the venue, which was flooded with serious musicians, faithfully carrying their personal scores. We made a mad dash to the sales table in the lobby to purchase two ourselves. We made it to our seats with just a few minutes to spare. The orchestra warmed up, the soloists arrived onstage in their tuxes and glittery gowns, the conductor took his bows, and the music started.
We followed along carefully in the score, paying rapt attention so we wouldn’t miss any of our entrances for the chorus. We not only read but heard the whole scriptural story of the Messiah sung to some of the most beautiful, elevating music of all time. Scriptural passages from Isaiah and Malachi, starting with the prophecy and birth:
Comfort Ye my people,
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
But who may abide the day of His coming?
Behold a Virgin Shall Conceive,
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light,
For unto us a child is born.
Glory to God in the Highest,
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd,
His yoke is easy.
The next section is about the atonement, crucifixion and resurrection.
I soon realized that because I was singing along, a participant, I was much more involved in the story; I was living it:
Behold the Lamb of God
He was despised and reject of men
Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows
And with his stripes we are healed
All we, like sheep, have gone astray
By the time we got to the magnificent Hallelujah chorus, I was so moved I could barely sing at all, for the lump in my throat and the tears streaming down my face. There is something so powerful about adding your own voice to a chorus of thousands, all united in singing gloriously unbridled praises to God.
The final section, the promise of eternal life, begins with I know that my Redeemer liveth. As the soprano’s voice rang out it was reaffirmed to me that I, too, know that my Redeemer lives. I love and adore Him. It was a joy to sing the final choruses:
Thanks be to God
Worthy is the Lamb
The music is supremely difficult. It is complex and moves rapidly, sometimes so fast you can barely keep up. Everyone makes mistakes. Even the amazing tenor from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sitting next to Jeff. But there was something so redemptive about singing in a chorus of thousands, some more gifted than others, all doing our best, listening to each other, attempting to be unified...and the mistakes are swept away. They literally disappear and are swallowed up in the chorus.
The whole experience is a metaphor for grace: Life is hard. It is complicated and often feels like a runaway train. Everybody makes mistakes. Even the very best of us. But Christ in his infinite mercy places us in the company of other good-but-flawed people who are also doing their best. When we listen to each other, and focus on Him, the result is not only unifying, it is miraculous. We become one and we become His, and our mistakes are washed away.
What a powerful way to usher in the season and spirit of Christmas—three generations of us, all sitting together and singing our hearts out about the mission and birth of the Messiah, and witnessing His grace in the very doing of it!