By Joel Bates
I leaned over and whispered into my son’s ear as the music started, “Isn’t it like magic?” He looked straight ahead eyes transfixed and nodded. It was his first time at the symphony, and for me it may as well have been because every time I get the rare pleasure of soaking up the music at the concert hall its like downloading spiritual clarity. Music can do that. We cannot see the sound waves or completely understand why it makes our heart want to leap out of our chest or even draw us to tears, yet the magic remains. In that moment it occurred to me that I almost missed it.
My wife’s middle name is “Noelle,” so at our house when the holidays roll in we roll out the red carpet. Up goes the tree, on go the ornaments, and out come the lights. But the most anticipated, highly to be praised holiday tradition for most of us is the advent calendar. We cut out last year’s Christmas cards and make them into advent post-it-notes that Julie and I (mostly Julie…. OK pretty much always Julie) write upon the advent activity for the coming day. I say most of us like this because not all of us always enjoy this activity. So, maybe it’s mostly me that doesn’t always enjoy this activity. But before you judge me as a scrooge hear me out. The holidays are already a very busy time. Can I get an amen? And to make matters worse, my wife’s birthday is smack dab in the middle of the season. And I’m a procrastinator, so you see why adding a list of extra things we have to do every day to celebrate advent is not always my absolute favorite idea, but I go along with it. Until it came to the idea of going to the symphony. It was on a Saturday. My day off. It was two hours away. I didn’t feel like driving. And I woke up that morning with the sinking feeling that something inconvenient was going to happen. And I for one feel that inconvenience is best dealt with from a la-z-boy chair in the comfort of one’s own living room. I certainly didn’t want to venture out in mid-December haphazardly throwing ourselves at the mercy of Murphy. A blizzard could blow in. The car might break down. What if we got all the way to the symphony and there were no more seats available? I actually had this discussion with my wife. She just smiled and said, “Yes, but isn’t it more likely that something good will happen?” It’s that kind of thinking that can get a chap killed! But I couldn’t argue against a person with the middle name “Noelle.” And the kids had already discovered the surprise.
Our trip to town was pleasant but I was on the lookout for trouble. The parking garage was even free, but I wouldn’t believe it and wandered around a bit looking for a sign that would tell me how much I owed. But there was no sign, just free parking. I had to admit that things were looking up when the guy standing in front of us in line enviously said we had the best seats in the house. As if I needed more convincing, from the moment the conductor’s wand struck sharply at the air signaling the musicians and the sound filled the hall with familiar Christmas splendor, I was relieved to discover that there was no place else I would have rather been. At the last after wooing us with the tones of the season, the conductor regaled the audience to join in singing a series of holiday carols. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better I found myself with thousands of other concert-goers singing spiritual songs about the savior accompanied by a professional ensemble. I struggled to hold back the emotion as I took to heart the words I was singing, “Glory to God in the highest,” “Oh come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emanuel,” “Round yon virgin mother and child, holy infant so tender and mild,” and I stood there in heavenly peace.
As it turns out, something good did happen despite my best effort to avoid it. I am convinced that that is the way our God is. Without our involvement or input He sent his son. A child came as a perfect sacrifice, lived as a man and died for our sins completing a plan that would bring about good to all of mankind. It happened right under humanity’s nose in a simple stable on an obscure day. It just goes to show that good is alive and waiting for you. All you have to do is accept it. Let the peace of this holiday fill you with the hope that good is in season.
Come along side us as we journey in and out of the wilderness, discovering our Creator in creation.