Now to prepare for the next Christmas event: "ringing the bell" for the Salvation Army tomorrow night. That is Tuesday, December 4...at 6pm to be precise. Instead of ringing that lame little bell that they provide - my friend Jeff Smith and I will be singing! This is a tradition started last year - but since I had such a good time then, I think it is worthy of becoming a Christmas tradition! (I can barely recall the fact that doing this last year on a gray misty evening robbed me of my voice for about a week...)
From the time I was young, I have always LOVED Christmas caroling. When my older sisters' church youth group went on their annual caroling outing - I got to tag along. We would visit the homes of church shut-ins, and usually a few houses nearby, then would end up at someone's house for cookies and hot chocolate. I know that part of the appeal was getting to hang out with the older (and thus cooler) kids - but I also dearly love singing Christmas carols.
Whether it be the classic hymns of the season like O Little Town of Bethlehem, Away in a Manger or Angels We Have Heard on High...or perhaps a couple of verses from the secular festive songs like Up on the Housetop or Jolly Old St. Nicholas...it is great to see the smile on people's faces when a song takes them back to a happy time in their lives. A few years ago I was with a group of people singing songs at homes in the neighborhood around Centenary UMC. We went to a house, knocked on the door and started our first song. We had ended "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and were just starting "Silent Night" when the door opened. A man leaned on his walker in the doorway, a young lady standing by him with her hand on his shoulder. As we started the second verse the tears rolled down his cheeks. When we started the third verse (it was the only song we knew three verses to) I was sure my voice was going to give out - I had been crying since the first verse. But God kept the whole group going! We then launched into our final song - "Joy to the World" - and I saw the man stand just a little bit straighter and he began to smile. The rest of the gang headed on to the next house singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" but I hung behind to give a candy cane and Christmas card to our receptive audience. The young lady thanked me and started to help the older man toward the living room but he stopped her, turned to me and said "God bless you folks. You made an old man very happy tonight."
He may have been right - but I know I got more out of that visit than I gave. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle...being busy has been elevated to a status symbol (I'm just SO busy...I don't know when I'll finish all my shopping. Oh, you couldn't be half as busy as I am! Not only do I not have all my shopping done, I have three dinners and two open houses to go to this week...). We sometimes forget that the most important thing in life is the human connections we make. Stopping to actually spend time with people is a lot more valuable than just giving them more stuff.
If you love Christmas caroling as much as I do - drop by the K-mart on Wards Road Tuesday night between 6 and 7. Join in the merrymaking! Learn another verse to Silent Night! Most of all - stop being busy for an hour and just BE.