Friday, December 24, 2010

The Grinch and the Shawshank Redemption

Christmas is not always a happy time for those of us who work in the church.  Advent Vespers and Christmas services alone are more work than a typical July for a church musician, and I know that pastors, secretaries, and volunteers in churches everywhere feel that same strain, as do mothers and fathers as they decorate and buy gifts.  The holiday season has perhaps become more famous for its stress than its joy.  Throw in days of shoveling, a chaotic final exam schedule, and travel plans and you have the makings of a very Grinch-like blogger.

Yesterday, I spent hours baking and cleaning and packing and preparing for services, enjoying it and yet moaning about it.  I had become a Grinch, and my Advent was no longer about preparations for Christmas but a yearning for the blissful calm of January.

Then in the evening, we sat down to watch a movie - The Shawshank Redemption.  An odd Christmas choice, perhaps, but my significant other had never seen it, and since he's a big fan of the television series "Prison Break," Netflix thought he would enjoy it.  I hadn't seen it in years.  And when the movie reached the scene where Andy plays the duet from the Marriage of Figaro over the prison public address system, I suddenly remembered what the Christmas season was about.  It did, indeed, redeem the season for me.

Music restored my calm, and helped me rediscover the purpose of the season.  In the movie, Andy says, "You need [music] so you don't forget...that there's something inside that they can't get to, that they can't touch, that's yours...Hope."

It may seem trite, but it took that reminder for me to discover again the beauty of the music and the message of Christmas.  My ears were opened again to the music, so that I can enjoy the choir and bell choir and brass and organ and piano tonight.  I can focus on the beauty and joy, and the redeemer that came to us two millenia ago.

I hope we can communicate that message with you tonight, and I hope you all have a blessed and merry Christmas.


  1. The flu bug, asthma, and this dang cold December air affected my voice this past Christmas season. I didn't even bother to bring out my favorite Christmas CD's(don't laugh): John Denver and the Muppets, the Carpenter's Christmas , and Amy Grant knowing I couldn't sing along.

    On Christmas Eve, I sat with the Choir, but tried to save my breath for my favorite tradition, the singing of Silent Night by candlelight. This Christmas you selected "Night of Silence" by Daniel Kantor, arranged by John Ferguson. If I was able to sing only one Christmas carol or hymn, I couldn't imagine anything more special or meaningful. Thank you for introducing that piece to the choir and congregation.

    I think I speak for all of us in the Choir when I say how happy and blessed we are to have you as our director. We understand and appreciate the extra workload that was required of you during the seasons of Advent and Christmas.

    Enjoy your vacation!

  2. I want to echo Joanne's comments about how much I appreciate your leadership and hard work for the choir and Bethany, Tom. Even though I was sitting in a beautiful Methodist church with my daughters and grandson in snowy Traverse City, my prayers included a blessing for my Bethany family, knowing that your songs, message, and love would be meaningful for those in attendance at Christmas Eve services. Sandi Pearsall