(I am re-posting this blog from 2014)
I wanted to find a new way to share the Christmas story during the Yuletide season, and I realized that this was just the thing to do. I had been enjoying a great school year – it was as close to being “in the zone” as a Bible teacher could get. The previous year had been a struggle with getting the students to go beyond the obligatory scramble for a high grade. It’s a perplexing paradox; they were excellent in their quizzes and tests, but woefully short when it came to grasping Biblical truths and a true joy of Jesus Christ. This year, however, appeared to be different. This year is what Bible teachers dream and pray for – classtime was filled with second-level questions of depth. Students were walking alongside me in the hallways or across the lunchtime campus green, asking and sharing. It was a time of great excitement, and I could sense that many of the students wanted to experience new ways of serving the Lord.
On the first week of December, I found one.
A local Knoxville, Tennessee radio station announced a call for more Salvation Army kettle bell-ringers, and I thought that this might be something to really enjoy. I’d gather some students with me to help encourage people to drop their coins into the red kettle. But rather than play the simple role of merely ringing a bell and smiling at people, there was one odd thing that I wanted to do.
I wanted all of us to sing.
Loudly and joyfully.
And that’s where the problem lay.
You see, I can’t sing. Not a lick.
This, in a sense, is a comical thing, me not being musical at all. My father is an award-winning band director with 49 years of teaching experience under his talented belt. He’s formed jazz and big band-era swing bands. He’s composed music and has played in orchestras for numerous celebrities. You would think I would get one smidgeon of DNA that would help me understand notes and step forth musically.
Not a bit, brother – but that didn’t slow down my desire.
The weeks went by and I got permission. On the day we were to gather, the temperature started dropping. By the time I arrived at the mall’s western entrance, some flakes began to fall. It was a biting cold.
The knot of students joining me weren’t exactly ready for Radio City Music Hall, either. Karen showed up with a hand-knit muffler and the widest grin you would ever see despite the fact that she was tone-deaf. Shawn came coughing and sneezing. Peter arrived with an oversized ski cap and an unsteady look.
“Do you think this will go over?” he asked, looking at people coming across the parking lot.
“We’ll give it the old college try,” I said cheerfully, grabbing the bell.
“But we’re in high school,” Shawn retorted, hacking.
Alex showed up. Bless his heart, he brought bagpipes. Bagpipes.
Now I knew we were going to commit to something crazy. Away in the Manger with a Scottish lilt. And so we did. While Alex pushed, puffed and whatever else you do to bagpipes, we bellowed out across the parking lot with as much gusto as possible. None of us were accomplished singers. No, that’s too generous – I don’t think any of us could carry a tune if you duct-taped our hand to a bucket.
Our rendition of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer sounded like we were collectively undergoing a live tracheotomy. Alex started shouting out the lyrics to Deck the Halls. We followed with a rasping fa-la-la. The whole rendition reminded one of a tone-deaf pirate with a squawking parrot on his shoulder.
Actually, we were doing quite well for the Salvation Army. I could see people putting in folds of green while chuckling in sympathy.
We slaughtered O Little Town of Bethlehem. If anyone from that Little Town heard us, I’m sure the population would have sued us for damages.
We hacked, sneezed, laughed, and coughed our way through hours of nose-dripping warbling.
And then we rolled into Joy to the World. That’s when it hit me:
Jesus can be fun.
This is joy. We were cold, tired and yet really having a great time. We were filled with joy and celebration. Within a week Jesus’ birthday would be celebrated! Folks were coming up, stopping and actually clapping for us. They knew we were mediocre, but they appreciated our vigor.
I imagine Jesus was chuckling right along with us, viewing our pitiable efforts with a grin and a nod. We’re not professionals, Lord, but we know how to make a joyful noise! It’s a celebration of this season, Lord.
It’s a celebration of You.
I remember that time quite often, whenever I get overburdened with the cares of the ministry and find myself becoming morose.
I realize that we can have a flat-out fun time in the name of Jesus.
Just like we’ll have in Heaven.