Published in the Rains County Leader on November 29, 2016:
I love music, and I especially love music at Christmas. I’m not crazy about the radio stations that begin playing the same forty Christmas songs over and over weeks before Thanksgiving. My brother thought I was a real Scrooge when, a couple of year ago, I posted on Facebook that I was very disappointed that our oldies station began playing “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” on November 1.
The disagreement was good natured and didn’t end in a long-term family feud. We both understood that we were coming at the subject from different perspectives. What I disliked most was the repetition of novelty songs that are cute once or twice a year but quickly reach a blood-curdling stage of annoyance when played again and again. The reason he likes to begin listening to Christmas music is that he has an extensive collection. While his collection may include a few “top 40” songs, it also includes a wide variety of genres – classical, jazz, liturgical, contemporary Christian, and more. It takes at least two months for him to listen all the way through his favorites once or twice.
I do love Christmas music, though, and I’ve been reminded why several times this season. The first time was at AWANA, the Bible-based children’s program we have at my church each Wednesday night during the school year. We plan a special event one evening each month, and for years the event for December has been caroling. This year we were trying to streamline these events, both to make it easier on the adult volunteers and to leave as much time for “book time” or Bible study as possible. During our early planning session, we decided to do away with caroling and substitute an event to be decided on later.
We all thought this was a good idea because caroling with fifty to sixty children from four years old through sixth grade is, to say the least, chaotic and volunteer intensive. First, we need a driver for the church bus, and we try to have at least a three to one ratio of students to adults. We take the children to a quiet neighborhood and walk them around a block or two, singing two or three songs in front of houses that have enough lights to look inviting. Keeping that many excited together and out of the street is like trying to herd cats. In addition, the bus ride to and from the caroling venue is not for the weak of heart. Listening to “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” over and over both ways can be, well, blood curdling.
Still, the kids love it. We have a lot of teachers in our church, and a lot of them are involved in AWANA. When one of them asked her children what their favorite part of Christmas was, one of her students said, “When we go caroling at AWANA.” She shared this story with our AWANA commander, and Christmas caroling was added back to the event calendar. That kind of enthusiasm is enough to make a believer of the grouchiest Scrooge.
I was reminded twice this past Sunday of the joy of Christmas music. Our KIDZ Church teacher decided earlier this year that it was time our kids presented a Christmas program. With two weeks until the big day, a serious rehearsal was held during Sunday School. When I arrived, the KIDZ Church teacher was laying out costumes on chairs in the sanctuary. Later, while class was going on, the sound of children singing and laughing drifted through the door. As the end of class approached, I could hear the jingle of bells and the clatter of various rhythm instruments. After class, the hall between class and the sanctuary was lined with children who had been told to sit quietly until time for KIDZ Church. Each one was holding an instrument, and the smiles were blinding.
Not to be outdone, our praise team leader decided the adults should do a Christmas cantata. We didn’t have the time or the personnel to do a full blown production, but we found a simple cantata on a forgotten shelf in a storage closet. We chose four songs, and Sunday we had our second rehearsal. We’re not using jingle bells or rhythm instruments. Still, there was a lot of excitement, enthusiasm, and a whole lot of smiles.
I really do love Christmas music – and to be honest, I don’t really mind “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” – in moderation.
A LONG AND WINDING ROAD: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos