Clancy wrote this last year after directing her ward congregation’s Christmas program.
The tree boughs were sagging with the weight of the white blanket that the sky gently laid down. They looked tired. I stared at them for a long time wanting to go and give them a good shake to relieve them of their burden. I smiled because that’s just how I felt- relieved of my burden. The funny thing was, I didn’t even know I carried the load until I woke up dreaming bad dreams about the program.
The program was starting. I was in charge and I was at the back of the chapel. I thought that I was supposed to be in the back, but then I realized that I was in the wrong place. I needed to be up front. Strangely, as I realized this, the chapel was suddenly about two miles long and I knew I’d never make it up there in time because it had already started and the pianist was waiting for me to cue them to start.
I panicked, so my husband and I ran outside and he drove me to the front of the chapel (which had become an ultra long trek). When I ran in the door, the Primary Chorister had brought all the Primary kids up to the stand early since I wasn’t there to coordinate it. The pianist was playing the intro of “Joy To The World” over and over, waiting for me. As I got up to where I would lead, the Primary kids were in the way and the pianist and the organist couldn’t see me. I moved them several times, but they just kept drifting back in my way and I hit them with my arm as I led the song. I woke up in a panic and every time I’d fall asleep again, I ‘d dream something else bad. Finally I gave up and got out of bed at 7:30 on a Sunday morning… unheard of for me!
Needless to say, after the dreams, I was nervous and felt the weight of coordinating and carrying out my responsibility conducting the church Christmas program. Had I thought of everything? Had I miscalculated the time? Would the speakers go on too long and make us get out late? Would I remember to stand the choir up before they sing? Would someone bump my music stand in the shuffle of singers and send my music flying with a loud crash? Would I forget the cut-offs?
I was so busy worrying that I couldn’t even enjoy it or tell if it was going smoothly or not. It felt choppy and disjointed. Don’t get me wrong, there were tender moments… hearing the speaker talk of a Christmas in her childhood when she got a single stuffed bear for Christmas and her joy was full… hearing my brother sing with tender strength about Joseph guarding the baby Jesus… seeing my little girl and her friends sing “Away In A Manger” with their sweet, little, child-voices… hearing a piano solo and letting the beauty of that performance make me feel buoyant and light… but those tender moments were constantly buried by the bigger worry about the clock, the time signatures and the cut-offs. Was anybody feeling the spirit and the message or were they picking up on my freaky-worried vibes? Was that a blank, bored face I just saw, or was he just absent from his body as the music carried him to a place only he could see and experience? I was neurotic. I was a roller coaster.
Then… the final cutoff came. I listened as the prayer blew threw my wind tunnel ears… I couldn’t hear it, but it didn’t matter. It was over and I was relieved. Relief was something I expected. What I didn’t expect was fulfillment. There was a need in me that had somehow eluded my awareness and was now making itself known.
As person after person came to me with tears in their eyes expressing the beauty of the last hour, tears began to fill mine. My own aunt hugged me, crying, and told me that I had “saved her Christmas.” Someone else told me that was the best church Christmas music program she had ever experienced. Another person held my face in her hands as she thanked me over and over. And yet another held my hands and told me how perfectly wonderful it was and how it was just what she needed. There were more… my mom, my dad, the Bishop, the Bishop’s wife, a few choir members… they just kept coming and I was totally overwhelmed.
I really didn’t do that much… except shoulder some responsibility, execute a plan that I had a lot of help with, and listen to other people make beautiful music.
It was the spirit of the music, the people and the Savior, Jesus Christ, that did all the work. It was touching to so many people and, even though I was too busy worrying to notice, I was bombarded with feelings joy and gratitude and service when it was all over because people shared how it touched them. I couldn’t believe that I missed their joy and that I actually wondered if people were bored and thinking “Enough music, already!”
And then, as I went home, I was overcome with gratitude to my Heavenly Father for giving me the gift of arranging all of this, participating in it, and working with the many people who helped pull it off. I was overcome with the Spirit and I felt joy and love pulsing from me like a heartbeat and I thanked Him for my joy and my experience.
I feel humbled and gratified in a way that was so very unexpected. I was full of gladness and the magic of song, season and service.
Wonderful story! In this month’s Ensign Elder Nelson writes about the power of music, and it coincides perfectly with your story. Thank you for sharing!
(I’m also relieved that there weren’t any mentions about Christmas cantata’s/random, unknown songs that the choir directors use as their pet projects. As a former choral instructor, I have found time after time that people prefer and enjoy the more well-known carols of Christmas and not the obscure songs. The better known songs touch their hearts more because they bring back familiar, tender memories). Glad you captured this and the spirit of it with your program!