Many years ago when my husband and I were in his last year with the Air Force and were living in North Carolina, his parents drove from Nashville to spend Christmas with us. They always enjoyed coming to the church we belonged to in Fayetteville, but they were in for a special treat. That year the church was hosting a complete performance of Handel’s Messiah. Rather than being scheduled a week or two before Christmas, the production was deliberately scheduled for Christmas Eve. Three local choirs rehearsed together for weeks. Each singer and orchestra member sacrificially committed to give up their family’s personal traditions in order to perform The Messiah on Christmas Eve as a gift to the community. And what a gift it was!
I had never heard The Messiah before, except for the Hallelujah Chorus, and I had just assumed it came at the end rather than about two-thirds through the work. That was not my only surprise. From the haunting opening strains of “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people” from Isaiah to the final tribute of “Worthy is the Lamb” from Revelation, I was transported by the story of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, sung totally in the words of the Bible. Those nearly three hours created a sense of joy in me that I had never known through music before.
There was another reason the music touched me so deeply at that time. It was the same reason my in-laws had driven twelve hours to be with us, rather than us going to Nashville for Christmas. I was, in biblical terms, “great with child.” Like Elizabeth who said “the baby in my womb leaped for joy” when she heard the voice of Mary, her Savior’s mother (Luke 2:44), the baby I carried responded vigorously that night. Science tells us that babies can hear in the womb, so I like to imagine that he who grew up to become a preacher first leaped for joy when he heard Handel’s Messiah reverberating around him that very special Christmas Eve.
This Christmas several of our writers will share with you some of their own Christmas memories and how they impacted their understanding of and appreciation for the amazing grace that was given to us the first Christmas. We hope these stories will spark memories of your own and you will spend some time (even as rushed as the season is) thinking of what Christmas means to you–and why.
May God bless you and your family during this wonderful season!
Vicki Huffman’s Christian non-fiction book, The Best of Times, in which she uses many examples from the familiar to make a spiritual point, is now available on Kindle at amazon.com for only $2.99. The first chapter of her Christian novel, A Secret Hope, may be read free in the gift shop here.