I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I’m still alive.
(Psalm 104: 33 CEB)
It was a Sunday during Advent, and I and the other choir members were making our procession down the center aisle of the sanctuary when I looked out the open front door to see a friend stumbling up the white stone steps of the church. My friend Steve, who loves music and sings very well, had woken up from a cold concrete bed a few streets away and decided that he wanted to attend worship. It was the first time in a long time I’d seen Steve on a Sunday morning. We typically saw him during the week when he would come with his buddies to the church for assistance, a snack bag, or just conversation. But this Sunday morning he was alone, visibly intoxicated, and eager to get inside.
Because of my worship leadership responsibilities that particular morning, I immediately found my sister, Ciona, and let her know that Steve was coming up the stairs. She and Steve had been friends for a while too, and there was evident love between them. She walked out, greeted him, and invited him to sit next to her. As they sat, he shared with her that he had come to sing a particular song.
Despite the restraints of the order of worship printed in the bulletin, he was intent on getting the choir to sing that song. As the service progressed, he became more demanding and disruptive. He kept asking Ciona when he could walk up to the front and ask the choir director for the song, “The Little Drummer Boy.” It was difficult for him to accept that there was no room in the service for his request, and he struggled to suppress his feelings. A bit heartbroken, Ciona asked Steve if they could go outside to sing his song and chat for a bit. As they sat outside, Steve began to cry, preach, and stumble through his song. He looked at her as he sang, “Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum / A newborn King to see, pa rum pum pum pum.” He continued, singing the song by heart. When he finished, he shared words about his love for Jesus and walked away.
Steve’s intentions that day were to bring a gift. It was a gift of remembering that Jesus came so we might know that we all are invited to come, that we all have a song to sing, and that Jesus makes space for everyone to sing his or her own song. It reminded me that following the way of Jesus means not only singing my song but also affirming the gifts that every single person has to offer God— regardless of life circumstances— for the sake of love and the restoration of wholeness for ourselves and the world. This is the good news— the freeing, healing and empowering news— that Jesus came to bring.
The gift Steve gave through his willingness and determination to sing his song to the Lord that morning was one of the best Christmas gifts I have ever received.
What is your song to sing this Advent?
Creating and re-creating God, thank you for sending Jesus to offer and embody for the world a new song that we all can choose to sing in our own ways.
Teach me how to sing your song in the unique way you’ve given me to sing it, participating fully with my heart, mind, and soul.
As I sing, mold and shape me to create spaces of hospitality and unconditional love in my life so that I may welcome my neighbors, listen to them sing their songs and encourage them along the way. Amen