The Nativity of our Lord is an overflowing fountain of overwhelming joy. Joy so deep and high and wide that we lose our place in it.
When you move to a new city, it takes a while to find your place (or make one). Global pandemics don't help either. But over the past year, we've been able to get more involved, and our calendars are now as full as they have ever been. For Andrew, it's a host of things connected with formation for the permanent diaconate. For me, it's included joining the cathedral choir.
I've sung in church for as long as I can remember as a choir member, cantor, and parish music director. The truth is, I wouldn't want to sing anywhere else. Don't get me wrong: I like all kinds of music. There's just something about the loft or sanctuary that makes me feel like that's where I belong.
I was a bit nervous going to my first rehearsal, though, especially since I haven't sung vocally demanding choral repertoire in many years. Despite being a natural soprano, I've sung alto and even tenor all my life to help fill in the gaps. Frankly, I wasn't sure whether I qualified as a soprano anymore. Getting older takes a toll. And when the music you sing doesn't require those higher notes regularly, you begin to lose them. That horse, as they say, had left the barn a long time ago. So, I coined a word and introduced myself as a "sopralto." As it turns out, that's pretty accurate.
For Sunday Masses, we climb the spiral staircase to the loft, don blue cassocks and white surpluses, and stand on risers. It's a mixed group of music majors, recent music graduates, younger adults, and several more seasoned singers. I have no delusions about which category I fit into. But there's something about making music together that erases all the boundaries and differences that might matter in other circumstances. That -- along with a great director and talented organist -- is what makes a choir instead of a collection of soloists.
We began rehearsing for the annual Christmas concert a few months ago. The binders we were given contained one hundred pages of sheet music -- mostly fresh choral arrangements of familiar carols. Some of the pieces were a bit challenging. But the most difficult part was a section of "Joy to the World." While the men sang one of the verses, the women were split into four parts repeating the single word "Joy" on different beats. The effect was much like the sound of pealing bells. But keeping your place was, to put it mildly, difficult. The section went on for 14 measures over three pages of the score. By my count, there were 26 "joys" for those of us singing second-soprano. With complicated timing, it was nearly impossible to keep from getting lost in all that "Joy!"
But I'm pretty convinced that's what Christmas is meant to be. The Nativity of our Lord is an overflowing fountain of overwhelming joy. Joy so deep and high and wide that we lose our place in it. Joy so moving that it carries us upward and out of ourselves. Joy that overcomes division and unifies. Joy that melts all our disappointments and exceeds all our hopes. Joy that cannot be measured and never ends. Too much joy to count but more than enough to count on.
Not everyone will feel excitement or happiness this Christmas. The realities of life in this world sometimes keep us from seeing beyond the horizon and into the next. But the joy Christmas offers us is so much more than warm feelings. It is assurance and the freedom that comes from knowing that what we see isn't all we get. Our God has more for us than we can even imagine. It is wrapped, not with ribbons and bows to place under a tree, but in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Merry Christmas.
- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and provides freelance editorial services to numerous publishers and authors as the principal of One More Basket. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.
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