Cyndi and I go to an exercise class at the gym at 5:30 am Wednesdays and Fridays. She teaches; I struggle through. It’s a pattern we’ve repeated for at least twelve years.
The classes get smaller during the holiday season, and the people who attend seem to leave early even more often. This week everyone snuck out during cooldown and stretching. I stayed because I’m old enough to know how much I need the stretching and because I’m married to the instructor and we drive home in the same car.
It was their loss. Cyndi used Amy Grant’s song from 1992, Grown-up Christmas List, at the end of class. When we noticed we were the only two people left in the room, Cyndi said, “Well, everybody needs a friend.”
I’m telling this story because, once again, as happens every year when Cyndi uses this song, it changes my demeanor for the rest of the day. It has a profound effect on me, still.
No more lives torn apart,
Then wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts.
And every one would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list.
Crying in Church
Sunday night was our big choir and orchestra Christmas worship service, and it was amazing. My favorite moment was the transition between the next to last song – Behold Our God, which brought down the house and left everyone standing with arms raised toward heaven – and the last song – Who Can Satisfy My Soul Like You, which settled the room. Satisfied our souls.
I love to play my trombone in church. It is one of those things that mean even more to me today than when I was younger. I guess it is partly pride that I still play after almost 50 years, but I am blessed to fill a role in worship that is peculiar and unique to me. Playing opens my heart to God, and playing at Christmastime is even better.
But this year I had big-boy tears rolling down both cheeks during the entire last song, which was a problem since I needed to see my music (I play trombone in the orchestra). Fortunately we were dressed in orchestral-black so the wet spots didn't show.
What I’ve learned is that my ears work better when I’m vulnerable. If I choose not to fight the tears like I did most of my early life, if I let the words soak into my heart and do their job, if I relax and forget how goofy I look, if I stand down my defenses, that’s when I feel the touch of God. With each passing year, my heart grows softer and tears flow quicker. Not only have I gotten used to that, but I’ve begun to look forward to it.
The best way to guard your heart is be open to new influences, and the Christmas season is full of those. But to take advantage requires being open and vulnerable. It means ignoring the effects of over- commercialization (which means, no complaining or arguing over the true meaning) and leaning into the love and grace of Jesus (meaning, it’s OK to cry on stage).
One of Cyndi’s favorite Christmas song is All is Well by Michael W. Smith …
All is well all is well
Lift up your voices and sing
Born is now Emmanuel
Born is our Lord and Savior
All is well
Cyndi’s other favorite Christmas song is Emmanuel, God With Us, by Amy Grant
Travelers through a given time
Who can know what tomorrow holds?
But over the horizon
Surely you and I will find
Emmanuel, God with us
It’s my prayer that your heart will stay soft and vulnerable during these few remaining days before Christmas, so that you too will recognize Emmanuel, God with you. And also, that you’ll remember to stay for the cooldown, and wear a black shirt so the tear spots don’t show.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
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