In the hustle and bustle of the commercialized Christmas season, there’s a place you can go to be filled with joy and peace. It doesn’t involve fighting crowds and standing in long lines to buy gifts or visit Santa. This past week, I found genuine joy and peace in a small-town gymnasium at a high school music concert—my son’s senior Christmas concert.
As my daughters, husband, sister, niece, nephew, parents, in-laws and husband’s aunt shuffled into the gymnasium to find our seats, I scanned the crowd to see parents and family of band and choir members. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many community members as well.
Most of the choir and band members juggle sports, music, club and work commitments, which make scheduling a challenge for our small-town music teacher. These days, most schools are skipping Christmas concerts, but our music teacher makes it a priority to carve out time to practice with students before and after school.
The sincerity and rawness of their performances gave me tears and chills. I managed to keep my mascara from running when our son, Hunter, played his piano solo in between the band and choir pieces. He then sang in a duet and a quartet. I doubt Hunter has a future on “The Voice,” a popular TV series, but his piano and choir teachers have honed his musical talents and he’s been able to find his voice through music.
The words of Hunter’s duet song “One Candle” highlight how one candle, then two and “more candles join in to see a spark of hope begin.” Each candle intensifying the light was a visual reminder of the purpose of the season.
The beautiful words of his quartet “This Is My Wish” rang out from the stage and captured the audience: “Fill the air with joyful noise. Ring the bell, and raise your voice. Let there be peace on earth … Lift your light and let it shine …”
When I walked out of the gymnasium to an unseasonably warm December evening and a twinkling prairie sky, I was reminded of what’s important to me this Christmas season. I no longer crave gifts. Instead, I need to fill my cup with joyful, peaceful and sincere blessings, such as the music I experienced in the Wishek High School gymnasium.
I recorded the performances on my phone and uploaded them to my personal Facebook page for my grandparents to see. I replayed them the next day and again felt renewed and content by the joyful and peaceful music of the season.
The day after Thanksgiving, I went to Bismarck with my family for a Tigirliy and Gwen Sebastian Home for the Holidays concert. Both now perform on larger stages, but they have small-town roots. They got their musical start singing in churches and gymnasiums just like the one I was in for our high school music concert.
The location, size of stage or number of attendees doesn’t influence the impact music can have on others. It’s voices coming together, sharing heart and sincerity.
Check with a local school or church and find out when they’re hosting a Christmas concert/program, and make it a priority to attend. I hope the performances fill your cup with hope, joy and peace amid a messy world.
(This was originally published in my weekly Agweek column which you can find here. I don’t get all of them posted to my blog but try to share many!)