As a church musician, this week before Christmas, I see looming before me a myriad of worship services. Each service has its own beauty, uniqueness and character. Likewise, each has its own worrying musical challenges, at least from my perspective.
You see, this is certainly not my first rodeo. It is my seventeenth Episcopal rodeo in a row, to be precise. For sure, the experience has gotten easier as the years have gone by. I like to think that I’ve matured as a musician. Yet, I can still feel those tendrils of fear creeping in on occasion, just not as often as it used to. I have voices of worry saying, “Have I rehearsed folks well enough and thoroughly enough?” “Am I using all our available time wisely?” “Can I trust that I’ve practiced that certain piece enough times?” “Will I be able to maintain my focus during that particularly difficult piece or passage and not let the distracting voice creep in, bringing along with it wrong notes and clear warnings of my fear to those listening?”
Or, perhaps most importantly, “When will I remember to not be afraid in the first place?”
When I think back to my first memory of performing, it was during the annual Christmas Eve play at Organ Lutheran Church in Rockwell, NC, which was the church that I attended in utero until I moved away to start college. I am pretty young in this memory, young enough that my voice had not changed.
I have always been a rather melancholy child, always with a penchant for a good minor or modal tune. And what better example would be “What child is this,” which starts in a minor modality, rises to a bright major sound during the refrain before finishing back to the minor! Somehow, I was chosen to sing this hymn as a solo during the Christmas Eve play. While my memories of that night may be through the veil of a few years of mental cobwebs, I do remember it being a positive experience, and that I loved singing that hymn. There are no memories of fear or anxiety. Part of it is blended into the childlike innocence of Christmas Eve, a heady mix of the promised coming of the Christ child, the earnest hope for snow, the listening for Santa on the roof, the warmth of being with grandparents around the tree, and the gleaming sight of the knee-high sea of wrapping paper.
But also, I think the other, greater, part of it was that I simply hadn’t quite learned how to be afraid yet. So, when did I learn to be afraid and to listen and, worse yet, believe those voices of insecurity? How can I cast off those fears and let that innocent child back in?
So, that’s going to be my focus in the next few days, and should be for the days to come in this life. As I seek that Christ child, the one who brings peace to this poor world of far-flung worries, I’m going to also search for that other little boy, who really has no reason to be afraid.
I wish the same for you, for peace in spite of the world that we live right now. To sing fearlessly, play fearlessly and to love fearlessly.
Advent Hope and Christmas Joy to you.