Gary is amazing. He was in the front row at each of the ten performances of the Portland Singing Christmas Tree. He was the first to stand when we sang the Hallelujah Chorus. He touched many of us in the tree. He broke my heart. He reminded me of what Christ's coming is all about. For you see, Gary is doesn't hear the singing. He holds a balloon and feels the vibration of the music through it. Gary is mute yet he hears the gospel in Christ's birth clearer than many.
Christmas can become a bit stale even for a pastor. Oh, we may not want to admit it but it does. Busyness takes the place of meditative prayer. Programs rob families of necessary time. Familiar texts and can keep us from seeing a new word from God in Christ. It has happened to me in the past and probably in the future as well.
The second week of the Singing Christmas Tree found my voice better but my spirit dry. Not dry like stale bread, but dry like an un-basted, overcooked Christmas turkey that was left a couple of hours too long in the oven. Did I mention dry? My mind rehashed the list of things that had to get done for home and church. I was spiritually coasting, since I knew the Christmas story so well. Personal worship just wasn't. I was too much into getting things done to worry about that. I didn't doubt Christ's love, presence or power. I knew He was with me but a part of me wished He'd leave me alone so I could get things done.
This is where Saint Gary comes into play. As the children's choir sings the first verse of Silent Night Gary signs it without ever hearing a note of it. That was the breaking point for me. It was as if the Holy Spirit screamed to my heart, "Enough is enough." I found my agenda scoured away in Gary's tears. With apologies to our phenomenal director, perfect pitch and dynamics all that crucial. No longer were recalling the words the most important part of the evening. For in that moment, a God thing happened. I was brought back to what the music, tonal quality, word, dynamics and expression was all about—honoring and worshipping Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.
Visiting with people after the performance many people expressed their thanks and told me how the choir did a great job. I'm glad they got so much out of the tree, but I found myself thinking of Gary and God's promise of renewal to Israel in Isaiah 35.
…say to those with fearful hearts,
"Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you."
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
I would pray for each of us that our eyes may be opened once more and that we might hear the news of Christmas with ears free of the brain-numbing message of our world.
Be at peace,