“Are you willing… to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you?”
Christmas is not only the time when I fill my heart and mind with the thought of God’s great gift to us -- His Son, Jesus. It is also the time when I think of the lines above that a wise man named Henry Van Dyke, a Presbyterian minister, wrote in 1905, titled “A Short Sermon: Keeping Christmas.”
This year, as I faced the many challenges that came when I was preparing for the Christmas Cantata, often teary-eyed and tempted to give up, I thought of these lines. But to make the thoughts current, I asked myself, “Are you willing to forget what you are doing for other people, and to remember what other people are doing for you?” For the choir members who stayed on were committed to make joyful music to the Lord in spite of difficulties. Why shouldn’t I?
After several years of singing well and coming up with a great choral sound, this choir and its choir director suddenly faced what seemed to be unresolvable problems. Several soloists, some of whom were also section leaders, left the church due to death, illness, job, personal belief, or death of family members.
But, as I said, the choir members who stayed on were committed to make joyful music to the Lord. However, with my continuous dependence upon the Holy Spirit when the going gets rough, and with the inspiration and affection I always receive from the choir, I was able to lead them to a beautiful performance of “Emmanuel, Child of Hope.”
These choral singers will continue to sing to the Lord even when they perform less grandiose works, i.e. the weekly responsibilities they have accepted when first they joined the choir – to sing to God, about God, for God -- and to inspire the listeners to fill their minds with God and worship Him.
Aside from this, but still related to what the choir and I continue to do and to what Van Dyke said in “Keeping Christmas,” let me bring up what a secular Christmas song tells us:
“So may I suggest, the secret of Christmas Is not the things you do, at Christmas time But the Christmas things you do all year through.”
Therefore, let us open our hearts to the Lord Jesus and let Him stay there every day, not only at Christmas.
As the Christmas season comes to a close after its supposed 12 days, let me continue to borrow from Van Dyke’s questions which, we must admit, are directed to us:
“Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world – stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death – and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love?
Then you can keep Christmas. And if you can keep it for a day, why not always? But you can never keep it alone.”
Ruby Agnir Choir Director