After a few year’s of singing Handel’s Messiah each December, nothing sounds like Christmas to me quite as much as the beginning notes of “For Unto Us A Child Is Born.” Even when we sing them at a rehearsal in September. Who says time travel is out of our reach? A little music, a particular sense of smell – memory has to be the key. Take that and run with it, science folks.
Anyway. I’m not singing Messiah this year. With a few changes in our family life, the choir just didn’t fit this fall. Performances are last night and today, but I won’t be attending. A quirky thing about my musical tastes is that what I like to sing in choirs, and what I enjoy listening too aren’t even really a Venn diagram. They’re more like hemispheres. I may listen to a track or two, thanks be to Spotify, but no full-blown immersion in the telling of the story of Jesus who was and is and is to come.
And that is really what I’m missing about the rehearsals, as I gear up for Advent. Messiah rehearsals have become a way of interacting with Scripture that is bodily, and so far for me, irreplaceable. Why is “For Unto Us A Child Is Born” the beginning of Christmas, when it isn’t the first piece sung by the chorus? Because I remember that first year, and that first performance: I was pregnant with Bliss. I remember rehearsing and wondering if the baby would be a boy or girl, and feeling the contrast of the bouncy joyful runs with the feelings of nausea and total anxiety. I remember singing “his yoke is easy” when it didn’t feel that way at all – my idea of following Jesus didn’t seem to be matching up with the rest of the world (yeah, I know, but Handel left those verses out). Yelling at God in your head while singing the almost-perky chorus is quite the prayer experience.
Advent is like that for me: a liturgical season of contrast. Apocalypse, anticipation, joy, hope, anxiety. Dark and light. Part Hallelujah chorus and part Surely. Welcome back, favorite season of mine.