I Held Possibility in My Arms
Joy Howard of Boston, MA, USA
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, so that those who love your name may exult in you. -Psalm 5:11
It was our final midnight Christmas Eve service before my wife and I moved to a new parish. An already-magical night was tinged with melancholy for me as I prepared for my last service as a tenor in the choir.
The music director and his wife brought their six-month-old baby girl to the Advent worship service. The mother was the soprano soloist for the first verse of “Once in Royal David’s City.” As the choir lined up outside the sanctuary for the processional, the mother tried to get her baby to fall asleep. It was late, and the baby was so tired she became fussy.
As the organ prelude began to wind down, I said, “Give me the baby. You’ve got to go sing your solo.” My friend put her restless daughter in my arms and left to sing.
I found my place in line and bounced the baby in my arms. Then, from the back of the sanctuary, mom began to sing the soaring melody, unaccompanied. “Once in royal David’s city stood a lowly cattle shed…” When she got to the second line of the hymn, her voice hovering over our heads in the hallway, her daughter was sound asleep in my arms.
As the choir joined in the second verse, I focused that gorgeous tenor line by singing to the baby, rather than to the congregation. “She came down to earth from heaven…” The procession moved slowly through the candlelit sanctuary, and the baby slept through it all. I sang my heart out, tears welling up then spilling over. Most people in the congregation also were weeping.
Afterward, people asked me if we had staged it-my carrying the baby during the Christmas Eve procession. But it was a distillation of a message of the Christmas story. What began as a purely practical solution had transformed into a magical moment. Now every time I hear or sing that song, I feel the weight of possibility slumbering in my arms.
“Trust what is being born” (Stephen M. Veazey, Words of Counsel, 2019).
Deepen your breathing as you enter a few moments of silent presence to God. Pay attention first to your own life as you gently ask and notice, “What is most alive in me right now? What is being born in me?” After a few moments of silent listening, ask these questions of your community, the church, and the world. Notice how the Spirit is revealing new life and possibility as you prayerfully ask these questions over time.
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