December 18, 2019

Oh Holy Night

She was an angry woman, my mother. Her mouth was an arsenal of disparaging and belittling remarks. Our home was a minefield that I had to navigate daily, tiptoeing around to avoid the verbal explosions. The secret was to stay low, and remain quiet and unseen. But no matter how covertly I maneuvered, I would inevitably trip a wire, and my soul would be shredded by the shrapnel of her tongue. I felt deeply unwanted and unloved.

But one night, one very special night, there was a cease-fire of her verbal grenades and for one magical moment, I shone like the star on top of the Christmas tree.

It all began in fifth grade when my music teacher, Mrs. Austin, auditioned the students one-by-one to select a representative for the school. The chosen pupil would sing with the city-wide Christmas choir. I remember feeling shy and self-conscious as I stood beside her at the piano. Mrs. Austin was such a kind and lovely woman, and I desperately wanted to please her. I sang my best, but at this age, my heart already knew that my peers were better than me in every way.

It never occurred to me that I would be chosen. Yet, days later, I carried a note home from school. “Your daughter has been selected to sing in the Birmingham Christmas Children’s Choir composed of students from all over the city. The performance will be held at the Boutwell Auditorium on December14. Please sign and return this form indicating that your child has permission to participate.

I was selected. I was selected! To my great surprise, my parents agreed to accommodate this prestigious honor for their little girl. So, after weeks and weeks of rehearsing at school, my parents, with their ragamuffin band of five children, of which I ranked number four, piled into the trusty old Dodge, and headed downtown to the Boutwell Auditorium.

The Boutwell Auditorium! Why, that was the largest performing center in the magic city! It is where the astronauts came after their walk on the moon. It was the setting for celebrities and distinguished guests from around the world. It was where we saw The Nutcracker Ballet year after year, and the home of the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. But this night, this holy night, it showcased a ten-year-old girl who would sing with an elite group of students gathered from the greater Birmingham area.

My oldest sister, who was our family’s resident beauty expert, helped me fix my hair for the occasion. She teased my pixie-cut into a nice little mound on top of my head. “There,” she said, looking very pleased with herself, “all set.” I gazed in the mirror and ever-so-carefully felt my poufy hair with my fingertips. Ooooooo, I looked like the big kids now! How grown up and important I felt! Feeling stylish in my white button-down shirt with a rounded collar, a navy pleated skirt, and patent leather shoes, I was ready to shine. For the first time that I can remember, I felt chosen, special, and beautiful. My cheeks flushed with excitement.

The elementary students filled the metal chairs on the main floor of the auditorium while the high school students occupied the stage. Around the perimeter, family and friends perched in theater seats that rose all the way up to the balcony.  It was like being in the center of a giant bowl. From my low post, I searched the crowd for signs of my family. Ah! There they were, to my left, about ten rows up. I caught their attention and waved; inside I felt deliriously happy and gloriously noticed.

The concert was entertaining and festive featuring traditional holiday carols, but of all the songs we sang that night, I only remember one.

For me, the apex of the evening was when all students rose from their seats and sang, O Holy Night. We sounded like a choir of angels and here I was, one of them. It was indeed a holy night, a night when a little girl, for a suspended moment, felt that she had value.

Many years later, it is still my favorite Christmas hymn. Not only because of the magical memory, but because its message speaks hope and life to my desperate heart.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

Have you ever really considered those words?

In ten short years on earth, my soul had already been crushed by the sin and corruption of the world. My worth had been demolished by a mother whose own heart was war-torn and scarred. Our family, along with every family on the face of the earth, lay in sin and error pining. Oh God, please deliver us!

Then He appeared! The baby Jesus came to rescue us from the fall-out of sin. He came to restore us to our true identity – chosen, loved, and cherished image-bearers of the King of Glory.

His coming, His incarnation, doesn't that alone prove our worth?

Can you feel a thrill of hope? Can you feel the weary world rejoicing?

This incarnate one has come to me and applied the salve of His deep love to my shattered heart. In tenderness, He comforts me, "Kinsey, I see you. I love you. You're special, important, and wanted." Today, thanks to the Holy Christ Child, my soul feels its worth.

Could we ask for a better Christmas gift? The gift of knowing we are cherished, chosen, and deeply desired by God? With all my heart, I wish that for you this Christmas.

Today, in tenderness, He whispers to you, “I see you. I love you. You're special, important, and wanted."

May your soul feel its worth.

O Holy Night

Composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847.

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Till he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born.
O night, O holy night, O night divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming;
With glowing hearts by his cradle we stand:
So, led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land,
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is Love and His gospel is Peace;
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise his Holy name!

Christ is the Lord, then ever! ever praise we!
His pow'r and glory, evermore proclaim!
His pow'r and glory, evermore proclaim!

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