Singing in Christmas

By Joe Rector

It’s that time of year again when folks are spread too thin. So many events pull at them—school programs, shopping, get-togethers, and parties. For many, Christmas pageants or performances by children are staples for a complete holiday season. I remember a long time ago when Jim and I were involved those productions.

Beaver Ridge United Methodist Church always put on a big children’s program at Christmas. Two women, Mrs. Kirkland and Mrs, Marr, worked for weeks to put the show together. Children met weekly to practice the songs for the program. The women found patience with squirming children who would have much rather been expending after-school energy playing touch football or riding bikes.

Mother worked to produce capes for the children. They looked like the ones that are wrapped around the shoulders of Christmas statues of carolers. She was a stay-at-home mother back until we started school and spent hours at the sewing machine making more capes to accommodate growing numbers of children who would perform.

On Sunday morning, we children faced a combination of excitement and nervousness. Standing in front of a packed church brought about butterflies, and some kids decided at the last minute that they wanted no part of the program. They burst into tears, and after efforts to comfort them failed, someone hustled them off to parents.

Most of the songs were familiar carols of the season. We stood stick straight and kept our eyes fixed upon Mrs. Kirkland, who led us in song. Moms and dads and grandparents oohed and aahed as smiles spread across their faces. The entire thing seemed to have lasted for hours, but the truth is that no more than twenty minutes were devoted to the program.

Jim and I, on occasion, sang solo parts. I’m not sure that we sang that well, but we were volunteered, and folks must have thought a set of twins singing was cute. As we grew older, we joined Mike Guinn in special songs. One I remember best was our singing “We Three Kings.” Nerves kicked in and voices choked as we stood in front of the congregation and performed. Yes, we made it, but all three of us stood there red faced and anxious.

Some of the best friends I ever had were included in that children’s choir. In addition to Mike Guinn, Jimmy Love and Mike Hill were there. All the boys fell over themselves as they tried to gain the favor of girls like Randy Butler and Nancy Marshall. As it turned out, all of us attended high school at Karns and remained friends, at least until graduation.

My children participated in Christmas programs at First Christian Church. I remember Uncle Tim sitting with a group of little ones as he related the Christmas story. The kids sang, hung christmons on the tree, and placed greenery throughout the church. My pride gushed as they completed their parts and as the program ushered in the Christmas season for the congregation and our family.

I miss the times when I was young and enjoyed participating in those programs. These days, my voice is just about gone, and I struggle to sing without it cracking. I miss being with my twin brother much of the time and long for family members who have passed. I would love to go back for one Sunday to watch my own children sing and read during a Christmas service. Too, I miss the friends from Beaver Ridge. I’ve not seen most of them in too many years.

I’ll listen to children sing again this year, and maybe I’ll even bribe my grandson Madden to sing “Away in a Manger” or “Silent Night.” The Christmas spirit stirs within me when I just begin thinking about those long ago times and the songs that we sang. Even this many years later, the child in me sometimes tries to sneak out. It feels good.

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On Saturday, December 20, my wife Amy and I will celebrate our 40th anniversary. I still can’t believe that she chose me all those years ago. Amy is a wonderful, beautiful woman who has blessed my life with love and companionship. I can never adequately express how much I love her or exactly what she means to me. Lots of folks have been married longer than we have, and like us, they’ve had ups and downs. What I can say without reservation is that we love each other more today than we did on that wedding day so long ago.  HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, AMY!

 

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