The Truth I Learned From Christmas

Growing up in Boulder Co., I was the "son of a preacher man", or what some would call a "church mouse". My father and mother were busy running Unity of Boulder church, while my siblings and I spent endless hours entertaining ourselves in and around the facility.

Christmas was a special time of year at Unity... "special", because that meant we had to spend even more time at the church .😝

My parents come from a theater background in New York City and so every Christmas for them, was a giant production at the church. Set building, acting rehearsals, choir rehearsals, run throughs, tech throughs and on and on, all through December. And in our family, if you were old enough to breath then you were old enough to be part of "the show."

You of course begin (reluctantly) as a Shepherd with no lines, dreaming of the day you get to be a King, Joseph or maybe even the Archangel Gabriel. But you're not ready yet. First you will have to work your way through the choir and that only happens when mom (the Music Director) thinks you're tall enough. Of course you want to go straight to the bass section with the "manly men", but until you hit puberty, that squeaky voice gets plopped in with the tenors.

Not to worry though, as undersized and desperately in need of assistance as that bass section normally is, mom will throw you in there as soon as your voice drops. Of course, mom doesn't realize that she is throwing you to the wolves as this is the section notoriously known for jokes and commentary so lewd a pirate would blush.

There is a quick learning curve of sexual knowledge that hits a young man joining that choir section at age 14. But, I digress.

As a young adult, your participation in the show is now in direct correlation to necessity. If the show needs help in the band, you play in the band. When it struggles with lights and sound, you graduate to working with lights and sound. The show is the priority and you are placed where needed, no questions asked. You might even find yourself doing sound, playing in the band, singing with the choir and performing a vocal solo, all in the same production.

Rehearsal is chaotic and always down to the wire, but the "show must go on" and it always does, much to the amazement of the cast and crew. Not only does it "go on," but time and time again it delivers a transformational experience to the audience.

Historically speaking, on occasion, a sibling or I would mumble and grumble that we didn't get to have a normal relaxing Christmas break, like our friends did. Now don't get me wrong, my parents did Christmas morning as well as you have ever seen it done in a movie, in spite of how many sleepless nights they spent putting the show together beforehand. But we, of course, were kids. And being young, we would occasionally forget how good we had it.

The Truth I learned from Christmas didn't really sink in until I moved out on my own in college and spent some years away from doing "the show."

I was startled to find out...a normal Christmas is BORING.

Every Christmas away from the show felt empty, without a real meaning or purpose to it. The whole thing moved like a monotonous process of presents, decorations, and food, without my knowing why. But eventually I did discover why.

I had spent my entire youth serving others and creating an experience for others at Christmastime by helping with the show. I can so vividly remember how it would almost always end with a violin playing silent night and sleigh bells gently jingling in the background. At that moment, you could feel the awe in the room as hundreds of people had just had an experience, together. It was palpable and it was worth all the effort to be a part of it, every time.

What was Christmas without it? Without that moment of affecting people's lives and helping them to feel and experience the true meaning of the holiday? Love, Joy, music and wonderment! 

As an adult, I felt like an Olympic gymnast who achieved Gold at age 18, only to discover nothing can possibly live up to that achievement afterwards.

Helping to create that show was the best part of Christmas for me and now it was gone. When the realization hit me, I tried to fly home every December I could, just to be a part of that show experience again. It didn't always work out, and became especially more difficult as I started a career, family of my own and all the other adult responsibilities that keep you tied up during the holidays. I hated to call home and let my parent's know "I won't be able to make it this year."

But something shifted in my late thirties when I had my own "call" to ministry and was hired by Unity of Las Vegas to be their minister. That year I also had to once again make that unfortunate phone call to mom and dad, but this time, it was because I was creating a Christmas show of my own, in my church, with the assistance of my family.

The Truth I learned from Christmas is that it is about creating the experience of Christmas for others. If you're not doing that, then what is the point!?

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