The final audience member arrived just in time. As I directed them to their seat, the orchestra had already begun to tune, and I managed to exit into the foyer just as the house lights dimmed and the overture began.
Captivated by the music, I paused. There was work to get on with, but first I had to stay for a few moments and listen- just to the overture.
Pressing my face up close to the window on the auditorium door, I watched and listened, fascinated by the different instruments and how they played together: the delicate melody on the violins, the rich harmony of the violas and cellos supporting it, the driving rhythm of the double bass underpinning it all. Everything was perfectly balanced.
As the volume increased and the woodwind section entered, my attention was drawn straight away to the clarinet part. That was my instrument and I knew the part so well that my fingers automatically began to move in the familiar patterns of the phrases being played.
I loved to listen, but the music also filled me with an almost painful longing to be part of it. I didn’t want to be standing here, a spectator on the other side of the door; I longed to take my place in the orchestra and join in with the music.
I was only fifteen years old and I knew it was too early. I knew there was a good chance that in a few years my time would come but, for now, I was excluded, on the other side of the door.
Suddenly I noticed that I was no longer alone. The lady who led the front-of-house team had joined me by the auditorium door, and as I looked at her face I saw my own desire mirrored there and realised that she, too, longed to be part of the orchestra. The difference was that for her it was not a hope for the future, but the reality of the past. I knew that she had once been a professional musician and had taken her place on the other side of the door, but now age and arthritis had taken their toll and she would never play at that level again. Like me, she was excluded, watching from the sidelines, longing to participate.
We stood silently as the overture continued, somehow united in our unspoken longings; then, as the final cadence sounded, we shared a smile. Letting go of our hopes for the future and our memories of the past, we returned our focus to the present and went to get on with our work.
As I remember that moment, it brings to mind two ladies we meet in the Christmas Story.
For Elizabeth, it was too late. She and her husband, Zechariah, had tried for children for several years, with no success. Now time had run out and she was too old. It was impossible.
For Mary, it was too early. She was too young. She and Joseph were engaged, but not yet married. For her, the thought of children was far off in the future. Maybe one day, but the idea that she would have one now? It was impossible.
And yet, with God, nothing is impossible, and, for him, the time was right.
Two angelic visits, two baby boys- and not just any baby boys, but baby boys with wonderful destinies.
One to prepare the way and turn people’s hearts to God, the other to save and to reign forever: God’s own son, Emmanuel, God with us.
It seemed impossible, but nothing is impossible with God, and these two women, who would have been dismissed by others as too young or too old, were exactly right for God and were chosen to play vital parts in his plan.
(excerpt from “Merry Christmas Everyone” – details at the bottom of this post)
The story of Christmas – the story of God – is a story that each of us is invited to be part of too.
Advent is the ideal time to reflect on that as we prepare to celebrate, and, with that in mind, I’d like to recommend a book to you – The Advent Narrative by Mary Geisen.
“This Advent we are walking into the story.
The binding of God’s story with our own.”
Mary is a writer I connected with early on in my blogging journey, and her writing is always full of hope and wisdom. This book provides thought-provoking reflections on Advent and the part we are invited to play in God’s story.
It encourages us that the anticipation of Jesus’ coming is not only for Advent, but that it is a way of life – that we are still waiting for Jesus to come again, and that God can use the times of waiting and wilderness along the way.
It provides a helpful focus for the run-up to Christmas, encouraging us to enter into the story and reflect on our place in it.
Since we’re talking Christmas, I’d also like to highlight another two books to help as you prepare to celebrate this year.
As many of you know, I’m a regular contributor at Gracefully Truthful. Reveal is their Christmas study for this year, and it is available in book form. I’m delighted to have contributed one of the studies, and you can check it out here.
Finally, the opening part of this post was originally published in this anthology which I contributed to in 2018. It is full of Christmas reflections, stories and poems, with something for everyone. A lovely Christmas gift or a book to dip into in the weeks before Christmas.