My love and joy for music is a daily ritual.
Even in my writing, I like a little piano ringing in my ear. I have written of this before, giving all acknowledgements to my father, who tapped his rings on his steering wheel to jazz music while driving me to school when I was only 8.
It is a lovely part of life, music, helping us to feel, laugh and play, carrying us into wherever we may go. And so, music carries us into Christmas. All the hymns, all the bells and all the carols of peace and joy.
My parents have told me for years of the beautiful Christmas production of singing and music by Auburn United Methodist Church. So, on Sunday evening, after my husband left town for work, I decided to join my mom and dad, children in tow, to a church pew in Auburn to experience Christmas among a full house orchestra.
It was everything and more than I dreamed it would be. The view of a grand church decorated in greenery and red, carolers with candles, walking in the light of Christ, and the sounds of many holy instruments, loud and crisp to capture that which the heart longs to feel.
I felt as if I had stepped out of Auburn into a lavish New York City evening. It was spectacular, all of it, until my two young sons decided to escape church.
One hour into the program, I’m sitting on the edge of my pew, enjoying every second of brass and string and song, while the boys’ minds and bodies begin to wander. After a grand applause from the crowd, Braxton stands to exit, motioning his brother to come along. He whispers unto my father, “I’m going to take Shep outside to stretch our legs.”
I’m okay with this, as the intermission is just two songs away. Ten minutes later, the host of people in the church are dismissed, many remaining to chat with others and a handful of us walk away for a quick refresh. I walk in search of a restroom, hoping to find my boys to coax them back into church, but they were nowhere to be found.
I walk outside, 7:45 p.m., into a well-lit and lovely downtown Auburn, and in the back of my mind I knew that wherever they were, Braxton was looking out for them both and it was highly likely that they were having their own grand Christmas adventure.
Thirty minutes later, after having been gone for almost an hour, the Robertson duo walks back up the front steps of the church.
“Well hey Momma,” said Braxton. “You about ready to go home?”
I cannot speak.
“Shep and I got a little restless in church,” he said. “So we just figured we’d come outside and walk around a bit.”
Still nothing. Still no wise, mothering words. I can hear the orchestra from inside and under the lovely stars of Christmas I am genuinely just so happy to see them.
“Are you okay Momma,” Braxton said. “Seems like you might be a little upset.”
A part of me wanted to bust out laughing. I also had an urge to snap back at him saying, “Seriously! Where have you been? I have been looking everywhere for you two!” But I said nothing.
“Me and Shep had a good ole’ time, didn’t we Shep?”
“Yeah we did,” Shep responds. “It was fun.”
“We walked to Samford Hall. Looked at all the lights. It was nice,” Braxton said. “You have a good time Momma?”
I laughed inside and said as few words as possible. We walked to the car, me and my young three, and headed home.
The story is that the boys did indeed escape church. They escaped into their own Christmas of brotherhood and Jesus. Braxton even took Shep to Little Italy to eat pizza. He served him and cared for him, among night and mozzarella cheese.
We often have this view of perfection and how things are supposed to go in life, but it doesn’t really add up to Christmas. There was no perfection in Mary carrying a son. No perfection in giving birth in a barn. And no perfection in a government seeking to kill a baby.
The only perfection of Christmas is that we have this gift of perfect hope. Hope that will not disappoint. Hope that will always carry us into tomorrow. Hope that there is something greater than anything here on Earth.
I pray dear readers, that we drop the expectation of perfect and pick up the expectation of hope. It is real and it is reliable, and it is the only way to joy and peace of life.