69 | Christmas Eve, Christmas Songs, and Christmas Blessings

December 26, 2008
Friday, 5:30 p.m.
Letter #69: Christmas Eve, Christmas Songs, and Christmas Blessings


Dear Family,

Season’s greetings! Today, the Day After, has finally arrived. Boxing Day—for the Canadian in our family—the last day of Hanukkah this year, and the start of Kwanzaa … what a big day! I celebrated by (1) writing to the aforementioned family member from The Great North, (2) wishing my next-door Jewish neighbor “Happy Hanukkah!” (he neither replied nor acknowledged my attempt at friendliness, which could be because I was slightly naked in the shower when I called out “Happy Hanukkah!” to him, or it could be because he can’t seem to get his menorah candles lit without candles or fire-making tools [such as matches], or it could be because he’s prejudiced against me just because of my new upper-arm swastika tattoo [kidding!]) and (3) playing basketball. (Get it?)  🙂

Anyhoo, I’m really blessed! Today, God worked through all the details to make a monthlong project finally happen for me. My good friend, James Soria, who sings with me, is moving to my building! He’ll be housed on the first floor (as John and I are), so we will be out at dayroom together every day. This makes the possibility of practicing a cappella stuff together far greater!

As a result, I’ve asked a guy named “Cowboy” to sing bass with us, since our quartet’s fourth member, choir director Darryl Evans, lives in B3. Since I lead the choral groups, I’m thinking of getting a replacement for myself as well, so I can just work with the guys on their parts.

Recently, I’ve been singing baritone (and bass, when the songs go too low for our bass), as I’m training James to sing high tenor. Meanwhile, we’re all having an absolute blast! It’s fun to see the shock register on the guys’ faces when they hear themselves sing a beautiful chord for the first time. This Sunday during church we’ll be performing our first song, after nearly eight hours of practice on it (!). The song? My brothers’ and my version of “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”

Thank you for praying for our special Christmas Eve production! I worked pretty hard on it, and the guys did a really nice job (especially considering that most of my choir has never sung before—much less, church music with harmonies)! Most of them don’t drive me completely crazy. Most.  🙂

I had fun “directing” from the piano much of the soloist/group changes, while playing soft interlude music throughout the “drama” portions. (Side Note: I sang a solo with choir backup on the chorus of “O Holy Night,” while playing the piano, just like my twin bro.)  🙂

The Christmas Eve event was very well received by everyone in attendance (around 75 guys), which was actually the biggest surprise to me. That is, I’d been so focused on practicing and the “production” of it that I never anticipated the response.

In fact, I’d spoken to the choir several times about being in the right frame of mind to give the gift of worship to the Lord. This involves two extremes in my choir: (1) guys who are prima-donnas and think too much about the audience—performing for their fans, soaking up the praise and applause—and (2) guys who are nervous and timid with their voice and think too much about the audience—worried about what others will think, flinching at what the reaction might be if they mess up. Either way, my guys were thinking way too much about the audience.

I feel like I got through to most of them, and mostly they were in the right mindset. Afterwards, it became clear what a blessing we’d been to those who had come to enjoy the service. A guy came up to me the next day—Christmas Day—and told me that he’d assumed there wasn’t going to be a Christmas for him this year … until he heard us sing “Angels We Have Heard on High” and, as he put it, “the Spirit of God fell in the room.”

As he told me this, his eyes brimmed with tears. Another guy told James that at a few points in the presentation, he forgot he was in prison, picturing he was in a community theater production. Praise God! (But I still think that guy needs to get out more.) We all have things we need to improve on, true—I guess I just find it amusing how many of these guys remind me of doing Christmas productions with my first- and second-graders, ya know?

God gave me a special gift on Christmas Day when my parents came to visit. The officer in charge of the visiting room called over to my building to release me, even though they’d arrived at 11:30 (meaning I’d normally have to wait until after count, around 12:30). As he told Mommy and Daddy, “Anyone else, and I wouldn’t do it; but I’ll do it for him.”

This additional hour meant so much to me, especially since I’d committed just a few weeks ago to not cheat by sneaking into the Visiting Room early. I knew immediately that God had given that hour to me personally as a result. Hope your New Year’s Celebration is bright!