Last night's first rehearsal of the Bagram Christmas Eve singers did not disappoint on any front. From the divas, most of whom were tenors, to the very opinionated soloists from days gone by, there was a lot of energy in the room. The problem with the Bagram Christmas Eve singers is that I am not a choir director. I may have picked up on some choral conducting basics over the years, but hatching a choir, not on my list of accomplishments. Yet, a room full of divas and former soloists at their respective Christmas Eve services, myself included in this list, need someone to follow!
Thankfully, after a few minutes of "discussion," one of the most obvious contenders for choir master stepped up to the plate and helped us begin. That was really all we needed. Singers are hard to stop once the play button has been pushed. Much to all of our surprise, we actually sounded pretty good. Even the more professional member of the group suggested that we might consider recording our music at the service. While I think I have picked our musical pieces, mostly based on the available accompaniment that I have been able to download via the Church of Latter Day Saints, thank goodness the Mormons believe in sharing their resources for free, unlike many of our mainline denominations, we have yet to choose our soloists for the evening.
What has surprised me though is how I have reacted to this scene. Up until now, in some capacity, even when I have been working in a church, I have been tasked to sing a solo. I may have even been a little miffed if I had not been asked. But, now that I am in charge, I find that I have absolutely no desire to add a solo to the balls that I will be juggling this Christmas. Between leading and organizing the Christmas Eve service, leading and organizing caroling on three different occasions, and organizing my unit's Christmas day party, I can't wait for Christmas to be over. I have even found that canceling Christmas might not be the worst thing, though of course, I don't REALLY want that to happen. Now I understand all of the articles I have read about the Christmas season in magazines geared toward pastors. When you are in charge, it is truly stressful.
But, as stressed out as I feel in moments, I also keep reminding myself to remember the things that matter. For those of us who are deployed and away from family and spouses and children on this holy day, there is bound to be a lot of sadness. Just meditating for a few minutes about the hard things that many are facing in these days, and not just those of us who are in Afghanistan, I find I am able to regain my perspective. So what if tons of people don't want to join in on the caroling or if our choir isn't totally perfect and seamless, and trust me, it won't be, the important thing is that we are together, helping each other remember that even when it is not what we wish for, Christmas can still surprise us. There are blessings to hold on to even when they are not what we think we want or need. There are people who care about one another who come together and eat cookies or play along with a silly game of Secret Santa. There are skype conversations to be had and imaginative ways to stay connected with each other across the miles. Most importantly, there is God's presence come into the world, felt through an unexpected gift from a stranger or found, sitting side by side a friend, without much to say, but knowing that no matter where we find ourselves, we are never alone.
I am still not singing a solo this year. There are plenty of other people who want to do this more than me. And, maybe, just maybe, I have realized that being a pastor puts me in a very different place. I am no longer a soloist or a musical director, this I know. I am still a director of sorts, though, empowering people to bless others through their offering of song, connecting those who are willing to share their God given talent, and trying to orchestrate it all while keeping us mindful of why we are gathering in the first place.