I attended a pre-Christmas concert a few weeks ago. It was performed by a community choir made up of people with physical and cognitive disabilities and their friends. I have friends in that choir, so I go to these concerts as often as I am able. The choir director commented throughout the concert that this year new talent had been surfacing among the choir members and that many of these singers courageously agreed to sing solos that were scattered throughout the program. One young man, maybe 30 years old, stepped up to perform “O Holy Night,” alone.
Technically, it was, to be honest, not good. The notes he sang were not the notes any of us in the audience expected to hear. But no one giggled, of course, and no one raised their eyebrows. We appreciated the young man’s mettle, standing on that podium and singing in full voice despite all the reasons not to.
Even amidst my admiration for this man, as the song neared its end, I began to brace my ears for the super high note I knew was coming. You know, “Oh night, dee-viiiine!” To my surprise, despite missing every other note in that song, he absolutely nailed that one. It was loud, it was unwavering, and it was right on pitch.
It would have been fine if he had not sung that note perfectly. But it was very moving that he did. In the midst of all the mess in the world that was weighing heavily on my mind that day, this one perfect moment made me smile and brought a tear to my eye. It gave me hope.
On Christmas Eve, I remembered this moment. Our world is so imperfect. Violence and fear shake our confidence in life. Rancor among leaders threatens the stability of the globe. Further, none of us as individuals is perfect; we all have many abilities and many disabilities. We have physical brokenness because of disease or aging bodies. We have moral brokenness because of our failures to do as we ought. And we have broken hearts from the grief of loss and from the hurts others have caused by their failure to love us well.
And into this broken world made up of broken people comes pure love, a perfect moment, the birth of God. The song to the shepherds was loud, unwavering and right on pitch. Peace on earth; good will to all. It was indeed a holy night. It remains a holy night in the nighttime of our uncertainty and fear when it inspires confidence that a loving God continues to reach out to us and when it inspires our hearts to live and sing with full voice the song that God gives us to sing.
The Rev. Tom Krieg is pastor at St. James the Greater Catholic Church, Eau Claire.