Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Face of Joy

My favorite joke about church is "if you're going to be in church, please let your face find out about it."

Many years ago, I was ridiculous enough to think I could sing in the church choir for a holiday program. I had no business singing in the choir other than a love for music and an energetic idea that I belonged up there. They were kind enough to allow me to join in.

I remember practicing for weeks in rehearsal, as well as preparing in my car, at home, any chance I got to sing that inspiring holiday music. I loved it and it truly allowed me to wear the holiday spirit for weeks on end.

The day of the program, I was excited beyond belief. The church was lovely, softly aglow with candles and pointsettias, even a fireplace was lit during our worship. All the families and friends were flurried with the holiday season spirit and I was thrilled to be one tiny portion of the magic.

Our Christmas choir assembled up front and launched into our 15 minute medley of most of the holiday favorites, as well as some new special mixes. I remember singing with "in-need-of ankle weights" style happiness and then feeling a huge wave of irony crash over me. As I looked over the faces in the congregation, I didn't see joy -- I saw people looking bored beyond belief. Many stared blankly out the window or silently scolded their misbehaving children. Some folks were even asleep. Many faces had a dull blank look that seemed to say "when will this end?"

There were only a few smiling appreciative faces and one of them was the pastor, so he didn't really count. As the dull faces stared back at me my plastered on grin got bigger and more elaborate. I thought surely if they saw my smiling happy face, they might catch a bit of the joy I was singing about. No deal.

Holidays are such an emotional stewpot for everyone from bad memories growing up to the gifts you never got as a kid. But there is also so much joy to be had. Even in the midst of hard times, there is good. In fact, the light comes easier to see when everything appears to be dark all around it.

Now I can be accused of being a Pollyanna at times about life -- I guess there are worse things to be called. But with the holidays approaching, it's a great time to think about the joys in our life. Not the fake plastered on kind that I had on my goofy face so many Christmas Eves ago. The real kind that celebrates the simple promises we all share. But don't keep that joy limited to just you -- let your face find out about and spread it around.

Lastly, if you end up visiting a church with an energetic choir singing their hearts out -- give them the blessing of smiling back the joy they give you.