" It came without ribbons,
it came without tags,
it came without packages,
boxes or bags..."
From "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas"
Few things surprise me anymore. It is one of the sad, cliched parts of being a grown-up. Christmas is still one of my favorite times of year, but it rarely inspires the awe that it once did. I have devoted serious time and thought for years now to provoke emotions that the holiday season inspired in me as a child. It is time well spent. However, today, I was given a gift.
I had coupons. Coupons that must be spent or they would expire. That is the only reason I dared to tread in the mall on a Saturday in December. I despise crowds, rude people and stupidity, and unfortunately those conspire in the most bizarre of ways in a mall at Christmastime. However, I was pleasantly surprised. While busy, it was not overwhelming, and the sales persons who assisted me were definitely polite. I redeemed all my certificates and then we discovered that lunch time was upon us.
On our end of town there is no freestanding Chick-Fil-A. The only one is inside the mall. Sad, but true. So, of course, when Carson realized there was a "Chicken Fillet" in the food court, that was where he wanted to go. Fine by me! Of course, there was tons of people in line, but the kids got pictures with "the Cow" and coupons for free kids meals so it was worth it. However, there was no place to sit. We searched and then finally settled at a tiny table with two chairs- for the four of us. We begged a chair from another table, and while I was getting the food, Joel nabbed another tiny table and pushed them together. We started eating, wondering why it seemed that the food court was so very busy, and many of the people didn't seem to be eating.
And then something strange started happening. People started pointing to the floor above us. If you have never been to the Citadel mall, it has a rather unusual food court. All the restaurants are on the first floor, then there are stairs down to a central middle seating area, and then more stairs to the bottom floor and more seating. Where we were sitting was almost like a courtyard, and we could see the "balcony" all around us. I noticed there were quite a few people lined up around the railing. Almost as if they were in line for something.
And then they started singing. Over 100 very practiced voices, all together, in perfect harmony. Truly, it was like the angels were singing. "The Hallelujah Chorus". It was majestic. Thinking of it now is giving me goosebumps. I stopped, the kids stopped, Joel stopped. No one said anything. We just let the music flow over us. It was magical.
I was disappointed when it ended. I recalled hearing a similar story about a "Flash Mob". People decide on a place and time, and without warning the all do something simultaneously. In this case, it was singing. It was such a wonderful Christmas surprise.
But I also noticed something else. Most of the people around us did not stop what they were doing. Here was this beautiful, amazing singing, and they just kept shopping and eating and serving and talking. I couldn't. I had to just sit awe-struck in appreciation.
I thought of another Christmas event that suffered from the same lack of attention. But it was the most important one. A Baby was born, and few stopped. A Child came into the world and few noticed. The King came with the beautiful singing of angelic voices- "Glory to God on the Highest" and only the lowest of low paid any attention at all.
I did, though. I wished that I could have thanked one of the singers. But everyone was dressed in street clothes and once the song ended they all blended into the crowd. They did not come demanding that I take notice. They did not have an announcer, or matching outfits, or a program. They did not have any instruments besides their voices. I don't mind being so naive that something like that brings joy to me. And I don't mind being so lowly that I have a chance to celebrate the arrival of the King.
I don't want to miss Christmas. I will search for the joy, and sometimes, I will find it. And sometimes, it will find me. In a food court, or in a manager. Thank You, Father, for joy. Thank you for the gift of a group of people unashamed to praise Your name-at the mall. Thank You most of all for not demanding my attention, but allowing me the privilege of giving it. Thank You for the gift of Jesus- may He always have all my focus.