It opened like many past Christmases. Like the umpteenth other Decembers before it, I was launching the holiday season participating in a makeshift choir joyfully singing the sacred strains of Handel’s immortal offering to the Savior- “for unto us a child is born!” “the voice of him crying in the wilderness!” “Hallelujah!” I instinctively searched for the same familiar strokes of spiritual comfort that had warmed my soul on cold December evenings for decades, and naturally rediscovered all the hopes and dreams for life, death, and resurrection that Handel’s Messiah meant to revive. Yet something was lacking; a piece of the Messiah puzzle initially unknowable yet unsettling. Something was not right; something was missing.
It took me an embarrassingly long time to isolate what had disturbed my traditionally trouble-free Messiah memories. As I glanced across the rows of meshed members crowded in the pews below me absorbed in the miracle of music, it dawned on me that I was utterly alone. In a sea of joyful saints, everyone was a stranger.
We had spent the past 18 years serving and loving and raising our family in the same ward. I had served in several positions at various levels that forced me to learn and grow and love with others, and the yearly December Messiah sing-a-long at the stake center was a treasured time to reconnect- a church family reunion. Last summer, however, we pulled up Maryland roots that had been so carefully fed by our local church family and settled again in North Carolina. I was excited to learn that my new stake nurtured a similar tradition, and embraced the opportunity to continue seasonal worship of the Savior through an old song in a new land.
My unexpected panic prompted me to critically examine my own Messiah motives. I had always felt closer to God pouring my heart out to him through the scriptures set to Handel’s notes; was it wrong to also enjoy the camaraderie of my well-worn church family and their appreciation of my talents? I determined somewhat sadly that some part of me had been performing for my friends. Who would I sing for now?
This momentary cleansing of my conscience turned my heart towards the Savior. I would sing for him: he who saved my soul from sin and sorrow and set the ultimate example for loving all despite their weaknesses, frailties, and failures by loving me.
And suddenly, I was no longer alone.