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A Christmas Card

Music has a way of transporting us to another time. Around Christmas O Holy Night is that song for me, not because of the lyrics but because of what it meant to sing them

.When I was 7 my family moved to a new town to be closer to my Nan, my maternal grandmother. Being new in town, she felt that the big United Church would be a good place for us to build community. It was my first time attending church; mostly I was excited about wearing my new dresses.

Dad joined the adult choir and I the kid choir. I remember being teased by a cute boy about how I sing the word Halleluiah. I also recall being disappointed each week that the congregation didn’t clap after our songs. I guess they don’t clap in churches, but it always felt weird to hit that end note and having it met with absolute silence.

Dad and I were in the Christmas pageant with our choir groups each year. The play was always the same. Joseph and Mary were played by whoever just had a baby; there were always sheep and a donkey; the wise men were the same 3 guys, one of which had a terrible singing voice. The adult choir played the townsfolk of Jerusalem and the kid choir dressed as angels with silver garland halos. Only one angel had a gold halo, that year’s soloist who would sing O Holy Night. This was the greatest honour to bestow upon a child as far as I was concerned. Year after year I wore my silver halo and watched from the cheap seats as the gold haloed girl stepped into the spotlight. I was filled with envy, hoping that maybe the next year I’d be picked; imagining what it must be like to be her.

When my parents separated the church became a divided place. Dad seemed to need his choir community and I guess Mom felt weird seeing him up there every week, so we stopped going.

Over the years I sampled other church experiences and even starred in some Christmas plays that didn’t involve singing. I was really into this Gospel church for some formative years as a teen, but eventually enough things rubbed me the wrong way and I took my leave.

It was years later as a newly married woman when I’d go back to the United Church. My Dad was going through a rough time with his second divorce and I suggested that we all go to the Christmas pageant together. We took our seats in the balcony and watched the familiar play unfold. I awaited the terrible singing voice from We Three Kings, but he wasn’t there. Apparently he’d passed a couple of years back. The corner balcony illuminated and I saw a girl with a gold halo step forward. She began a rocky start to O Holy Night. Her voice timid and cracking at first, red filling her cheeks with embarrassment. I wanted her to succeed so badly. She quickly gained confidence and hit and hovered on some beautiful notes. I was flooded with emotion. How satisfying it must be to open ones mouth and have the ability to make art that penetrates the soul.

It’s been one of my greatest wishes: to be able to sing well. I was once asked if I could have any super power what would I choose and I said without hesitation, the power to sing beautifully.

When I hear O Holy Night I think of that coveted angel position in the spotlight, how much I yearned for that experience. At home I sing along with that song, turned up so loud that I can’t hear my own voice and I imagine I’m her for a moment. It doesn’t make me sad the way it used to though. I’ve learned that we all have gifts and we can’t have all the gifts. I am grateful that beautiful voices exist that I can listen to, and grateful for my voice that can exist through writing.

May a song touch you this holiday season and take you on a ride. Merry Christmas

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