Like most church musician types, I have always had a love/hate relationship with the Christmas season…
- The music
- The excitement
- The adrenaline
- The receptiveness of the human heart
- The limitations of 12 songs we sing because everyone happens to know them and they’re so “Christmasy!”
- The complete abandonment of family for weeks
- The messy desk when the short days off following Christmas end in reality!
All that said, I wouldn’t give up the hundreds of Christmas services I’ve had the good fortune to be part of in my lengthy (but not over) career! It is the greatest joy I have ever experienced in my “performing” life.
When I was a student at USC back in the day I had the pleasure of singing at Disneyland as part of the Dickens Christmas Carolers with people like Dale Warland and other “old” grad types. Every year we spent two weeks singing to people who could hardly wait for us to begin and were saddened when we were finished. It’s an almost ideal performing situation!
Christmas in the church is similar, though not as freeform. People, though, still want much the same thing—we walk into the room and they say, “Make me feel good.” If that sounds cynical and disrespectful of our mission, let it go. It’s the truth. It’s also a truth I can live with after all these years.
My adult choir used to sing 7 identical Christmas Eve services over a two day period in which they were on their feet “blessing” the house with gorgeous music for more than 40 minutes out of each hour. We ate gobs of wonderful food between each service and laughed and enjoyed each other like no other time of the year.
I used to say to them that, “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else tonight!” My hope was that they shared a certain delight with me despite the fact that their families were at home most of that time awaiting their return. Their sacrifice was immense and I will always love them for joining me in this noble gift to others.
Their loyalty taught me some rich leadership lessons I will briefly share with you.
- When what you’re asking for seems like it’s way too much to expect…ask anyway, because people love to do the extraordinary. In fact, they would much rather do that than the ordinary!
- Work on the details because the details count. They give meaning to what otherwise might be mundane and haphazard. Do the excellent thing!
- Invest in people, not projects. If folks understand that they’re your first priority, they’ll do anything in their power to help you get the job done.
- Believe in your call to do God’s work and don’t apologize for being exacting in what you ask for and expect. People need someone to admire and root for, and if you’re that heroic person, they’ll move heaven and earth to make sure your vision is realized.
- Be grateful for every day you get to serve people. Nothing in life even begins to match the joy of helping to build a community of people who care for each other.
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