What a Wonderful Weekend

At the beginning of the holiday season Michael and I asked the kids what activities they wanted to do for Christmas.  Ice skating was on the list, presents,  making “cookies with sprinkles”, presents….

Michael and I agreed that ice skating was on the top of our list too and I added that I wanted to attend a Handel’s Messiah sing-in or concert.

Over the past two years I have noticed that Noah is fascinated by nutcrackers.  He always stops to look at them on display. 

 This year my friend invited us to see her daughter perform in Atlanta Festival Ballet’s “Nutcracker”.  A grand plan occurred to me at Michael’s Craft Store on Black Friday when I was standing in front of a display of nutcrackers.  I would keep the invitation a secret.  I would wrap up two nutcrackers and leave them as gifts on the kitchen table the morning of the show.  When the kids found them I would tell them where we were going that day. 

I don’t consider myself the best gift giver in the world.  This is my husband’s arena.  He is much more talented at getting “just the right thing”.  I usually do a lot of returning before I finally settle on what I want to give someone. 

Michael also has developed the art of the “Surprise Ride”.  This is when the family gets in the car and the children have no idea where we are going to end up, hence, the surprise in “Surprise Ride”.  The experience may be something the kids have done before but don’t get to do very often.  And sometimes it leads us to a new activity altogether. 

I was so excited to be the one to come up with a “surprise” idea and was admittedly patting myself on the back for successfully observing my child’s “likes”. 

The kids were surprised and excited.  Noah unwrapped a traditional nutcracker and Abby opened a mouse nutcracker.  (It was my own personal joke that I gave them the two characters that have a fight scene in the ballet.  It was only too appropriate for a brother and sister.)

Abby brought her “quacker” with her to the show. As anticipated, the kids were transfixed on the scene where the Nutcracker becomes real and fights the mouse soldier.  A cannon was brought out and a mice army flooded the aisles.  The look on Abby’s face was priceless!

I was so happy that we were able to see the Nutcracker ballet.  I grew up watching it year after year on  PBS when Baryshnikov was the star.  I hope we will have a new tradition in which we see the ballet live each Christmas- and perhaps add to our nutcracker collection!

On Sunday I had my Christmas wishes fulfilled. 

Originally, I was supposed to attend a Messiah sing-in on December 5th.  I was very excited to find out that Michael would have the day off and be able to join me.  However, that miserable cold got in the way.  I couldn’t ask him to drive into Atlanta and be out until late into the night.  He was too ill.  We did have a lovely evening eating Thai and seeing a movie that weekend.

But I still really wanted to hear Handel’s “Messiah” live. 

Michael tracked down a presentation at the  Morningside Presbyterian Church in the Virginia Highlands area of metro Atlanta.  We are challenged to get our act together to get to our church on a normal Sunday morning (what is it about Sunday’s?) which is only 15 minutes away.  Getting to a church downtown was a feat for us but so completely worth it.  

Morningside’s sanctuary is stunning in its uncomplicated decor, soaring ceiling, and natural light pouring from large windows flanking the long room.  I suppose it didn’t hurt that snowflakes were falling all around the leafless trees outside, making it especially dreamlike.  (Perhaps they should have added a rendition of “In the Bleak Midwinter”, another beautiful song not heard enough at Christmas time. ) 

The choir was medium in size but large in talent.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if the soloists were professional singers.  When the soprano soloist began singing, ‘There were shepherds abiding in the field” it seemed effortless and just poured like crystal clear water from her mouth.  (I don’t know how else to describe it.)  And she sang like she believed it.

There are many people who have sung excerpts from the “Messiah” through the ages.  The most powerful performances in my opinion are the ones in which the singer believes the words.  I believe that the intent of the commposer was to draw the listeners into communion with the Messiah himself.

I was reminded in the church’s handout that Handel completed the “Messiah” in only 24 days of obsessive concentration in the year 1741.  I would love to read more about it.  My guess is that he was anointed by God in those days and there was no way he could not write it.  I imagine the struggle as he could hear the notes and words in his mind as he poured over the biblical text.  I wonder at how his heart must have soared as he read the words of Isaiah 40:5, “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”  Did the mouth of the Lord personally speak those words to Handel as he was holed up in a room somewhere pouring out the music in his heart?  I suspect the answer is “yes” and that is why people have been drawn to performances of the “Messiah” ever since.

Needless to say, it was an awesome experience and one I was glad to be able to share with my family.   As I listened to the words of Matthew 11:30 being sung toward the end,”His yoke is easy, and His burden is light”, I felt my burdens being lifted up and my heart being centered back on Jesus Christ. 

I am so glad for the experiences we shared as a family this weekend.  I hope you too will experience moments this season when the message of Christmas pierces your heart: Jesus, our Emmanuel, is truly “God with us”.

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