Christmas Songbook Day 2: “O Holy Night”

When I was either a junior or senior in high school (at a very small Christian school, fewer than 100 in the whole HS), we had a Christmas assembly in the gym for our normal Wednesday chapel. There was a program of special music and readings by the teachers, the choir, and the kids in the music class.

At one point, I felt…compelled–I don’t know how else to describe it–to get up and approach the microphone. If you had asked me at the time, I would have told you the Holy Spirit prompted me to do it. (Obviously, this was before I became reformed and would shudder at sounding anything like a charismatic.) But I walked up to the microphone in between performances, and started to sing.

I sang “O Holy Night” acapella. In front of my class, teachers, administrators, everyone. And believe it or not, I actually did okay. I mean, I’m no Groban, but I made it through the first verse, chorus, and repeated refrain successfully with no forgotten words or voice cracks. I even went for and miraculously hit the high note on the last chorus.

As soon as I finished, I quick-walked back to my seat on the bleachers, eyes on the floor, as I felt the flush of embarrassment start to creep up my cheeks and ears. A buddy sitting next to me leaned over and whispered, “I can’t believe you just did that. …Why did you do that?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“I was worried you were going to miss that last note, but you hit it, man. Nice!”

“Thanks.”

To this day, I had no idea why I did that. It wasn’t ego, I don’t think. It wasn’t a desire to be up-front or on-stage; that was probably the year or two of my life when I had the most opportunity for being in the spotlight (like I said, really small school). If pressed, I would have told you at the moment that I just felt like it needed to be done, by me, right then.

Looking back? I think it was simply my small act of worship. Like the little drummer boy, I had one gift to bring, and I decided that was my moment to bring it.

====

This is still one of my favorite versions of the song, and really because of the context. This was from the emotional “Christmas episode” of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, a failed Aaron Sorkin dramedy series that I really quite liked, which lasted only 1 season in 2006. So, all of the character stuff will probably not mean much to you without that background. Nevertheless, the instrumental version of the song, played by a group of musicians from New Orleans, just a little over a year after surviving Katrina? Gorgeous, no context needed.

“…you should go ahead and chew that sandwich.”

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