|Blake, Elizabeth and J.D. Christmas Eve|
"Welcome to our annual Christmas Eve service," Pastor Mike greeted the quiet congregation. "Tonight we'll share communion a little differently, as families. Please come to the altar and take the moments to remind your family of Jesus giving His life for us. Pray, sing, read Scripture, do whatever you choose to worship together. Then take a candle, light it and begin to line the walls of the sanctuary until all have been served."
It was truly a holy night as one by one the families came to the communion table and reverently took the bread and wine. The darkened room began to glow as each moved to the back walls.
|Earlier in the service Doug led us in Silent Night. It was not to be.|
Our family's turn came. Doug spoke, "John, Kimberly, it's so good having your family here to share this time with Mom and me. . ." As John held baby Elizabeth he took the sacraments then closed our time in prayer.
Then he whispered, "I'm going to slip out with Elizabeth. She's getting restless." So we took our lit candles and joined the congregation as John went out.
|John is a hands-on dad. Benjamin came later.|
|John reads to Blake.|
Earlier in the service he'd done a powerful monologue, Trouble at the Inn. His dramatic portrayal was an emotional reminder of the grace we've received.
I took my place against the wall as other families made their way to the altar. Their quiet sharing was not heard but we felt the intimacy before God. Then a man's voice broke through the silence singing.
O holy night, the stars are brightly shining
I looked at Doug beside me and without a word asked with my eyes who that was singing. He shrugged.
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth
We both squinted to see the family up front. Non-singers. No lips were moving. So I asked Doug, "Is anyone in the sound room? Is it a track?" He shook his head no to both questions. We tried to look as holy as our dripping candles.
The voice was familiar but no one in our church sang like that. It was definitely coming through the speakers and crescendoed with each phrase.
Fall on your knees
O hear the angel voices
O night divine,
O night when Christ was born. . .
The voice singing acapella literally bounced off the walls. The reverb defied all the padded pews and carpet around us. It had that rich singing-in-the-shower sound we all hear when we're alone! Suddenly as the high notes came the voice changed keys, dropping a few steps.
O night divi-ine
O night, O night divine.
Suddenly I recognized that key-shifitng voice and mouthed it to Doug. "John!" Our son-in-law has a rich voice but when it gets too high, he has a habit of dropping to a more comfortable range, even mid-song! Doug's eyes panicked, driving out any semblance of reverence.
"Where did John go with the baby?" he asked me. We both suddenly realized that John had left his lapel mike on and was off somewhere singing to Elizabeth. And the whole church. But he didn't know that last part. In his mind this was just a fatherly lullaby. He began verse two as Doug blew out his candles and rushed out into the not so holy night in search of the baby and John.
Surely He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
By now I was trying not to laugh out loud. I whispered to our pastor's son what was happening. "This will make a good memory. One day." He joined me in trying not to laugh. It's always harder in groups. Families continued to take communion and line the church with candles. John soared on the second chorus, dropping to yet a third key. He was getting very comfortable now. I was not.
Fall on your knees,
O hear the angels' voices. . .
Just as John reached the last high phrase, Doug reached him. . .in the church gym. Like a third base coach Doug silently signaled and John frantically cut off his microphone. Sans the last phrase. The congregation looked mildly confused as to why the music suddenly stopped. I breathed again, thankful John never slipped into 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. We sing strange songs to soothe restless children!
Did I mention that John teaches college? Oh, and my son-in-law almost has a doctorate. He's ABD (all but dissertation.) Did I tell you he teaches speech and drama and that remembering to turn off microphones after performance is second nature to him? Well it is now.
Have a not so silent night! They're so much fun!
|The Grainger family today at home in Minnesota.|
|Elizabeth in later years and quieter moments.|