My first experience with Christmas caroling came when I was in high school, and consisted of walking around a trailer park in northern Indiana.
I didn’t love it. I went because my fellow choir buddies asked me to go. It was something to do.
The act of caroling – well, to be honest, it felt awkward. Awkward for the singers, and (I imagined) awkward for these being sung to. Who would want strange people to arrive, uninvited, and sing on their porch?! The whole deal made me feel super conspicuous and uncomfortable.
I didn’t know where to look as we sang, so I stared at the songbook in front of me. Even though I knew the words to the carols by heart.
Twenty years later, not much has changed. I still don’t love caroling.
Our church gathered to do some caroling this evening. And just like that night twenty years ago, I went only because someone asked me to.
The first few stops were to a nursing home and assisted living facility. We sang a few carols to groups of residents gathered, and wished them a merry Christmas as we whisked out the door.
But the third stop we made was the one that made me come undone. We stopped to carol for a dear sweet older woman whose husband recently passed way. As we started singing, another group of carolers from another community church showed up, and we all sang together in a huge group and it BROKE ME.
As we stood there in fading daylight, surrounding a dear heart, I had to stop singing because I got all choked up. I couldn’t even sing. So I stared at the sky and thought about the scene that was enfolding me.
You guys. God’s turning me into this sappy, sloppy crying mess lately, so it does NOT take much to make me cry. But crying while caroling?! What in the world?
I don’t know – the singing got to me. I didn’t know fully why until I read this tonight in “Hallelujah Anyway,”” by my soul sister Anne Lamott:
Singing is breath that is larger than yourself, so it joins you with space, with community, with other realms and our deepest inside places. You are joining your strand to everyone else’s weaving something with the whole, and this extends the community outward with a force bigger than itself.”
We weren’t just singing carols to her. Our songs were telling her that she wasn’t alone. I just felt nothing but love radiating from our singing voices to the lonely woman in front of us.
Gah. CUE THE TEARS.
A friend reminded me of this scripture and it’s a gorgeous reminder of the comfort and peace we can find in Him:
“I am contending for you that your hearts will be wrapped in the comfort of heaven and woven together into love’s fabric. This will give you access to all the riches of God as you experience the revelation of God’s great mystery—Christ.”
Colossians 2:2 TPT
So if I’m being honest, I still don’t love caroling. I’m too much of an introvert to ever love standing on a stranger’s porch. But I may have started to LIKE it a little tonight. Because I got a glimpse into it being about something bigger than me and my awkwardness. It’s community wrapping its arms around the hurting. Bringing joy. Comfort. Hope. Surrounding the lonely. Remembering that we’re all in this together.
We need more of that.
After we finished caroling, I just felt PEACE. A peace that only comes after God touches my heart and turns it back toward Him. That gentle reminder that life isn’t about me, that I need to lift my eyes UP, and then look out to those around me.
Is God pressing on your heart to do something for someone, even if it feels awkward or uncomfortable?
Maybe you’ll feel led to go caroling. But bring along tissues for sure. Just in case. 😉