The following Christmas story is an excerpt from my novel, Vision, the second book in the Awakening trilogy. It’s my Christmas present to my readers.
“Sing in the choir?” asked Liz. Since she had found her own apartment and joined the church in September, she had thought she was participating in just about every activity the church had to offer; she even had a part-time job helping in the office. “I haven’t done that since high school.”
“So, it’s high time you did it again,” Sean reasoned. Liz hadn’t seen him this excited since she had accepted his marriage proposal. “They’re doing Handel’s Messiah this Christmas! The whole thing – with a full orchestra! The new sanctuary will be ready by then, and they’re going to make Christmas Eve the first service there. It’s going to be awesome! And,” he added with a tone of profound veneration, “you’ll get to experience Charles Walker.“
Oh yeah, Liz thought, Mr. Walker. She had met him when she had first come to Faith Chapel and had seen him direct the choir almost every Sunday since. Sean’s parents had related the story of the Christmas Eve when ten-year-old Sean had announced, “When I grow up, I want to be Mr. Walker.” As a child, Sean had sometimes been seen in his bedroom playing music on his tape player and conducting an invisible company of singers and musicians. Although Sean’s aspirations had changed somewhat, Charles Walker was still, and probably always would be, a role model for him. Almost every adult in the church called him “Chuck,” but Sean, who was not yet feeling quite like an adult, and never feeling anywhere close to the man’s equal, continued to call him “Mr. Walker” with the utmost reverence. Liz, being relatively new to the church, did the same.
Charles Walker was not a large man, or in any way one who could be spotted easily in a crowd. His gray hair was thinning, and glasses obscured the brightness of his eyes. His dress and his movements were about what one would expect of a man in his early sixties. Someone Sean and Liz’s age might easily pass him by without a second glance.
But when he spoke, one was suddenly struck by the passion in his voice – a passion for his music, a passion for life and family, and above all, a passion for his God. This was a man who had an intimate knowledge of Christ that was obvious to anyone who knew him. It was a deep friendship that had been cultivated for decades, a relationship with both warm sweetness and fiery zeal to do His will. To watch Mr. Walker conduct the choir was like watching a master craftsman molding an exquisite instrument, whether they were singing a centuries-old hymn, or the most popular new worship song on the Christian charts. He did not merely direct the music; he brought it to life, embraced it, and offered it up to God as a sacrifice of love. From the first time she had heard the choir Liz had observed the affection and respect that every singer had for this man of God. It seemed the easiest thing in the world for him to direct them; it was as if every singer were an extension of the man himself.
Suddenly she felt the honor and privilege that was being offered to her, and she somehow knew that if she turned it down, she would end up regretting it.
“OK,” said Liz. “If you’re doing it, I will, too.”
* * * * * * * * * * *
Rehearsals were both interesting and satisfying. Mr. Walker made no allowances for newcomers but seemed to assume that they were experienced vocalists. This approach was both flattering and challenging. In writing about the experience in her journal, Liz could think of many words to describe rehearsals with Mr. Walker, but “boring” was never one of them. He always began with a few words to put their work into perspective; they were not practicing to worship God, they were worshiping Him, with every act, every repetition, every corrected mistake. He had instilled in every choir member, and soon had instilled in Liz, that every note one sings, even the off-key ones, could be an act of worship, if one’s heart belonged to Jesus. Moreover, every act or deed – changing a tire, washing a dish, cleaning a toilet – could be worship, if offered up to God. (Liz tried to remember this when she didn’t feel like doing her laundry.)
Although at the beginning there was much practice of separate parts, Mr. Walker made sure that every rehearsal contained at least one portion of the oratorio that was sung with the complete choir. The sound of the beautiful music coming together in its fullness was inspiring and left each choir member excited and looking forward to meeting again.
Liz particularly loved “For Unto Us a Child Is Born,” one she had heard sung in her church in St, Louis. It always brought back the feelings of Christmas past, and whenever she sang the words, “And His Name shall be called Wonderful Counselor…” her heart glowed with the warmth of a wonderful secret, known only to a select few: that she had first met Christ through a dream, where He was her Advisor, Confidant, and Best Friend. To hear a full choir sing such apt praises to the One she knew so intimately brought her chills and made her feel somehow connected across the centuries to the composer himself.
George Friedrich Handel. Charles Walker. What a privilege to sing in the company of such giants in the faith!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The call came at 1:15 A.M. Awakened from a deep sleep, Liz fumbled for the phone, knocking the radio onto the floor. She immediately recognized Sean’s voice and was wide awake at once when she heard what he had to say.
“Pray for Mr. Walker, Liz. There’s been an accident.”
(to be continued…)