Thursday, December 27, 2012

Blessings - Abigail in Mayaguez


The Remnant of CHRISTmas--by Abigail

For many people, the beginning of December brings on a frenzy of Christmas decorating, with its pros and cons of oddly-colored tinsel paper being tracked around the house and the sharp, nostalgic smell of pine permeating the house.  In children, it brings a rapidly growing anticipation of the Christmas presents.  For all the procrastinators out there, December means long lines to buy the same things you should have bought a month ago, but didn’t.  It means breaking-out your Christmas music, with Joy to the World and Silent Night ricocheting off the walls.  And of course, the kids keep everyone reminded about the number of days until they get out of school to drive all the adults nuts for a couple days.
However, for music students like us Matthew kids, the beginning of December is the eve of a long-anticipated event which we’ve been preparing for in the last semester:  the annual Christmas concerts performed by our own local music school.   We have practiced Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer well over fifteen gazillion times already.  As usual, the music teachers endlessly remind us of the dress code for the concert: black closed shoes, long black dresses, and black tuxedos, hoping all this repetition will somehow discourage the rebels from distinguishing themselves in the most unconventional ways; these attempts usually prove futile.   Within all the usual protocol, in a Christmas-like fashion, we all find precious surprises in the midst.

I sat in a rehearsal, half listening and half fiddling with my mangled oboe reed as my director when over all the last details for the concert yet again.  It was our last rehearsal before the concert, after all.  I turned my full attention back to the director in time to see another teacher walk up and tap him lightly, but rather urgently, on the shoulder.  They spoke quietly for a moment, and then the teacher stepped forward to address the class.  “Young people-,” he said quietly in Spanish.  The usually cantankerous percussion teacher was clearly choked-up.  He continued.  “I just received a call about one of my students, Paola, the one who played here in this band,” he said, gesturing toward the percussion section.  “I’ve been told that she’s in the intensive care unit at the hospital.  She had an accident while on her skateboard, and I’m told it’s quite serious- life or death…”  The room of eighty kids was in somber silence.  The teacher looked around the room.  “I know that not all of you pray, but I am asking you to please do this yourselves for Paola-” 

The director standing the side gently interrupted. “No, let’s just pray right now.”  Not another word of instruction was said, but in one accord, all eighty of us stood to our feet and bowed our heads.  The director began to pray.  I was taken aback by the prayer; it wasn’t any of that politically correct nonsense or interfaith prayers to Mohammed, Buddha, and Jesus.  He made it quite clear Who we were praying to.  “Lord Jesus, we pray for our classmate Paola…”  I do not remember all the words, but it was full of Jesus’ name, unashamedly spoken in a secular school, by a man clearly comfortable with conversing with his Savior in the beautiful language of Spanish.  
Another subtly of his prayer was how he referred to God.  He spoke directly to Him, often using the pronoun “You.”  In Spanish, there are two “you’s”: one is usted, which is used in a formal setting and indicative of staunch respect; the other is , which is used with someone you know personally and are comfortable with.  The director boldly called on his God using , as if declaring to all that “this is my God and friend”, and taking hold of our right to come boldly before Yahweh’s throne.

This prayer went on for several minutes, and I stood with my head bowed, taking in the words in awe at the preciousness of this moment.  I knew, there and then, that this was one of the few times I would ever hear a prayer like this uttered in a secular institution, and received by such a respectful crowd.  There was no mocking or whispering.  Instead I heard the boy next to me whisper “amen” during the prayer.  At the end, everyone said amen in unison as the director sealed the prayer “in Jesus’ name.” 

As I rode home and shared this treasure with my mom, both pairs of eyes filled with tears.  We are forever being surprised by the prayers before concerts, and public nativity scenes and Biblically themed lights here.   We are reminded that Jesus is still here in the public square, despite our anti-Christian, and anti-CHRISTmas world.  This prayer was just another precious reminder.  Yet we know that this remnant of a “Christian culture” is quickly eroding…

Perhaps these moments are the true gifts of Christmas.

Abigail and her piano teacher, Mr. Edner