My family sings.
Ever since I can remember, I've had reason to associate members of the Nalle clan with music and singing. Of course, my Uncle Ed and Dad have been professional musicians with Glad for most of their lives. My mom was also living off of her music before she married. Aunt Sam and her husband Bob are professional pianists and teachers. And then there's my Uncle Rob, an architect and builder by trade, but the man has perfect pitch and a beautiful way with a guitar. (I still remember the first time I met my high school choir teacher. "You're Cara Nalle?" she almost screeched, as if I had said my name was Luciano Pavarotti. She had taught Rob some years before and was apparently expecting me to match his gifting. Unfortunately, I was a disappointment to her. Didn't have perfect pitch, took more drama classes than choir and, worst of all, never learned to sight read--much to my shame and chagrin. Oh, well. My sister Jacque more than made up for my inadequacies.)
But that's enough background info. The point of all this is: my family sings. Wonderfully. And before I close out my Christmas Past series, I must share with you about my very favorite Nalle family Christmas tradition.
We sing Christmas carols together. All of us--from great-grandparents to two-year olds. Crammed into Grandpop and Gran's toasty family room, we follow Uncle Ed as he strums his guitar and calls out verses: "He rules the world." "Christ by highest heav'n adored." "And let us now with one accord." "Shepherds why this jubilee."
Sometimes I stare down at my song sheet and just listen to the voices rise and fall together. If I close my eyes, I can distinguish between them, discern who is picking out a harmony and who is helping to carry the melody. And when I open my eyes and look around the room I see the dear faces. Aunt Heidi, eyes closed, face lifted, smiling as she sings. Uncle Don, lips barely moving because he would rather hear the others than himself. Spencer, Mason and Ben, my teenage cousins, gazing seriously at their song sheets but singing clearly. Elijah, the youngest of the cousins, frowning in concentration as he sings from his mom's lap. Mom, radiant, beaming on everyone as she looks around the room. Gran, singing quietly and enjoying the music her family makes. And this year, Meg, at rapt attention, looking wonderingly about the room as all of these people sing the story of Jesus' birth.
This Christmas, after we exhausted our repertoire of Christmas hymns, there was a special treat. After much cajoling, Uncle Rob, Dad and Uncle Ed agreed to sing "In The First Light" for the rest of us. (Rob and Dad had both sung this at their respective churches' Christmas Eve services, and Ed has sung it about a zillion times in concert, so although they hadn't rehearsed together, they still sounded beautiful.) I closed my eyes and listened, trying not to sniffle as the tears rolled down my face.
I love the heritage of music that I have from my family. But even more than that, I love the heritage of faith. I love seeing God's promise in progress: " I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God... showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments." (Deuteronomy 20:5-6) Of course, not everyone in the family has trusted in Jesus Christ--not yet. But I trust that God is still at work, still in the business of promise-keeping. And who knows? Perhaps He is even using our annual singing time to further His work in the hearts of those who have yet to believe.