One of our family’s favorite Christmas traditions involves music. At one time or another, I’ve had seven children in choirs or bands.
We have also enjoyed Christmas music around the house, since October 31.
Christmas songs like “Joy to the World” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem” playing bring peace into the home. Christmas music seems to dispel tension.
Think for a moment about Bethlehem. Imagine the sounds at the manger scene.
Envision heavenly hosts singing praise at the Christ child’s birth. I’m sure some of us were singing in that choir.
Our family had an experience 27 years ago with Kelsey, who has special needs.
Kelsey was in middle school at the time. We were trying to include her in a variety of classes, outside the special-ed classroom. It was a new concept called inclusion.
Kelsey loved to sing. So we felt she could fit into a regular education music class. Therefore, we enrolled her in choir.
I checked with the choir director regularly to make sure Kelsey was participating and being appropriate.
He reassured me that Kelsey was fine. In fact, he reported Kelsey was preparing for the eighth grade Christmas concert.
I was anxious for Kelsey to sing in a choir concert. I was likewise concerned that she might wander away, leave the stage to use the bathroom, or sing a different song.
Regardless, I had to put those fears away because I wanted Kelsey to have the experience.
The day of the performance came. The siblings were a little apprehensive about Kelsey being in front of an audience.
She was different in conduct sometimes. She also walked with a large walker and was cognitively delayed.
We didn’t know what she’d do in front of a few hundred people.
We arrived a little late and when we walked through the gymnasium door, we immediately caught Kelsey’s attention.
Kelsey looked beautiful. She had a new dress, and her pretty long hair was styled in French curls. Kelsey looked stunning.
Kelsey was also so excited to see the family that she jumped up from her choir seat, grabbed her walker and raced toward us. The kids smiled as I redirected her back to the choir seats.
The band performed first. The choir was next. The students had made a cardboard sleigh, and one student was dressed as Santa.
The entire family was nervous. We knew Kelsey knew the songs because she sang them frequently at home. We just didn’t know what she’d do while the choir was singing.
We put our faith in Kelsey and allowed whatever to happen, happen.
All of a sudden, we heard the bells, the “ho-ho-ho” and the swish of the sleigh. The kids caroled as they entered the gym. Kelsey entered with the group, although she zigzagged with her walked. She smiled and sang her heart out.
Kelsey’s sweet off-key voice was heard above the din. She knew her songs and sang them as loudly and proudly as she could. Kelsey really held her own during the performance.
The choir’s final number was “Silent Night.” It was one of her favorites, and she knew it well.
“All is calm; all is bright, round yon Virgin, mother and child ... Sleep in heavenly peace.”
When the audience cheered, Kelsey beamed from ear to ear. I believe Kelsey thought the applause was for her alone.
And maybe it was. After all, I had never seen a chorus, with one little off-key angel performing as vibrantly as Kelsey did.
Well, it’s been a few Christmases since then, yet each time I hear “Silent Night,” I recall Kelsey’s grand performance.
I have no doubt that most of us alive today were part of the heavenly choir at Jesus’ birth. We had to be rejoicing in song.
Albeit, somewhere in those heavenly hosts, I’m sure there was a little angel singing joyfully named Kelsey.
Diane Mack is coordinator of Putting Families First, Jackson County's Family Week Foundation. Email her at Director@jacksoncountyfamilyweek.org.