Updated on December 7, 2017
The music of Hope – First in our Advent Series
A missing tuxedo shirt, black pants that suddenly seem to have shrunk, and a cello banging around in the back of my van with the basketballs can only mean one thing. It is concert season! Holidays here we come …
And having sung my way through years of my life squeezed in on concert risers in taffeta and heels or choir robes, I have a fierce love for concert season.Yet as this first week of Advent blows in cold here with its candle of hope lit to the sounds of the first carols of the year, I find that hope in short supply by the middle of the week.
All three boys are playing basketball this season as well; add two cello concerts, a few extra choir rehearsals, two Christmas concerts and you have a recipe for crazy.
So when I am screeching into the high school parking lot on two wheels, a whiny little guy still covered in backyard football mud trailing behind me, hope isn’t exactly what I am expecting to find.
Our old high school is being torn down this year. They’ve built us a shiny new one full of classrooms, but no new auditorium yet. So we must trudge through the remnants of that old building as we make our way to the concert. It is dark and foggy and we can hardly see to walk towards a door that looks like it might lead to nowhere.
The little one is crying. He’s hungry and dirty and wants to be a million other places. But his brother is playing the cello with the high school orchestra. So, I am nearly pulling him through the busted and bent doors. The walls of the entrance to the auditorium are framed in with just wooden studs, everything seems to be broken or in the wrong place.
The kids on the stage are oblivious to their surroundings, though. They are climbing around in their tuxes and hiking up the hems of their long black dresses. They bang and clang adjusting instruments and tuning. Then the air is full of the sounds of violins, cellos, violas, and basses croaking out their A’s.
Finally, the conductor takes the stage. He bounds up the stairs and declares to the audience that the music will be beautiful tonight but we probably don’t want to try and use the facilities in this building. Over the laughter, he continues by telling us that he wrote some of the music for tonight’s performance while climbing mountains in Vermont.
So he hopes we enjoy it. He hopes they play it well.
And I pull a granola bar from my purse and hope that it will carry my squirmy kid through the whole performance.
We seem to all be covering the place with hope as the first notes of the song ring out.
And I watch him, this mountain climbing conductor, baton in hand, and the kids watch him too. He stands on his tiptoes and seems to become part of the music as he leads them. He leans towards his people as he pulls the sound out of them.
And for a few moments, we forget where we are. We forget that the walls were crumbling down around us, that nothing works right in this building, that dinner hasn’t been cooked, that those are a bunch of high school kids making this beautiful music.
We forget it all. We just watch the conductor and we listen.
And I remember why I love concert season so much. It reminds me what hope looks like. Like those kids with their eyes alternating between the music in front of them and the conductor before them.
“You have to trust me. You have to watch me. You know those notes. Look up and just follow me.” These words, spoken so often by one of my favorite conductors run right through my head.
Because I know that the music doesn’t just happen. It is work and it is practice and it is hard. And the musicians can do the work and learn all the notes, but the beauty? The music? It only happens when they learn to trust in the conductor; when they listen and follow and lean in. Then, and only then can they make music together.
I watch those kids as the music comes right out of them. And it feels a bit like they are one, the orchestra and it’s conductor.
“But now Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you” (Psalm 39:7).
This is what concert season teaches me over and over again. My hope will follow my eyes. And if my eyes are on the one true Conductor of this life? Well, that’s when the music happens.
The song ends before we all want it to, and this place full of stressed-out parents and squirmy littles with its busted walls and crumbling floors is bursting with beauty, music, and hope.
And after the very last note rings out, the conductor jumps and lands on the podium with a fist pump and a resounding, ‘YES!’
He loves it. His people played his music and it was good, very good.
So as we make our way through this season of Advent, may we lean in and trust, may we keep our eyes up and sing our songs loud and clear as we put our hope in the Lord.
And may our music be a beautiful reminder of how much our Conductor loves his people.