For those of you who plan to attend the last of the carol services over the weekend, here are some top tips on getting through them.
1. Beware of the high notes.
Some Christmas carols are renowned for their impossibly high notes – so high in fact they can a) only be heard by members of the animal kingdom b) are the reserve of real sopranos. There are only three options when faced with this: stop singing, go for the lower harmony or just attack that high note – sing it with confidence (even if you have to screech to get there). The choice is yours.
2. Don’t try and join in with unfamiliar songs unless you definitely know where it’s going.
Don’t be that loud, enthusiastic, direction-less singer who has no clue where the song is going next while distracting everyone who does in the process. Either pretend you ‘know the song’ and sing quietly, mouthing the lyrics a second behind those who do or keep quiet.
3. Expect the unexpected.
This could be a deeply profound experience with the holy spirit or it could be something less dramatic like the worship team ‘blessing’ you with a ‘remix’ of a classic carol (think Away In a Manger techno style). Sometimes these work, sometimes they don’t – either way they can breathe new life into ‘tired’ songs enabling you to re-engage in a fresh way.
4. Expect the expected.
Let’s be honest, sometimes we can become so familiar with the nativity story that we may not really engage with it – whether it is the traditional Bible readings approach or a modern interpretation. But I would encourage you that whatever the version, just listen. God can and does bring revelation each time.
5. Keep quiet and read.
This sounds odd and perhaps not advisable to do throughout but in the instances when I didn’t ‘know’ the songs, I have been ‘forced’ to engage with the lyrics in a different way; to read them, word by word, line by line, drinking in the magnificence of Jesus Christ’s birth. In keeping my mouth shut God could speak to me in my silence. This is sometimes a good thing to do even when you do know the songs, so rather than go into auto-pilot mode, keep quiet and read or listen to others sing these glorious truths.
6. Be brave.
Invite your ‘unsaved’ family and friends along a) as long as they like singing b) they are not bah humbugging and more likely to kill your festive cheer. It is a great way to evangelise in a non-threatening way and one of the few times non-church attending friends are most inclined to come. But please, just avoid the urge to be all weird and obvious about ‘saving’ them, i.e. don’t pounce on them immediately post carol service eagerly handing them a tract extracted from the depths of your handbag for them to ‘read on the way home’. Unless of course the Lord is telling you to do otherwise.
7. Remember it’s all about Jesus at the end of the day.
Have you ever experienced that minor feeling of disappointment when none of your favourite carols have been sung? Or worse still, you barely know any of the carols but everybody else seems to and you feel like a ‘counterfeit’ Christian? When I have these experiences, it gently reminds me of the whole purpose of my being there; that is to worship Christ the Lord. It’s not about me!