I shall never forget it. I can still experience the tingling excitement when I remember that great event today.
I was in the fourth grade, and we were preparing for a field trip. For me, the preparation seemed to last a lifetime, but finally, the day arrived. Our teacher, Mrs. Orange, said it was time to line up to get on the bus for the field trip I had anticipated for some time. We went outside and passed through the gate of James D. Burress Elementary School. We boarded that big old school bus and headed to our destination.
We were so excited, and the bus was abuzz with laughter and nervous energy. After what seemed to be a long ride, we arrived at Jones Hall, our destination point. It was a very impressive building. In fact, it was a brand spanking new building. We all lined up and walked into that massive, beautiful place. It was hard for us to contain our exhilaration. We walked up the stairs to the balcony and sat down.
There were people milling around on the stage in this big, new concert hall in Houston, Texas. I sat with my friends, and we listened as various members of the orchestra checked their musical instruments to be sure they were tuned properly. It all sounded like a bunch of noise to me.
Then the most amazing thing happened. I watched as a man walked on the stage, tapped a stick on the stand in front of him, and held up his arms. The noise stopped instantly. The silence was full of suspense. All the kids from all the elementary schools around Houston got quiet. We wondered what would come next.
After this eternity of pause, the conductor began to move his hands and arms. Oh, how our excitement surged when we heard the music we had heard so many times before. It was the same music that played at the beginning of the TV show, “The Lone Ranger.” We all burst forth with applause and giggles and broad, toothy grins, because we knew that music by heart! All the weeks of anticipation for this field event culminated with great joy for a nine-year-old boy, and I knew the lengthy preparation had been worthwhile.
Tonight as I write this column, it’s only a day or two after Sunday, Nov. 30, when we celebrated the beginning of the Season of Advent. For the next three Sundays, we will prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Redeemer, and Lord: Jesus. Church folks have for many years anxiously prepared to celebrate the birth of Mary’s little boy child. The children’s and youth ministry workers are preparing for the annual Christmas programs. The music directors are preparing for the annual Christmas cantatas and Christmas Eve services. Pastors are working on their annual Christmas sermons, searching for fresh ways to present the wonderful story of God’s love that came down to us in swaddling clothes. I can hear the Christmas music and the laughter of kids. I feel the nervousness of children and youth workers and, yes, even the anxiety of the music directors, who hope their choirs can sing their very best.
But when the pause of Advent is over, and when the Christmas speeches and dramas begin, and when the choirs sing and the voices of convicted preachers are heard, we will all know the preparation was worthwhile – especially when one more heart responds with a confession of faith. It will all be worthwhile when someone’s faith is renewed. It will all be worthwhile to hear the angels sing “peace on earth, goodwill to all.”
It is during this season that I get to gaze into the eyes of children on a field trip called Church. It is there I experience the conductor leading us in a familiar musical piece reminiscent of God’s love for all humanity. The music may be old, yet we hear it in fresh, new ways.
After my fourth grade field trip, I later learned that the “Lone Ranger music” is actually Gioacchino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture.” The music always signals to me that “something is coming.” I pray for you that when you hear the music of Advent, you will know that not something, but someone, is on the way.