When one teaches K-8 general music part-time at a small Christian school, one finds herself teaching Christmas songs in September in order to have the little darlings ready for the Christmas program come December! After all, I only have my students once a week for 45 minutes! That means 15 weeks from the beginning of the school year until the program (allowing for days off like Thanksgiving weekend!). This year, I took on a rather ambitious project that will involve some "outside of school" rehearsal time as well. Several years ago, the students at this particular school performed a musical called "Miracle on Main Street" written by Celeste Clydesdale. Since the budget is tight and it's been long enough that the former cast has moved on to high school or college, I decided to pull it back out and do it again this year.
It's everything you would expect from a Christmas musical for kids - fun songs in varying styles, fairly simple dialogue, an obvious plot line. Don't get me wrong - you can't write musically challenging shows with complicated plots if you want children to perform in them. It would just frustrate them! I only state that it was everything I expected to find in a Children's Christmas musical. But I have found some profound, challenging thoughts and statements in the lyrics. I only hope I can get at least some of what I've learned across to my students.
The first moment came when I was going over a song entitled "Glitz and Tinsel" in preparation for teaching it to my students. The song is talking about those who seem to be in the Christmas spirit on the outside - lots of festive decorations, cute Christmas sweaters and ties, lots of parties, etc. - but completely miss the fact that Christmas is the celebration of Christ's birth. The lyrics are a bit challenging. (The toughest ones are boldfaced.)
If it's only glitz and tinsel it's a meaningless display.
It's like a present with no gift inside.
It's like a Christmas card no one cared to sign.
I'm sure I've done it from time to time;
I've polished up the surface and not what's deep inside.
Ouch! As an adult and a teacher, it's tough for me to admit that I've been that shallow. But if I have an hope of impacting my students - or my own children! - I have to be carefully honest about my own struggles to grow spiritually. I'm not saying I should hand out all the gory details of every time I've ever given in to temptation. But I can at least be honest enough with my students to admit that there are times I get hung up on the trappings of Christmas and forget to take care of "what's deep inside". Maybe then we can work together to keep our focus where it needs to be this year - on the baby in a manger, born in the shadow of a cross.