Christmas hearts change worldly faces

I had the privilege of lending a tiny hand in my church’s Christmas musical last weekend. It was an elaborate affair held at the City Auditorium, with splendid decorations, assigned seating, delectable food, and a performance that’s as close to professional grade as you can possibly get. The whole shebang is put on by parishioners, and its message cuts you to the quick — beyond the commercial glitz and media hype, Christmas is about something both tiny and unfathomably large.

Since I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, I served as ticket hostess for the grand affair. It’s a job that gives you a chance to meet people exactly where they are at a particular moment in time.

“Good evening, folks!” I chirped in my Sunday-best voice. “We’re so glad to have you join us this evening! I can take your ticket if you’re ready to be seated.”

I stood up straight in my holiday velvet, smiled big, and looked into the faces of those who approached my stand. It was fascinating and stressful, joyous and serene — an opportunity to connect with people for the briefest of moments, and learn something remarkable about the human heart.

I took tickets from hundreds of people, and each of their faces had a story to tell. A club of Red Hat Society ladies came with their heads crowned with broad-brimmed finery. Purple feathers fluttered in the breeze, and they giggled like they’d just heard the world’s best joke.
There were beautiful young couples who never broke a smile as they handed me their tickets, and grumbling old guys who complained about the cold. I saw remarkable displays of patience and fidgeting, of taking charge and going with the flow.

“How am I supposed to walk through all these people,” an older man said. “I have a bum leg, you know!” I held my breath as he ambled toward his table, half expecting a crash and a string of saucy language.

I’m not sure we realize how transparent we are — that which is in our hearts typically spills across our faces. Each person I saw represented a distinct and separate story. Some tables were filled with tight-knit families and friends, and others hosted an uncomfortable mix of complete and total strangers. Hands betrayed a variety of stations — office jobs and backbreaking labor, vigorous health and nagging illness.

The whole room hushed when the food was gone and the lights dimmed. Chairs scraped on the concrete floor as people jockeyed for a better view of the stage. The play unfolded, and I saw shoulders relax, content to be full and warm, and ready for entertainment on a cold December night. I imagined a fog of troubles lift and blow away, if only for an hour or two.

We were a motley crowd, all right, and each of us met the Christmas message from a different point of view. Receptive hearts filled with joy until they overflowed. Skeptics counted the minutes until they could go home and watch a ballgame.

The faces leaving the City Auditorium last weekend were largely different than the ones that arrived. They seemed more cheerful and at peace; ready to receive Christmas from exactly where they stood. Perhaps it was the reminder that the season is so much more than we often allow it to be. It’s about a tiny perfect baby, born into abject poverty, who came to save an imperfect world. And what’s not to love about that?

Tamera Schlueter

Tam Schlueter adopts a "strike-fast-and-keep-them-laughing" approach to writing. Her column appears every Thursday in the Hastings Tribune, and showcases the wonder of family, dogs, muscle cars, and folks with blue collars and no-nonsense attitudes.

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