Sometimes church isn't what I expect. The Christmas program is always one of my favorites because it's the one time of the year when we get to sing and sing and sing those beautiful Christmas hymns. Oh, how I wish we could sing them all year long! This year's program wasn't quite what I expected. We have a new choir director who has had to work against overwhelming odds to pull together even one song for Christmas. We sang Joy to the World. But that was it. The Primary sang. And there was one other special musical number. And a handful of speakers who spoke about things other than Christmas. We discussed Moroni Chapter 7 in Gospel Doctrine, and "Seeing the Potential in Others" in Relief Society. Why do we not set aside the entire day to talk about the birth of the Savior? And sing songs that are about the birth of the Savior? What a shame that December is now nearly over and we haven't once sung "O Little Town of Bethlehem." (sigh...)
But even though the meetings weren't exactly Spirit-filled for me today, the Spirit still managed to sneak up on me...as usual.
There is an older couple in our ward who recently moved here from Arizona. They are retired, empty nesters and they are delightful. We had the pleasure of sitting in front of them for the first time today in church. When the opening hymn started, I heard myself singing and recognized the familiar voices around me, but there was a new voice from behind me that I had not heard before. It was this new brother behind me singing so beautifully that I had to stop and just listen. His voice was so clear and so perfect that I was completely overwhelmed. I barely sang the hymn and instead just chose to listen to his beautiful voice for all four measures. I listened for him to sing the Sacrament hymn and later the closing hymn, and that satisfied my longing for beautiful music today. His voice behind me, standing out above all the other voices in the congregation, was better than the Primary and the choir and all the speakers combined. I told him afterward that it was a pleasure to sit in front of them today. (And I will secretly be finding ways to sit near them in the future.)
I found out later that this man used to be in the St. Louis Opera Theatre. Well, no wonder he was so amazing...
And I also found out that he now suffers from dementia. So, even though he has been blessed with this amazing and beautiful gift, he isn't able to perform publicly anymore because he can't trust his mind. He is able to retain things from the past, but has difficulty with short term memory. I felt so privileged to have accidentally sat in front of that couple today. I don't know how many other people will get to hear that voice since he doesn't share it publicly anymore, but I loved that little tender mercy of getting to be one of the few.
I am so grateful for the talents we've been given. I don't understand all of the mysteries of the world...why people suffer with illness and mental challenges, why we have to wait for things, why we don't all have the same abilities and talents, and why some of us choose not to share what we have. But I am so grateful for the beautiful tenor voice that sang behind me today, and that even though it is impeded at the moment, it is still such a wonderful gift to the people who get to sit near it. He reminded me to use my own talents more often, and that time flies by very very quickly and situations change. I am quite sure that sweet man's voice will be numbered among those angelic voices that will bless all of us in the next life.