A number of years ago I was walking across the campus of Duke University early in the evening. Since I had some extra time before I was supposed to meet my wife at her office, I paused in front of Duke Chapel to listen as about 400 people sang Handel’s Messiah inside. I’ve heard the oratorio many times, but there was something different about this version.
As I listened the choir and congregation sang about the coming of the Christ child. As the music flowed from within the magnificent facility, I closed my eyes and lost myself in the moment.
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; and they
that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
There were shepherds, angels and a couple faced with the dilemma of being fully human, yet tasked with the responsibility of raising the Son of God. Yet even with all that faced them, there was a sense of peace. There was no snow, no wise men (it took them 2 years to find the couple and their child). Just a young girl, her husband, and their baby. The savior of the world. But standing there in the straw, hearing the music, and looking into the face of that child, I was moved in a way I can’t describe.
Then, I opened my eyes as the sopranos began the recitative, and realized where I was. Oh, I can explain the momentary lapse. I can explain being swept away by the music.
I just can’t explain where that little piece of straw came from.