Whenever my husband and children ask what I want for Christmas, they already know my reply: “A happy family.” They also know that few things give me more pleasure than hearing those I love singing in harmony. Like Sir Georg in Kingdom of the Birds, I believe that music is one of God’s greatest creations.
During the first winter storm of 2014, the five of us were snowbound at home on Sunday morning. I suggested a family hymn sing and requested that each person choose a favorite. We gathered in the living room with an assortment of hymnals, and I sat down at the piano. One of the delights of living with Lutzes is that even when my fingers do not hit the right notes, the resident singers are generally able to find the four parts.
For my husband, almost every hymn evokes memories. When we sang “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” Mark told the kids about attending Operation PUSH meetings in Chicago and hearing the Reverend Jesse Jackson and hundreds of other voices sing that anthem together, loud and proud. “As with Gladness Men of Old” reminded Mark of the outdoor Epiphany services of his childhood when neighborhood families piled up all the Christmas trees and sang around the blazing fire.
In my vision of a happy family, no hymn sing would be complete without tears. Mark wiped his eyes after “Brightest and Best of the Stars of the Morning,” one of his sainted mother’s favorites. During “Now the Green Blade Rises,” the page of my hymnal became blurry as I played the lilting melody we sang around the redbud tree planted in memory of our son Joseph:
When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Your touch can call us back to life again,
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been;
Love is come again like wheat arising green.