I stopped in at an assisted living home to see a friend sing with her choir. My friend is mentally disabled. She spends her weekdays at a center for adults with mental and emotional disabilities. She lives independently through the week (stays with her sister on the weekends) and does her own cooking. She is a great bowler and a passionate singer. She has a good life.
At least once a week, my friend calls me to share what’s going on in her life. Lately, she’s been laser-focused on getting me to show up at one of the places her choir is booked to sing. I picked yesterday to make it happen.
That’s where I saw the Kingdom of God. It happened first in the simple witness of this roomful of Alzheimer’s patients and adults with disabilities. The choir of adults with disabilities was there to bless the residents. The residents were there as a willing and even enthusiastic audience for this choir. It was clearly a Kingdom match, the kind of thing Jesus would stop for. I’m pretty sure “church” happened up in there.
Then the Kingdom broke in again when one of the men in the choir sat at the piano to play. The choir leader said he was a beginner but he had Silent Night down, so he’d be playing it for us.
It took him a minute to get started, but once he found the tune he played a very handsome, simple version of Silent Night. What got me was the guy in the choir who couldn’t stop singing. He was a middle-aged man with Down Syndrome. As soon as the pianist began, he started singing along, word for word. He wasn’t “supposed” to be singing (this was a piano solo), but evidently he couldn’t help himself.
The leader heard him and turned to shush him. He got this sheepish look on his face and nodded as if he understood that quiet was what he was supposed to be. But as soon as she turned away, he started again. This happened a couple of times. She’d turn and quiet him and he’d look all sheepish, but as soon as she turned back to the piano he’d start again. At one point he put his hand over his mouth, not to keep himself from singing but to keep himself from being seen singing.
And that’s when the tears welled up in me. It was just so beautiful and such a sign of the Kingdom. This guy, hearing the music, unable to contain himself even if no one else was singing, even if it was against the rules …
And I thought to myself: who is the smartest person in the room? The one who knows when not to sing? Or the one who can’t keep himself from singing when the music of Christmas begins to play?