We've rented two different houses in Black Mountain, NC (near Asheville) for vacations. One of them is one of my favorites of all the vacation houses we've rented. The view is beautiful, the house is nice, it's not too far out, and it's filled with books.
This is my favorite room. It's wonderful to sit here, read, and look at the view. The're's a lovely cross-breeze when you open the windows.
I had a pretty intense allergic reaction to the balsam decorations at the choir rehearsal the night before Christmas Eve. Older son said that the smell of balsam was more intense than at the top of Mt. Mitchell (without a breeze for fresh air). After that, I wasn't sure that I should go to the Christmas Eve service at all, much less try to sing with the choir. However, I was... less than prudent and went anyway since I love the service and the music.
I decided to take Benadryl to try to minimize my allergic reaction. I didn't take enough to put me to sleep, but I took enough that it wasn't a good idea for me to drive. By the time we pulled into the parking lot (driven by older son), I was floating on Benadryl.
All those worries I have every time I go to church? They were ALL GOOOOOONE (say that in a drawn-out, sing-song voice). I just talked to people without worrying whether I was saying the right thing.
During the service, I usually try to focus on listening and behaving correctly. The choir sits on the side so, in order to look at the altar/readers/priest, I keep my head turned to the side for most of the service. When I get home, I take almost always take Advil for the tension headache I got from keeping my head perfectly still and turned 45 degrees to the side.
When I was spaced out on Benadryl, I didn't do this. Not only that, but I looked around and OTHER PEOPLE WEREN"T DOING THIS! They were looking all over the place! It was wonderful to come home from church and NOT have an appointment with the Advil bottle.
I sat with the choir for the Service of Lessons and Carols, and then I sat with my family for the regular Service (in case I had to go in and out of the Nave in order to take breathing breaks)(I also brought a brand new inhaler). Near the end of the service, the Compline choir (which is not the regular choir) sang Silent Night near the side back doors.* I was going to crane my neck to be polite and look at them, and realized that NOBODY ELSE WAS CRANING THEIR NECK. I didn't either (remember, I only even noticed what everyone else was doing because I was spaced out).
I also usually worry about how well I'm singing and what notes I can or can't hit. If my voice is bad due to allergies, colds, etc., I end up feeling very guilty if I can't hit the higher notes for choir. Not on Christmas Eve - even though my throat was still raw from the previous night's allergies. I just looked at the Ds (I'm currently singing alto), and laughed inside, saying, "That's not happening!"
I usually try to focus very hard on the sermon. That didn't work so well on Benadryl. It was a really good sermon, but I sort of fuzzed in and out. Near the end, the priest mentioned the poem, In the Bleak Midwinter, by Christina Rossetti, and the lines:
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
To which, my stoned mind added: "If I were involved in choir and musical theater, I would bring a song. Hey, I've done that!!!!"
Thus missing the rest of the sermon. Maybe it will show up on the church website...
* This is one way that you can tell that this is an Episcopal church and not a Lutheran one. In the Lutheran churches I've been to, the congregation almost always sings Silent Night while holding lit candles after Communion. One year, the staff of one church sang it to the congregation instead, which was a sweet thing for them to do. However, it didn't go over very well, and the congregation got to sing it again the next year.
Since my inner Lutheran couldn't sing Silent Night at church, I was glad that I'd already sung it numerous times in December with the two community theater groups we're involved with!
"As a person of faith, you do not have to keep Christ in Christmas, he is already there. He is there with the lonely, the depressed, the joyful and the confused. He is there with the widow and the orphan, with you, with me and with the atheist. As people of faith it is in these places, fueled by grace love and hospitality, we can, not bring Christ back to Christmas, but join with him in the work he is already doing, and sometimes work he is already doing in spite of the best intentions of his people."