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The Wednesday before Christmas, my daughter Jessica and I sat in a booth across from Grandma eating lunch in the Bistro at the assisted care facility where Mother lives. While Jess and I splurged on tuna melts, the dining room filled with residents and holiday visitors like us. Mother munched on a hot dog with mustard, sipped her decaf and said, “It’s so good to see you.”

Suddenly there was a hush. An a cappella voice sang out:

O Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth

 

The gospel singer, a middle-aged woman, stood facing a large round table of elderly residents in the center of the dining room. She wore uniform pants, shirt and cafeteria id badge.

 

Long lay the world in sin and e’er pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees O hear the angels voices.
O night divine O night when Christ was born
O night divine, O night, O night divine.

 

 Fall on your knees! Faith poured out of the woman’s heart and hands, which had been cleaning tables.

 

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

 

Our singer improvised with gospel breaths and rhythm accents and chromatic passing tones.

 

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

 

For the final verse, she transposed up a half step to bring her message home.

 

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
O night divine, O night, O night divine

 

The dining room erupted in applause. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one saying, “Amen.” Our impromptu performer bowed then continued making her rounds, clearing tables.

MotherCaroleChristmas2015When she arrived at our booth, I said, “Thank you so much for your blessing,” and she smiled like Mother and me in this photograph taken by my daughter.

 

Truly He taught us to love one another.

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