Christmas Gifts

Charles Hulin IV, 2006

Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. II Timothy 1:6-7

As the New Year approaches, I think it is a good time to remember these words of Paul to Timothy and to stir up the gifts of God, which we have been given. So much can stand in the way of us joyfully sharing the fullness of God’s gifts. Ambition, self-image, education, and the exigencies of daily life can all erode our sense of the richness of God’s gifts in us.

I invite you to think back to when you first recognized your gifts. Perhaps you can find a recording of yourself from those days. I’m almost certain you will discern greater talent in your music making of years long past than you usually give yourself credit for today. Recall the freshness of discovering that a musical work by someone else could somehow become your own personal expression! Also, reflect on special moments of sharing when teachers were tacitly bestowing a musical anointing upon you.

I have been moved at times to articulate that there is a crucial difference between obsession and discipline, and I believe we Christian musicians need to give the world living examples of balanced lives that honor God through fulfilling all our responsibilities, not just our musical ones. It is within that context that I now stress (for myself as much as anyone) that the best way to use our gifts is through hard work.

Love and sacrifice walk hand-in-hand, and I believe that our relationship with music and with God will grow deeper as we seek to sacrifice on holy altars of practice and study. As we move towards the tenth season of the Lasker Summer Musical Festival, I challenge each of you who may be joining
us in Lasker to find some extra practice time on a regular basis with which to honor God so that your performances might show forth God’s glory in great measure.

We are blessed to be involved with music, and it is a blessing that we can easily to take for granted. Music is the medium through which freedom and spontaneity are best expressed, yet it is rich in forms. The experience of music is never an external event. The patterns of music leap into our souls creating an internal play of expectations and outcomes reminding us that unseen realities affect us deeply. Musical discipline can ennoble us, and the sounds we make can express the hurts of the world and also stir us to hope and worship. What endeavor could be more than music? And at Christmastime we
join this great art to the celestial choirs celebrating God’s greatest gift!

To adequately appreciate our blessing and our calling as musicians I think we need to nurture our awareness of these singularly special qualities of music on a daily basis.

Finally, I share words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “After Ten Years: A Reckoning made at New Year 1943.” While these thoughts were formed for a very different culture than ours, I believe they could hold great significance for our meditations as we consider what our work as musicians ought to be and how we ought to go about it:

Nobility arises from and exists by sacrifice, courage, and a clear sense of duty to oneself and society, by expecting due regard for itself as a matter of course; and it shows an equally natural regard for others, whether they are of higher or of lower degree. We need all along the line to recover the lost sense of quality and a social order based on quality. Quality is the greatest enemy of any kind of mass-leveling. Socially it means the renunciation of all place-hunting, a break with the cult of the ‘star’, an open eye both upwards and downwards, especially in the choice of one’s more intimate friends, and pleasure in private life as well as courage to enter public life. Culturally it means a return from the newspaper and the radio to the book, from feverish activity to unhurried leisure, from dispersion to concentration, from sensationalism to reflection, from virtuosity to art, from snobbery to modesty,
from extravagance to moderation. Quantities are competitive, qualities arecomplementary.

May your Christmas be meaningful and your New Year full of purpose!