CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sunday evening at church: It was the night for singing carols. I couldn't wait. My health is not good, but I was determined to be there no matter what. I love singing Christmas carols.I have always loved music and was singing recognizable songs at the age of 18 months. I can remember my mother always singing around the house while she was working. She instilled that love of music in me. Music has always touched me deeply, but the Christmas songs are especially dear to me.We sang Christmas carols for almost an hour. It was wonderful -- except for this: We sang only the first and last verses. The organ swelled with the music. The choir director's voice was in perfect pitch. But we sang only the first and last verses.We sang "Away in a Manger," and I thought about how my daughter and I would sing it in church and she would sing the regular version while I sang an alternate tune with the same words. It was wonderful! A treasured memory.
I was sitting with my friend Bob. In hushed voices, we lamented that we weren't singing all of the verses. But we sang on. We even sang "There's a Song in the Air" twice, and that is one of my favorite Christmas songs.But when you are not singing all of the verses of a song, there is something missing. The whole story is not being told.It is like reading only the first and last chapters of a book. The best parts are in the middle. Who would want to miss out on that? All of the facts and details would be missing. And a lot of the time, you don't even get into the actual story until several chapters in.Can you imagine Poe's "The Raven" with only the first and last verses? A person wouldn't have any idea of what the poem was even about.Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door."Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door;Only this, and nothing more. ...
And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sittingOn the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door.And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming;And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws the shadow on the floor;And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floorShall be lifted -- nevermore!
The first verse has no mention of the raven. What happened in between? And who was at the door?What if you are watching a movie and are called away right after it starts and aren't back until the last few minutes of the show? You have no idea what the plot is. Don't you hate that? Imagine watching "Gone With the Wind" and see Scarlett being laced into her corset and going to the party. Then you see her sitting on her steps talking about going back to Tara. The beginning and the end. You missed the entire Civil War, Reconstruction, marriages, the deaths of Bonnie and Melanie -- I could go on and on with that movie.We don't just do that singing Christmas carols. Each week when we start to sing hymns, we will be told "only the first and last verses."I love putting on a CD and singing right along, with every verse, with the artist.Something vital is missing when we take shortcuts. A song is a story put to music. Sure, we know the story, but do you really want to miss out on the juiciest parts? And what if there is a guest who doesn't know the song (or story). Isn't that person missing out on the entire message?Music has always been a vital part of worshipping God. It seems like cutting the song short is like taking away from worship. When I was a little girl, we always sang at least five songs in church as a congregation. Now, two or three is the norm. How things have changed. When you don't sing the whole song, you only receive part of the blessing that music brings to us.Keep a song in your heart, whether singing all of the verses or not.Jean Richardson, of Dunbar, may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.