On Monday, I traveled with my son’s choir to Epcot and was transported to the glories of Christmas our culture seems bent on dismissing. Fifteen of the choir members were selected for the privilege of participating in the Candlelight Processional, reportedly the most popular show throughout the entire year in all of Disney’s parks. It is so popular that people line up in the “stand by” lanes for more than two hours prior to a show—in hopes that seats might be available at showtime. It is so popular that people make lunch and dinner reservations weeks in advance, paying exorbitant prices for the package deal that promises both a seat at dinner and at the show. (And then those same people still stand in line for lengths of time to get the best seats possible.)
[On Tuesday, I told my students, some of whom were choir members on the trip, that I had learned something at Epcot: People can eat and drink (even alcohol!) to their heart’s content (or wallet’s contents), stand in line for hours, and then sit through an hour-long performance–without ever leaving to use the restroom (for fear of losing their seat). My point: They can sit through a 50-minute class.]
The Candlelight Processional—with its 350-voice choir made up of various high school students who have mastered the fifteen Christmas carol arrangements and is accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra—is simply that glorious. It includes a joyous retelling of the Christmas story by a celebrity. (Ours was Neil Patrick Harris; 13 celebrities perform between November 23 and December 30). In between carols, the celebrity recites the biblical Christmas story from Luke 2, plus the history behind some of the carols, and the text of One Solitary Life.
I felt it glorified God and Jesus Christ and pointed to the true meaning of Christmas. True–as some of my students pointed out–the rendition focused on just the Christmas story, Christ’s birth. The “One Solitary Life” text discussed Jesus’ impact as a man without ever introducing the fact that He had risen from the dead (which is what made all the other details of His life have such impact). True–as my students also pointed out–some of the celebrities aren’t Christians themselves or don’t live a Christian lifestyle. True–as my students argued–many people likely came for the celebrity rather than the message of the music.
But in a world where a Rhode Island governor insists on calling a Christmas tree a “holiday tree,” where we feel compelled to label stores “naughty or nice” depending on what they call Christmas shopping, where nativity scenes are banned from public spaces, and school children take a “winter break” rather than a traditional Christmas break, I found Epcot’s Candlelight Processional completely refreshing and encouraging.
The message of the music was about my Savior, come to Earth in the form of a helpless babe to die for us, who truly are helpless to help ourselves. The carols performed were not of the “Jingle Bells” or even “White Christmas” variety; each proclaimed some aspect of the true Christmas story:
- Shout for Joy
- O Come All Ye Faithful
- Away in a Manger
- O Holy Night
- Angels from the Realms of Glory
- Il Est Ne
- Rejoice with Exceeding Great Joy
- What Child Is This
- Do You Hear What I Hear
- Silent Night
- Joy to the World
- Hallelujah Chorus
If I hadn’t known that my child and his peers had jumped on a bus early that morning to join with hundreds of other teens they had never met to perform those carols, I would never have guessed the Candlelight Processional wasn’t a highly practiced, united group of voices. (Yes, I know each group of high school students did practice at their schools for numerous hours in preparation—but this was their first time en masse.)
The show was typical Disney quality—but sharing the best, most important, story known to man. No fable. No fairy tale. No Mickey Mouse or other cartoon characters. It shared a true story—which will be heard by thousands upon thousands, night after night for more than a month, year after year. Thousands, I might add, who are willing to spend a lot of money and spend a lot of time to ensure they are among those who hear.
To hear here. In these United States. One nation under God. Where the times are changing, morality is slipping, and traditions are falling by the wayside. Where “Merry Christmas” is reduced to “Happy Holidays” and even Santa is somewhat shunned. And so for a brief—too brief—hour, surrounded by thousands of people equally hungry to hear, I felt transported by the glories of the Christmas story set to marvelous music.
And it gave me hope.
P.S. The video is from the night that the Academy performed with the mass choir. (That cute, tall boy on the right, top row, is my son.) 🙂 His peers were interspersed throughout the group.