Sanctified and Off Key
by Janet Cowger-Fleigel
“I have no gift to bring, Pa rum pum pum pum. That's fit to give our king, Pa rum pum pum pum, Rum pum pum pum, Rum pum pum pum.”
It’s that time of year and I’m singing loud and proud. But here’s the thing--I can’t sing. Are you familiar with the country classic by Craig Morgan, What I Love About Sundays in which he mentions sweet Miss Betty who likes to sing off-key in the pew behind him? Well, that’s me! I once had a woman in front of me at church plug her ears! Good thing I’m not easily deterred.
Occasionally though, after I’ve found my quivering voice, chased multiple octaves through several vocal ranges trying to match the organ, a wave of self-doubt does try to drown out my singing. It was the day after one of these Sundays I received a letter from an elderly uncle on my husband’s side who became my pen pal long ago. Over the years I’ve watched his handwriting, which was never good, decline until it’s almost illegible. In this most recent letter, I deciphered his gratitude for my continued correspondence and his profuse apology for not being able to write well. Tears stung my eyes as I realized what God was showing me. Holding in my hands was an effort made—genuine and honest…and like my less-than-perfect singing, it truly meant something for the one receiving it.
In the Little Drummer Boy, which started playing on the radio in the 1950s, a poor boy is summoned by the Magi to the Nativity and he plays his drum, the only thing he has to offer the newborn King saying, “I played my best for him…Then he smiled at me.” If we have a talent, offer it to the Lord and He will receive it with gratitude, but what’s top of Jesus’ wish list is YOU. Just bring yourself as the gift! Paul guides us in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 that love is an even better measure of our faith than talents.
God gives us the gift of love every second, every day, 365 days every year. It’s a little like the game of Dirty Santa where we give and take, except it’s way way better, and it’s not a game. God gives peace and takes worry. He gives healing and takes hurt. He gave Jesus and took hell. What does He hope to get in return? Love. We can love Him by surrendering our imperfect life--right here, right now. Take heart because Paul (I Corin1:2) calls even a flawed, bickering congregation in Corinth “sanctified”. It literally means “made holy, because God sees us as forgiven even when we might see ourselves as not good enough.
The little drummer boy shared his gift of music as did a certain modern-day talented piano player, Sir Elton John. Growing up we didn’t have a clue what crocodile rock was but we sang and danced with enthusiasm like we just didn’t care. I also soulfully crooned Candle in The Wind along with him repeatedly when Princess Diana passed. In this year’s holiday TV commercial by a British department store (John Lewis & Partners), we are taken on a journey back through his life until finally, we see him as a little boy opening the gift of a piano, the gift that started it all. I recognize how God used another imperfect life (and commercialism!!) to bring home a good point. The ad transitions into Sir Elton as an adult closing the lid on the keyboard and the sponsor leaves us with deep philosophical words, “Some gifts are more than just a gift.”
Merry Christmas--God has a gift with your name on it! I have to go now and locate a bucket to carry my tunes in…some people say I can’t do it but I’m willing to prove them wrong.