It was a cold day in Washington DC when a man stood outside a subway playing his violin. His baseball cap was lying on the ground. He stopped to count his money after 45 minutes. Commuters had dropped in $32.17.
The man’s name was Joshua Bell. The crowd rushing past never realised he was one of the world’s finest violinists and normally played in front of sell-out crowds paying $100 a pop. Nor did they notice the music came from his Stradivarius violin made in 1713.
That is, except for Evan. This 3 year old strained to look and listen while being rushed along by his mother. Why does true beauty so often get lost in the daily rush of life? Why is it so few are able to hear the music that others pass so quickly by?
Echoes of a Greater Story
Joshua Bell’s story reminds me of a greater story taking place one night 2000 years ago. That night shepherd were watching their sheep. They were outside, cold, and alone. Their hillside pretty their social standing; they were outsiders.
People in the city rushed around. They were busy. A census had been called and the town was bursting; all rooms were full. The butchers were busy, bakers were baking, and candlestick makers making candles. But an expectation was also growing. Rome had been in charge for too long. Surely God’s Messiah would be coming soon.
Evan was the most unlikeliest person to stop and appreciate Joshua Bell’s street performance. Likewise, the shepherds are the most unlikeliest hearers of the announcement that Jesus had been born. It took angels breaking into the night sky for anyone in the town of Bethlehem to catch the birth announcement, and even then it was only a group of shepherds enjoying a late night coffee round the fire that heard.
Are You Listening to Christmas Songs?
Our world is more like Washington DC than 1st Century Bethlehem. I rarely see sheep, let alone shepherds, but I resonate with the busyness of both these worlds. Sure, they’re different, but both are filled with noise.
A few years I visited Bethlehem and those hills. I learned something so important during my trip. When I arrived, I rushed around taking photos. This was a once in a life time opportunity, taking photos would let me share it with my wife when I got home.
Something happened when I was visiting the shepherd’s fields. I sensed I needed to slow down. What would happen if I stopped to listen for God voice before I took photos? What if I took a moment and entered the events that happened in these places rather than listening to all the noise going on around me?
Nothing dramatic happened. There were no angels. No-one was struck by lightning. No amazing resurrections. But I did sense God’s presence.
Isn’t this what Christmas is all about? When we push past all the presents, parties, and merry-making aren’t we left with the fact that in Jesus, God became human? God joined us. It’s why those who first wrote about him used the word ‘Emmanuel.’ It means ‘God is with us.’
Can you hear the Joshua Bell’s play in the busyness of life? Or the angels song over sounds of rushing? Or are you missing the daily presence of Jesus because of the fear of missing the opportunity of a lifetime?