The young woman holding the guitar looked nervous as she took her place on the stool at the front of the auditorium where 400 women chattered, all seated around beautifully decorated tables for the annual church Christmas banquet.
An expectant hush fell over the room as hot tea-sipping women dressed in their holiday finest turned their eyes toward the morning’s entertainment. They had come to expect only the best in this musically talented church.
But something was wrong.
The young woman fumbled the first few chords, then haltingly plucked the familiar introduction to “O Holy Night.” When she began singing, her voice was far too soft and didn’t project well even with the microphone.
O holy night … the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Oh, no – there was another guitar clunker and her voice slid off key yet again. I squirmed in my seat, growing uncomfortable for her and wishing she’d practiced a little more. I could see other women around me having the same worried reaction.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
After several halting mischords, she suddenly she stopped altogether. Collectively not knowing what to do to ease her embarrassment, the audience applauded lightly, hesitantly. But her response was not one we would ever have expected.
“Oh, do you want me to stop now?” she asked in childlike sincerity. “I could be finished if you want me to.”
A bit of murmuring broke out in the audience as she set her guitar aside and leaned toward the microphone to speak. Her words shot like an arrow straight from her heart to ours.
“I know I’m not a singer,” she said in a shaky, apologetic voice, “but I really wanted to share this particular song with you today. You see, I’ve been diagnosed with a brain tumor and my doctors tell me there’s a very strong possibility that I won’t be able to speak after my next surgery.”
She paused as a stunned silence seized the room.
“This entire Christmas season, I’ve been thinking about the words to this song, ‘O Holy Night’ – especially these 5 words: the soul felt its worth. I just want to share with you that if you ever doubt your soul’s worth like I have for the past few months, just remember what Jesus did for you. There is no greater worth than your soul, for Jesus came as a babe and then 33 years later died on the cross … just for you. Because your soul was worth that much to Him. There is great joy – regardless of external circumstances – in knowing the true worth of your soul that was proven on that holy night in Bethlehem. So please, please allow your soul to feel its amazing worth this Christmas.”
Like you, I’ve sung that song a thousand times over the years but I can’t say that I’ve ever really considered the meaning to those 5 words before that moment. Maybe it’s because I’m currently immersed in Too Loved to be Lost, the new book I’m writing about Papa God’s incredible, limitless, unconditional love for us that this young woman’s revelation resonated within me so deeply. I’ve thought about little else since. And it’s made for the most happy and holy of Christmases for me.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
So I invite you, even though it’s the day after Christmas and you’re up to your eyeballs in turkey carcases, wadded wrapping paper, and creative leftover recipes, to ponder those 5 incredible words when you get a free moment. And allow the beauty and wonder and pure awe of His bottomless love for you to bathe your heart with joy.