The organ thrummed out a chord. The instruments all matched it — the violas, the violin, the bass and cello and french horns and trumpets all were in one accord with each other. If you haven’t experienced the thrills of different instruments all sounding forth one note, you’ve missed out.
The choir filed in, all of us. Gray hair mingled with brown and blonde and red as we all walked to our places. The director lifted his stick and the beautiful, magical sounds appeared out of nowhere. The deep throated fullness of the bass mingled with the lighter pitches of the violin, all brought to fullness with the earthy tones of the viola and cello. We started singing the first song, a beautiful hymn of praise. All together in unison first, then we changed to four part harmony with the congregation joining us, and tears came to my eyes. The sound of the people sitting in the pews bouncing off the wood paneling behind me, mixed with the harmony of the basses and tenors and altos and sopranos surrounded me, the sound wrapping me in a warm hug as I realized that I was listening to what heaven will one day sound like.
Everybody was singing out lustily, praising the Creator above. The verses to Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love, were sang by people of different backgrounds, different nationalities, different ages. The old sang with the young, the feeble with the strong. The Americans sang with those from China and Korea and other countries. The seeing sang with the blind, the parents with their children. The Baptists and Presbyterians and Methodists and Episcopalians all joined with the one common goal of praising our Lord. The united voices were wonderful to hear on this earth, and I can only wonder what it will sound like when we reach Heaven, and every single Christian unites their voices in praise and adoration and worship of the great triune God. As we all sang out the second verse, All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and Heav’n reflect Thy rays, Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise I was struck with awe at how well this hymn writer from years ago had captured the emotions and the thoughts I was thinking right then at that moment. It was so much different from singing in church on a Sunday morning. All those people were facing me and I could hear each and every voice, not just those near to me. I was surrounded by harmonies where I was in the choir loft, and it sounded heavenly.
I have sang many, many times in a choral setting, and enjoyed it immensely. I have been brought to tears at beautiful harmonies weaving in and out of the instruments and complimenting them perfectly. But to have the congregation join us….I had never experienced this. And to hear it, all the different voices mingling together in praise, I realized as I never have before just how acutely I long for my heavenly home. The promised land, that land “where we’ll never grow old,” that land of rest and peace, surrounded by the glory of Christ alone, when we are face to face with our Saviour, surrounding His throne and pouring forth our praises to Him on bended knee. How great that day will be! How marvelously beautiful the harmonies will sound out, how full of praise my heart will fill! How great the sound will be, as thousands and thousands of souls unite around our Lord! Where we have no excuses for being too busy, for being too tired, for being too anything. Where our own selfishness won’t inhibit our worship, and we can truly know what it is to worship our Lord in the beauty of His holiness.
We had three hymns to sing with everyone, three times of blessed glorious worship with everyone in the sanctuary joining in. And each time reminded me afresh of what I was created to do: to enjoy my God forever. I have never experienced such great joy and somberness and enjoyment all wrapped up in one as I did last night, all directed towards my Saviour. I enjoyed these congregational hymns immensely, even more so than the complicated songs we sang between hymns. And that in itself is saying much, because I have never had so much fun singing as I have this time. Intricate harmonies with many parts sounded off the vaulted ceiling of the church. Beautiful songs, directed by a person so full of energy and enthused by music that it was a joy to watch him. Music accompanied by an orchestra, an organ, a piano, some A Capella pieces accompanied with no instruments, only our voices lifting in praise. Music intended to draw others in, give them a glimpse of the beauties of Heaven. I was amazed to hear those around me as we sang for the enjoyment of others, for the glory of Christ our Saviour, pouring forth our souls for all we were worth. As we sang the last song of the evening, I was struck with a sadness that it was almost over…..all the times of meeting and joining for hours in learning these songs, uniting our voices in this music that was so magnificent would be over for months.
And yet my favourite part was that first hymn, that was so simple, so ordinary and common place in so many churches, that made me long so intensely for my final home with my Lord. That one hymn reminded me that this earth is not my home, that I am a pilgrim and a stranger, wandering through this world. It gave me a glimpse of the immensity of a land that my mind can’t even fathom — won’t ever be able to fathom — and a renewed sense of thankfulness for a Saviour who would come to save me so I could worship Him forever in eternity.