A unique Christmas carol service

Joy Hardy 29 Jan 21

I love Christmas. I always have. There’s something so uniquely precious about the radiating joy that gleams forth from people’s faces as I watch the magical scene of Christmas unfold each year. It seems to be the only time of year in which unending childlike excitement and awe is completely normalised. I love how everything glitters as the world gets eagerly smothered in fairy lights. I love the food; the abundant opportunities there are to both create and consume it! I love the anticipation and giddy excitement of possible snow (however unlikely it always seems). I’m a huge lover of Christmas films, family get-togethers, thinking of gifts to give to loved ones; times full of laughter, and love.

Having said all that, one of the things I love most of all about Christmas, is the inexhaustible praise of Jesus through carols. The last three Christmases, I have been thoroughly blessed to have the opportunity to perform and sing so openly in heartfelt worship some utterly entrancing settings of glorious carols in Manchester Cathedral. Admittedly, this year I was extremely disappointed to know that anything even vaguely similar to this was very far from a possibility. It’s been a year of so much suffering and frustration and realising I wouldn’t be able to even attend a carol concert this year left me feeling especially disheartened. 

I was therefore utterly delighted by the request from UCCF that our Christian Union would record a carol for an online Christmas carol service put together by music students from across the UK. Each of the eight carols was arranged, performed and recorded by musicians studying at the UK's top music colleges and faculties, so it provided a chance to sing some of my absolute favourite Christmas carols in a very new, fun and unique way! Our CU decided that “Hark! The Herald Angel Sing” would be a lot of fun to attempt. I quickly began putting together the arrangement and one of our CU leaders managed to get use of the concert hall for performing and recording the piece! 

Soon after putting the recording together I was asked if I, along with another CU member, would be willing to host the event. This was terrific fun and provided an opportunity to openly and confidently share the Christian message. In a year where struggle and hardship is unavoidable, the real hope and peace available to us all is the most delightfully heart-warming and comforting truth. 

The service itself was wonderful. The music was accompanied by a fantastic talk delivered by choral composer (and Music Network co-ordinator), Tom Chevis. It was an excellent event to invite friends to! One of my fellow first year RCM composers responded to the service saying, “I LOVED ITTTTTTTT, the music was so uplifting and just simply beautiful!” It’s so encouraging to know that we could make a positive impact to friends in such a challenging year. 

For me, this service brought so many firsts. I’d never done an arrangement before, never conducted before, never put together the audio from a recording like this and certainly never hosted an event! Although it was so different from the carol services I was used to, God was so rich in the opportunities he gave to push me out of my comfort zone in my desire to willingly serve him.

Having never done anything like this before, it would have been so easy to see many limits and be reluctant to take part. However, what I learnt most, is that it’s God who qualifies us and it’s him who gives us the opportunities that will impact those around us. He knows the desires of our hearts, and when that aligns with his desire, he will absolutely use us for his glory and the advantage of kingdom growth. When our joy is found in absolute praise and worship of Him, he will use that passion, and turn it into something much more exciting than you could ever imagine. We never know what God’s going to do with our willingness to serve, but I encourage you to trust in his incredible divine plan.

For what if I was brought to my position "for such a time as this…?”        (Esther 4:14)

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