A few days ago, I attended a Christmas pageant at the Saint Paul's School here in Concord, New Hampshire. The evening was replete with nativity scenes, exceptional choral music, and the sounds of a magnificent pipe organ. Mixed in were gospel readings that offered a full account of the birth of Jesus, each selection presented with great care and clarity. It was obvious that the readers had rehearsed their parts as much as the musicians and vocalists had prepared theirs.
The architecture (English Gothic) and the acoustics of the St. Paul's chapel are breath-taking, and, as the pageant progressed, I reflected on how much the beauty of it all added to my ability to appreciate the grandeur of the Christmas story. Everything that evening—the music, the readings, the physical splendor—drew me to a powerful sense of worship: that occasion when people and God enter into a closer proximity with one another … and something within changes.
I'd like to add that in the chapel we sat, stiff-backed, in ornately hand-carved pews that were more than a hundred years old. But who noticed?
I have visited other places where worship was equally as moving.
I recall the large University of Illinois basketball arena when, years ago, I was privileged to join 18,000 students at the Urbana Missionary Convention. There was the unforgettable New Year's Eve communion service, the robust singing of great hymns such as Wesley's "And Can It Be," and the daily Bible expositions of John Stott. These were amazing, awe-arousing experiences that, even now, years later, powerfully move me. Something within me changes each time I remember those moments.
I'm also reminded that, in the U of I arena, we sat uncomfortably scrunched in bleacher seats that are typical for athletic events. But no one minded.
Then there was once a time in Ecuador when I climbed a steep and dangerous trail up an Andean mountain for two (plus) hours in order to worship with about 30 Quechua Indians in a windowless, lantern-illuminated ...