Make a joyful noise (by Billy Coffey)

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If you were standing here with me in the bedroom, you would hear what I’m hearing. It’s plain as day, too, despite the fact that between us and the noise there is a door, a fan, and running water. And you would likely grin as I am grinning. I always do when my son sings in the shower.

I can’t recognize the tune—he likes to make up his own songs, which sometimes rhyme but most often don’t. I heard a reference to Santa a minute ago, and something about macaroni not being as good without the cheese. A deep thinker, my son.

He likes to sing in the shower. My daughter and wife, too. Me, I’ve always been more of a truck singer. Give me a good song and an open road, and I can really belt it out. And I’m a pretty good pew singer, too, though I’m conscious not to raise my voice so high that others take notice. In my head I sing like Harry Connick, Jr., but I’ve heard I sound more like Homer Simpson. I try to take that as a compliment, which takes some effort.

Still I sing, and often. And no matter who you are or how gruff you appear to be, the odds are good that you sing upon occasion, too.

But have you ever asked yourself why? On the surface, singing has no practical purpose. We use words because we must communicate, we laugh and cry to show emotion, we use our thoughts to order our world. So why sing rather than talk or laugh or think?

I’ve asked my son that question. His answer came by way of a furrowed brow that said, Don’t be stupid, Daddy.

Still, I wonder. We don’t need to sing in order to lead productive and fulfilling lives, so why do we?

I think this season tells us.

Christmas was made for singing. There is music everywhere. In stores and on street corners and on the radio (as I write this, Brad Paisley is singing “Away in a Manger”). They are songs of joy and peace and hope and goodwill toward men. Songs that when sung take your eyes off what you see and put them on what you cannot.

Like this, for instance:

Maybe that’s why we sing.

Because when we give melody to voice we communicate and emote and order all at once. Because the contents of the heart are so many that sometimes they cannot be dripped out, but poured forth. Because there is joy and longing and love and passion that words alone do not suffice.

We sing to reach our deeper selves and ascend to the highest heavens. It is thanksgiving and praise, a call for healing and inspiration. Thousands of years later, the words of Isaiah still ring true: “Praise the Lord in song, for He has done excellent things; Let this be known throughout the earth.”

That’s what I think. And to me, it doesn’t matter if it’s Handel or “Jingle Bells.” It’s one of those precious things in life that always makes you feel better in the during and the after.

Just ask my son.

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