Today I watched another of those increasingly ubiquitous flash mob videos. It seems they're popping up faster than Christmas candy at the office. This one featured a group of young people in a shopping mall, regaling the surprised onlookers with a medley of Christmas carols. As I watched the video, panning first from the singers then to the surprised but happy spectators, I found myself with a bit of a lump in my throat. And let me say that this isn't the first time that has happened to me. It happened when I watched my first choral flash mob a year or two ago. That one was a store performance of the Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah. So what's going on with my emotional response to these events of "planned spontaneity"?
Well, at least two things, I think. First, there is the message behind the carols. Of all the good times of the year (as Dickens put it), now . . . at Christmas . . . we humans sense that God has come near. It's long been my conviction that, even for those who don't claim much of a religious orientation, Christmas brings an almost intuitive sense that God has done something. The 64-thousand dollar word is incarnation . . . meaning the invisible God has become very, very visible. So visible, in fact, that he was born in a less than inviting barn in an out-of-the-way little town. That's true identification with humanity.
The second reason I think those flash mobs create an emotional response in me springs from the first reason. It's that somehow—for those few minutes that the surprise music lasts—a tired, frazzled, sometimes cynical mass of humanity stops and shares communally in the musical gift that the choir is bringing. The message is Peace on earth, Goodwill to men. And the message is wrapped in the language of the heart—music. Watch the faces of many of the spectators—I think you'll see not just surprise, but what I can only call delight! It's as if time stops for a moment, and they put away their shopping lists, their anxieties, their worries and fears. And for just a moment, they all—singers and listeners—take in the amazing truth that God really has visited this planet. And some dare to believe!
So, maybe you'll watch one of those videos between now and Christmas. Or maybe you'll be fortunate enough to be surprised by one on your next shopping trip. You can call the choral flash mob a fad if you like, but as for me, I'm seeing more than what meets the eye!
Music Director, Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale