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Amateur Christians

It really does not matter the time of year if you walk through our living room it is quite possible you will find a Christmas Movie playing on the TV. Normally I slip through the room and go somewhere else; however, recently one of them caught my eye because I recognized the lead actress. It was Michael Learned. She is familiar to me from her role as Olivia Walton in the long-running series The Waltons, which is one of my favorite shows ever. I sat on the arm of the sofa and began watching; then the late John Houseman appeared, and I was suddenly hooked. I moved onto the sofa and reclined to enjoy the movie.

It was a good made-for-TV film and while the action is a bit slow compared to modern films, the themes of racism, sexism, ageism, mean girl divas, divorce, midlife dating, and church drama/conflict are all still applicable in our world today, though they were presented in an old-fashioned way. (I wonder when 1980 became old-fashioned.)

To summarize the movie briefly, a newly divorced woman (Michael Learned) moves to San Francisco from Nebraska after her divorce and is seeking to start over. She is struggling to find a new career and discover who she is now as she approaches this new chapter in her life. In the midst of this she joins a local church choir. About the time she joins, the church hires an overly qualified choir director. This curmudgeonly old man (John Houseman) is extremely demanding and wants perfection. Hired to whip the choir into shape, he is preparing them to perform Handel’s Messiah for Christmas.

For me the best scene happened about 2/3rds of the way through the movie. In fact, I watched this one scene several times because of the miracle that is a digital TV recording.

In this scene a woman who comes to sing in the choir feels she is better than everyone else in the group because she has a professionally trained voice. Thus, she assumes that the soprano solo will be assigned to her, and when it is not, she becomes upset. This continues to eat at her, so that when the cantankerous choir director later has to correct something about the way she is singing, the woman storms out. She declares they are all a “bunch of amateurs” as she leaves.

The director tells the choir in classic John Houseman style that he in fact considers all of them to be “amateurs.” He goes on to explain that the word “amateur” comes from a Latin verb amare, which means “to love.” He says that he assumes that the choir members were there not because they wanted to have their egos stroked, but because they loved to sing.

Likewise, we can all serve Christ as amateurs — out of love for him.

Friends, there is no such thing as a professional Christian. Instead there are only a bunch of sinners like you and me who need grace. And who, in thanks for that grace, seek to show that love of God to a hurting world.

Friends, do not wait. Take your amateur talents and use them to the glory of God.

By the way, due to the hard work of all involved, the grace of God, and I imagine a little Christmas magic, the choir performance is a huge success and Michael Learned finds new love (of course). And the church is reinvigorated as well. And it all was made possible by a bunch of amateurs who shared their talents with great love.


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