By Rachel Barnes (links added by Todd Wood)

What a special day it was for us when Joseph Martin showed up at our choir rehearsal, and then the next day at our first two presentations of our choir cantata “A Classical Christmas”. To have him physically present to experience the “Pietà” [last year’s youtube example here] which he himself had composed was exceptionally heartwarming. Truly we have always loved singing and playing the piece for 3 reasons:

  1. It is written so skillfully that the music tugs on our hearts.
  2. It reminds us through the mothering heart of Mary how blessed we are that Jesus came and died on the cross for us (as well as for her).
  3. He wrote this piece specifically for our choir under the direction of Penny Dixon.

I think we all feel some degree of awe to have this personal relationship with a really good composer, so we delight to sing and play this piece with all our hearts, as well as other pieces he has composed. They are like specially crafted treats. (Musical truffles?) I also think we all experienced some degree of tearfulness when he expressed his stunned pleasure after hearing and seeing his piece brought to life, both through our singing and playing and embellished with our live “Mary” and young “Jesus” fleshing out the story line. Hearing his response was especially rewarding and endeared us all ever the more to him. And then having the privilege of hearing him pour out his music at the piano just for us reminded us we were truly in the presence of a master of high quality.

But his coming touched me at a yet deeper level. It spoke to me of Jesus himself in several ways. For one thing, Joseph exemplified the humility of Christ, that he came to “little old us in Idaho Falls”. He didn’t have to show up here. Certainly he has many grand things in his schedule…big-time concerts, working with publishers, constant composing projects…the list must be long. But he chose to come sit in a pew and listen and watch US, carving out a piece of time to fly all the way from Texas…up at 4:00 am…even with a huge concert coming up in another day or two. How much more amazing that Jesus came to us. “God in flesh appearing”. He came for US. Personally. Wow!

I must confess as the accompanist for the choir, when I first heard that he was coming, I felt a momentary emotional reflex of panic. (Yikes! What if I mess up? Right in front of the composer?! Where can I hide?!) But love took over, because we love his music and he composed this marvelous piece out of holy love for Penny and our choir. And I personally love playing this music, especially for the reason of the level of musicality and challenge. It doesn’t leave me bored sitting on the piano bench. So maybe I will mess up or crash, but I’ll give it all I’ve got and expect he will see that we are at least making our best effort. We want to do our best for him because we love him. So people were asking me the day we were expecting him… “Are you nervous?” I suppose in a way I was, but not like when playing for an adjudicator. He wasn’t coming to judge us. He was coming to love us, and what a difference that makes. I think of Jesus. He has prepared and created for us many good works to do. Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” While doing the things, the works, that God has given us to do, we are blessed to have the presence of Jesus within us spiritually through his Holy Spirit, because of a love relationship He has established with us. His works are fleshed out through us, though we still exist in imperfection. “He is at work in us to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

One day Jesus is “coming” BIG-TIME, in his physical absolute awesome presence. Yes, He is coming to judge the earth. But for us who have entered into a love relationship with him and have accepted his act of love to die on the cross for us, for our nasty sins and imperfection, it’s not something to be nervous about. We can look forward to His throne as the place where He will say “Well done”. The greatest reward for any efforts we have made will be to see the delight in his eyes and hear it in his voice. Because he loves us and we love him.

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