The Advent calendar on a wall in our home in Syosset marks the season by how many days are left until Christmas Day. Each day we peel back a cardboard cutout on the calendar to reveal a message or quote of the day.
I peeked ahead to see what it says for Christmas Eve. The message in the box reminds people to share the good news, and to give to others, just like the wise men did.
At the 8 p.m. youth Mass on Christmas Eve at St. Edward the Confessor Church in Syosset, the teen choir will do this through joyous songs and carols.
I am always so excited to be part of the Mass at St. Edward. For as long as I remember, the music in my life has inspired and guided me. While I enjoy singing popular songs, it has been the music of my church that has opened the door to my faith.
I have always loved to sing. Not only can I express myself by singing, but many good things express themselves to me through song. In my life, music and religion connect to each other and to me.
As a child, I attended a summer Bible camp in Syosset. The highlight was always a small band that played fun and lively songs with religious themes. This inspired me to get involved with music.
In first grade, I joined the children's choir at St. Edward. I loved the musical aspect of both the camp and the choir, but at the time, I was too young to look beyond the entertainment. I didn't see that the songs were opening my eyes to my faith.
In sixth grade, I was old enough to join Vision, the parish's teen choir. At first, I would sit quietly in the back of the practice room at weekly rehearsals. I sang softly, hoping nobody would notice or hear me. As I listened to the songs, I slowly began to understand the meaning of the music.
Songs like "City of God" and "Lead Me, Lord" helped me gain a fuller understanding and appreciation of my religion. I wanted more of that feeling. I knew that the best way to express this feeling was through song, which led me to audition to be a choir soloist when I was in middle school. This decision surprised the choir directors. Soloists have to be ready to lead the congregation in song.
I chose to audition with "Here I Am to Worship." This song describes going to church to pray, but the repetition of the words "Here I am" in the refrain symbolizes my personal placement in the state of mind where music brings me.
Thankfully, I was given the soloist position, and it has been a life-changing honor. Being a soloist in Vision has given me a beautiful connection to the Catholic religion.
The teen choir sings each Sunday at the 7 p.m. Mass. I stand in front of the congregation and feel a strong connection to the people as they sing along with me. I am glad that our music inspires people the way it inspires me.
Now, as a senior at Syosset High School, I am in my final year of Vision. I look back and realize that this experience has made my faith personal and familiar. Soon, the new choir members will find themselves in the same place that the music of Vision has brought me. I am blessed to have been guided to this place of inner peace and meaning.
The next time you hear your favorite song, I encourage you to listen closely. Put everything aside, close your eyes, and let the music lead you to your own place of contentment and joy. Music has always been a vital part of my life. Wherever life takes me, I know that music will always be the one intangible part of my life that keeps me in my favorite place.
Reader Laura Whorlow lives in Syosset.