“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!”
So says a popular Christmas movie – and FaithCare agrees!
What place is more in need of Christmas cheer than a hospital? For almost 30 years, FaithCare volunteers have gotten together at local hospitals over the festive season to do some caroling. It’s not all holly and bells though; we’re helping bring Jesus into what might be the darkest moments of patients’ and their families’ lives. We carefully plan our caroling route so that we go through some of the departments most in need of hope – the children’s ward, the cardiac unit, the cancer ward, and the hospice. We often end with the moms and newborn babies, to lighten the volunteers’ spirits and remind us of the miraculous Baby born all those years ago.
Beforehand, we sign up and make all the necessary arrangements with the hospital so that we’re registered and good to go on the night. We meet for a quick ‘rehearsal’ in one of the conference rooms where we hand out the words to the songs we plan to sing, make sure everyone is familiar with the tunes, and pray for God to work through us. Once we’re all on the same (song) page, we head out as a group.
Who doesn’t love Christmas carols, right? Well, just in case some patients don’t – or don’t feel up to a crowd – we sing in the hallways and then one team member pokes their head into each room we come to and asks if the patient inside would like us to come in and sing a carol for them. This year, a few people declined, some were asleep, but most accepted eagerly.
We then asked them if there was any carol in particular they wanted us to sing.
‘Anything – you choose!’ Many people said, ‘I love them all!’
One man told us that he used to love skiing and asked us to sing a snow-themed carol. Some patients shared some specifics about why they were in the hospital and how long their stay was.
One woman tearfully told us that she was supposed to be singing in the choir, but couldn’t because she was in the hospital.
A teenager looked embarrassed at being the center of attention, while her family merrily sang along. One little boy ran to the doorway when he heard us singing and asked that we sing Jingle Bell Rock. It wasn’t on our song list, but we managed to muddle and hum our way through a verse as he stood and beamed up at us. When we walked to the next room, he waved and called Merry Christmas to each of us as we passed him.
One man informed us that on Monday he’d been told he wouldn’t make it to Tuesday – but here he was on Friday night!
In some rooms the patients themselves couldn’t communicate, but there were family and friends present who were equally in need of God’s love. In those cases, we asked them if they wanted to choose a carol on the patient’s behalf, or simply their own favorite carol.
How does this help people? We came, we sang, and then we left. We didn’t give them anything tangible or leave their rooms any different to how they were when we arrived; at the end of the night they were still suffering from a physical ailment and stuck in the hospital during the Christmas season.
The real purpose of caroling isn’t Christmas spirit, it’s the Holy Spirit. After singing a verse of the requested carol, we asked if we could pray for the patients and their families. Only one person declined, everyone else accepted – usually enthusiastically. ‘Definitely!’ they said; often adding, ‘I need it!’
It was here that hearts were touched, as we thanked God for his love and prayed for comfort and healing for the present and hope for the future. Don’t forget, some of these patients saw their provider earlier in the day in the white coat or scrubs, and now here they were in street clothes, on their own time, singing about the Hope of this magical season!
The FaithCare volunteers gathering in a conference room to pray and have a quick rehearsal before beginning the caroling.
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