And Mary sang: My soul magnifies the lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, . . . for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. Luke 1:46-47, 49

Let me be clear and uncharacteristically humble: I have no musical talent. A colleague suggested that perhaps I studied in the Forest Gump School of Music. As you may remember, Gump advised, “If you can’t sing good, sing loud!” Sorry, my fellow First Presbyterians in the pews. 

When Nan and I moved to Spartanburg in 1971, we soon discovered the fantastic music at Converse College. A particular gift of the Christmas season was the annual Festival of Lessons and Carols, where musical talent from our faculty and student body as well as the community combined in a blessing of songs of the season blended with selected passages of scripture to tell the story—from Genesis, to the prophets, to the birth of Jesus, described so well in Luke’s gospel and announced in Mary’s famous song, “The Magnificat.”

A special aspect of this unexpected Christmas gift was the way our chaplain (now Jason Loscuito, a new member of our FPC congregation) organized the program to emphasize Bible readings by our student leaders and selected faculty, while the directors of our various choirs coordinated singers and instrumental musicians in one grand orchestration. In addition, the audience was invited to sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “Silent Night,” and other carols. Quite a festive gift!

Nan and I enjoyed this gift so much that we began inviting Converse Heights neighbors and church friends to join us there, bringing “town and gown” together, sharing this gift with our combined communities. While I admit to having no musical talent myself, I can readily appreciate the talent of others. Our college and community families have both been truly blessed by this musical gift at Christmas. 

Prayer: God of power and might who came to us at Christmas, let our hearts overflow with the music of the season, songs of gratitude for your special gift of Christ to us. 

Tom McDaniel

About the Contributor

Tom McDaniel is retired from Converse College where he was a professor and administrator. Currently he teaches the Fellowship Sunday School class and Tuesday-Thursday adult studies at FPC with Nan.