The children line up. The lights are shining, the mics are on. Some of these kids have already opened their presents, others will be tearing into the gifts when the show is over. They've all got something scripted to say, but nothing more challenging than, "Happy Birthday, Jesus," or "God bless us everyone!" And still, for some, the pressure of doing this on stage is too much. Tears erupt; a meltdown ensues.
The children don't know it yet, but their performance anxieties are only the tip of the iceberg. Someday, God willing, they will be adults hosting, or joining in, larger Christmas gatherings. And a performance of subtler nuance will be expected of them.
So my favorite Christmas disc is Up For It by the Keith Jarrett Trio (A). It's not their best recording, but in one aspect it is possibly their most remarkable performance. A soul-crushing year, an oppressive environment. Nobody wants to take to the stage.
But they do go on. It takes a few minutes for everyone to find the groove, but they do. They find the groove, they dig it, they shine.
I daresay this is the way it is for many of us on Christmas day. So much performance, in the silent hope that at some point, perhaps for only a minute or two, the mask will become the face. And when it does, it is good.