Kathy Hillman: ’Tis love that’s born tonight

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At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: “Glory to God in the heavenly heights, peace to all men and women on earth who please him” (Luke 2:13-14).

kathy hillman130Kathy HillmanI’m so thankful the heavenly Father chose to accompany the announcement of his Son’s birth with music. Musician, professor and pastor Emmett Price explains we pray twice when we sing. Both melodies and words touch the heart, reminding us of God’s love in sending the Savior.

Traditional carols and new favorites evoke a collage of my memories from across the years:

• Christmas Eve caroling in my hometown.

• Knowing every performer in the annual cantata at First Baptist Church in Eldorado.

• Listening to our children sing “Away in a Manger” in their choir concerts as 4-year-olds.

• Hearing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” as Holly and I portrayed angels in the live nativity.

• Experiencing chills during the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

• Blinking back the tears of a young mother as I heard “Mary, Did You Know?” for the first time.

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• Singing “Joy to the World” in the candlelight processional at Baylor University’s combined choirs’ concert.

This year’s Baylor Christmas concert featured, among other beautiful selections, the Men’s Choir singing their version of “Little Drummer Boy.” After I watched the perfect hand movements of three groups “playing” their drums, my thoughts turned to a previous Christmas’ version of the song.

hillman  john ltanya janet425My husband John with L’Tanya and Janet during our 1989 cruise.In 1989, Mother booked all the family on a holiday cruise. Given my propensity for motion sickness, I wasn’t as grateful as I could have been. John was pleased when I opted for minimal decorating and present-buying. Marshall (12), Michael (10) and Holly (7) couldn’t wait. Mother and I decided on a couple of shore tours for just the two of us, and the children were excited about all of the on-board activities.

We read the brochures about each of the Christmas events, packed our bags appropriately and boarded the plane for our departure port. Once on the massive ship, we chose our dinner seating time and speculated about who the maître d’ would assign to our table. We needn’t have worried.

We found ourselves with a family from Longview who had a son Holly’s age and a lovely widow, Janet, from New Jersey and her 20-something daughter from Miami. The boys were thrilled when they learned L’Tanya lived in an apartment complex with some of the Miami Dolphins and had dated a couple of them. Mother and Janet decided to join forces for our mother-daughter shore tours.

hillman marshall grammy300Our son Marshall Hillman and my late my mother Mary “Grammy” Robinson on the cruise ship.One evening’s activity included a talent show. Our family and new friends had a wonderful surprise as the emcee introduced Marshall Hillman from Waco, Texas. He began “Little Drummer Boy” in a crystal clear voice. Moments later, the instruments spontaneously joined our astonished son. He hesitated only a split second before finishing to enthusiastic applause.

The shore tour for the ladies began more precariously. L’Tanya and I walked a little faster than our moms. When the guide asked us how many, he informed us there wasn’t room for all of us on the bus. We would have to divide. We begged, pleaded and asked if there was any way. He indicated if we were related, he would have no choice but to put us in a van together.

We looked at each other and said almost in unison, “Cousins.” I silently added, “in our hearts.” His eyes sparkled as he looked from my white face to her black one. When our mothers arrived, he led us to the van. These 25 years later, we keep in touch at Christmas. I mourned when her mother passed, and she will grieve with me this year.

texas baptist voices right120Each time I hear the beautiful Christmas song “Some Children See Him,” I remember my cousin of the heart and my sisters in Christ. The words remind us “some children see him lily white.” Others picture him “bronzed and brown” or “almond-eyed, with skin of yellow hue.” Many view “him dark as they.”

The children in each different place

Will see the baby Jesus’ face

Like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace,

And filled with holy light.

O lay aside each earthly thing

And with thy heart as offering,

Come worship now the infant King.

’Tis love that’s born tonight!

Kathy Hillman is president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. She also is director of Baptist collections, library advancement and the Keston Center for Religion, Politics and Society at Baylor University.

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