On November 13 of this year, a group of shoppers in the food court of the Seaway mall in Welland, Ontario got the shock of their lives — in a nice way.
As you can see in this video, a choir disguised as average shoppers burst into the Hallelujah Chorus, giving a stirring performance that has been seen by at least 10,000,000 people on YouTube. My advice: if you aren’t yet one of the ten million, drop everything you are doing and take a look.
It’s hard to know where to start with what is so good about this. There’s the juxtaposition of the beautiful music with the deeply ordinary setting. There’s the absence of a distinction between the performers and the audience: the performers aren’t being snooty or condescending. They aren’t ‘dressing up’ as ordinary people the way Marie Antoinette dressed as a shepherdess; they are simply wearing the clothes they shop in rather than the clothes they usually sing in.
And whether the sponsors or the chorus intended it or not, this performance and the resulting video are extraordinary pieces of evangelism: living the Gospel and proclaiming it at the same time. The choir praises God and invites its audience to have the same experience in a spontaneous moment of discovery and joy.
To hear this music in that place, and to see this spontaneity breaking forth in the midst of life at its dullest, most routine is to see what the Gospel really is. Just as the Hallelujah Chorus erupts into the food court, changing everything, Jesus was born into the dreary history of a defeated people while his parents were fighting the seasonal crowds in Bethlehem like shoppers hunting for a table in the food court of an overcrowded mall.
When the miracle happens, the ordinary life of ordinary people is transformed. This solid and often dull world of work and worry suddenly moves onto a new plane: infinitely richer. We look up — not in duty or obligation or in moral resolve — but in sheer, surprising joy.
“The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ,” sings the choir. And at that moment it is completely true. Nothing says ‘kingdom of this world’ more than a food court, but the choir takes that food court right into the kingdom of God.
This is evangelism. This is both proclaiming and producing the kingdom of God. We cannot all do it like the Chorus Niagara; if I were to burst into song in a food court the old and the sick would be trampled in the ensuing stampede for the emergency exits. But there are ways that each and every one of us can proclaim and become the Good News and ways we can learn from their example.
As individuals and as Christian communities, finding ways to do in our own lives and neighborhoods and shopping malls what the Chorus Niagara did in Welland is what it is all about.
And as we move through the Advent season, let’s try to remember the promise in the song: this moment of joy, this vision of a richer, wider life isn’t just a flash in the pan. The kingdom of God isn’t a single gleam of sun on a dark and gloomy day. It’s going to last.
Christmas is coming. Things are going to change.