An Unexpected Spiritual Journey: A Day at Disneyland
by Ted Tschopp
A Rainy Day Adventure Leads to an Unforgettable Christmas Experience
A couple weeks ago I went to Disneyland with my sister, her husband James and her friend Eric from College.
When we got there and it’s raining and I said I should get a hat to wear because I was getting a bit wet. We went off to find hats while James and Eric went off to get fast passes to save our place line in at It’s a Small World. My sister ended purchasing a Grumpy Jester hat for me.
After getting the hat we though, well we have a couple hours to kill lets try to get to Pirates. The line was too long. How about Haunted Mansion… To long… How about the Train and see what isn’t busy. We get on the train and see that Toon town is redone for Christmas and decide to take the rest of the trip around the park and the get off in toon town (as it is close to Small world) and see the lights in Toon Town.
We get all around the park and they say. Last Train ride. We asked why? They say there is a candle light ceremony and they stop the trains for that. We say… OK, but we have never see it before. So we are kinda neutral to the whole thing. We get to see Mickey. And then as I look at my watch I notice that its a bit late and that I need to call Jonathan and tell him I’m on my way up to work on the site (tolkienonline.com). The calls eventually go through and he tells me I -NEED- to see the candle light processional and that he and his wife saw it last night.
Well, ok… I trust Jonathan, and my sister and her husband and friend trust me. So we are going to the processional.
We get to the Train station and the entrance to main street and there are hundreds of people already waiting for the event to start. Well, its over an hour before the event starts, we better get a good place.
We start waiting… about 5 min before it is to start an announcement is made that they are going to delay for 10 min or so for the rain.
The rain stops and the processional starts up at Small world. We of course are at the end so we see nothing for 20 min or so.
The lights go all out… The only lights are those from the Christmas tree. And a group of robed singers carrying candles start marching in. They are singing traditional Christian Christmas songs. With Gospel message intact. Words about Christ being the sacrifice for our sins. I’m a bit shocked. This is Disney. Home of the devil (or so many think and So many have said). The line keeps going…. and going…. and going…
There are over 1000 people in this choir all singing Christmas songs. As they get up on the stage they form up into groups and a full orchestra joins in playing the music. Hand bell Choirs accompany the group. Eventually a handful of trumpeters accent the music from the top of the train station. Each Singer is still holding their lit candle, but now there are lights on the stage.
Now after they stop their songs. And Lou Gosset Jr. comes out and starts to read from Luke Chapter 2 and intercuts it with passages from Matt. I know this because I have the whole Christmas accounts of the bible memorized. At key points the reading is interrupted for a bit and another song is sung. Now the whole audience chimes in. At this point I’m in tears crying. The emotions of the whole event are overwhelming.
The ‘service’ goes on to include a bit about how influential Christ was and how there is no one else living or dead, no king or kingdom, no power or principality on earth, no one what so ever who can claim to have been as important as this one simple (was he really that simple) man was. I’m having a hard time keeping it together at this point. It seems that once a year the mouse bows and kneels to Christ. Now granted their Christ didn’t talk about his resurrection and propitiation for our sins, but heck I’ve been to worse and more blasphemous Christmas services in Christian churches than the one I attended at Disneyland.
And then it struck me. I was crying because I so desperately wanted this shadow of the communion of the saints to be real… Oh, it was real, but it was only a shadow of the real communion of the saints. And this small glimpse was the most addicting thing I had ever experienced. That small joy in knowing that something was yet to come, and that was why I was crying (and why I’m crying right now) because I knew I had to wait…. And I know I still have to wait… And then it hit me. This is what advent really means… It was the first time in many years that Advent has actually meant something to me… the wait… the expectation… The desire for Christ to come… The bitterness of the expectation… The Joy in knowing you can count on his return… and the amazing thing is that I have to thank Disney (and God of course) for that…
I will never forget that experience and the veil that was lifted for those fleeting seconds. Hopefully I will remember the power and the pain of the event in years to come, but as it stands right now, I can say with my whole being…. Come Lord Jesus, Come!
I hope and pray you have a wonderful Advent season.