For six years I have attended Night of Joy at one of the Disney Theme Parks. For those of you who do not know what Night of Joy is, let me inform you. There are actually two nights that are spanned by this event and it usually takes place on the second Friday and Saturday in September.
The event itself is a series of concerts that are played simultaneously across the Park. The musicians and singers are all Christian music performers. On these concert nights the Park is closed earlier than usual to regular patrons and only Night of Joy ticket holders are allowed into the Park for the evening’s entertainment.
I participated in my first Night of Joy in 2004 and it was held in Magic Kingdom. Last year and this year the event was held in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Although the backdrop of Cinderella’s castle was always very magical, after two year’s experience at Hollywood Studios I think my preference lies with the latter. There just seems to be easier access to and more space for the performers and the patrons.
I will never forget my first Night of Joy. I had no idea what to expect. I was not yet “into” Christian music. I had heard some on the radio (check out 88.1 The Promise in the Jacksonville, FL area), and I liked most of it. Some of the “heavy/hard rock” groups didn’t attract me, but that’s an age thing:-).
As I listened to the first concert get into full swing I noticed an immediate surge of energy all around me. Don’t misunderstand me. I have been to other “pop” concerts over the years and there is always energy with the music. There is always energy with music, period. It’s an expression of energy by the musicians and the audience responds in like manner.
But there was something different; a totally different kind of “buzz”. I checked out all around me and realized that I was surrounded by young people, by old people, by couples, by families, by singles, by groups. There was a cross ethnic, cross generational theme everywhere I looked. But there was a focus, an excitement, an intenseness spritzing off of everyone, and it was very contagious.
Almost everyone, no matter what age group they belonged to, knew the words to the songs. Almost everyone was singing out joyously. There were people with one hand lifted to the sky. Yet others had both hands raised. I suddenly realized by about the third song that I was in the middle of one huge glorious worship service.
Who knows what different church denominations were represented there in that moment. I know I saw some groups wearing T-shirts that identified themselves as belonging to a particular church or Christian youth group. They were many and varied. Yet the one unifying desire was to be there to worship and glorify God, Creator, Spirit. A yearning, if you will, to recognize and acknowledge the One, the Supreme Being who gives us life. It was electrifying.
I am not a “holy roller” (whatever that may be). Although there are a few Bible verses that I can quote and reference and there are others that I can paraphrase, I am not someone who can spout from the Bible at any and every occasion. I do not wear “sack cloth and ashes” and I really hope I don’t portray a “holier than thou” attitude.
When I’m not dealing with that pesky de-pression stuff, I consider myself to be a fun-loving, joy-filled, and joyful person in my day-to-day dealings with life. But that evening I experienced joy on a level that I had never experienced before. It was the kind of joy that filled me up, raised me up, and had me overflowing with happiness and gratitude. The kind of joy that had me laughing, smiling, singing (when I knew the words!), and crying all at one time.
My husband did not come with me that first year. It had been a “girl’s night” treat with a couple of my girl friends. But when the following year rolled around, based on my experience the previous year, he wanted to participate and we went as a family with our daughter. He and I have not missed a year since, although because of last minute work travel in 2008 he had to surrender his ticket to one of my friends.
Each year has been different and yet each year has been the same. The bands and the individual singers may change and rotate, but the energy and enthusiasm of the people who come to listen, sing, and worship remains the same. And they come from all over. Most of the States are represented and I have even met people from Canada, UK, and South America. If you want to experience an uplifting, interdenominational worshipping of God, I highly recommend that you plan a Night of Joy at Disney.