Saturday, May 22, 2010

Night of Joy

For many years before 1994 I had dreamed of taking my youth groups to Night of Joy at Walt Disney World Night of Joy, a Christian music festival,  always took place in September (it still does!) and in those days was held on consecutive weekends. The same bands and artists would play 3 or 4 nights, so you would just pick a night and go.  Trouble was, I could never get my groups to Orlando and back from NC in a weekend. So my first September in Kissimmee, I was headed to Night of Joy.  The trouble was, the kids who lived next door to WDW their whole lives were not nearly as excited about it I was!  But we went anyway...

Night of Joy is really an amazing institution.  Special tickets enable youth groups to enjoy the Magic Kingdom while occasionally stopping to listen to live concerts from some of the heavyweights of CCM.  It is a Christian event sponsored by Disney since the early '70's;  odd when you consider how persecuted the Disney folks have been by some denominations.  Over the years since 1994 it became one of my favorite nights of the year.  That first time a small group of us went over on a Saturday night and saw dc Talk, Geoff Moore and the Distance, Point of Grace, White Heart and others.  I was amazed at the size of the crowd and the mob scene you encountered trying to get from the parking lot to the park.  It was a great night, and in the years that followed there would be many great nights and many great bands.  NOJ never disappointed.

There were always a couple of things about NOJ that I found interesting.  First, I always found it strange that very few youth actually cared about stopping and listening to the music.  They might pause by a stage for a song or two, but them it was off to ride the same rides they had experienced so many times before.  It was always the adults who would position themselves by a stage to have a good vantage point for seeing Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys or dc Talk.  The other odd thing was that some of my friends who were WDW employees told me that more damage was done to the MK at Night of Joy that the rest of the year combined.  I could not believe my fellow youth pastors allowed such vandalism to happen, although I am sure my own groups caused trouble I don't know about over the years.  But we talked a lot about representing Christ, our church and our faith.  And for the most part, they heard me.

In later years, NOJ became a weekend event we travelled to from Tampa and Waycross.  In every case, it was memorable and great fun.  But for me, even as much as I love WDW, it was always about the music.  I remember seeing the lead singer of the O.C. Supertones throw his shoulder out of socket while dancing.  I remember Michael W. Smith premiering his amazing song This Is the Time a few months before the recording came out.  I remember singing along with MWS the first time we heard him sing OUR song Prince of Peace and having others in the audience amazed that we knew the words.  Someone even asked me if I wrote it- I wish!   I remember being part of a few thousand people joining the Newsboys in the whistle solo from Breakfast.  I remember being blown away by lives sets from dc Talk and Jars of Clay.  Great music and great memories.

There will be more stories of Night of Joy to come.  It has lost some of its luster since Universal began competing with its Rock the Universe the same weekend.  But it will always conjure great memories for me, and it all began my first year in Kissimmee.   Have a blessed weekend.

Because of Jesus,

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