There's music in Christmas.
Carols and crooners are a natural part of it all, but they're not the music I'm talking about. Santa Claus, reindeers, and sleigh bells, love them as I do, have always seemed slightly ridiculous in a southern hemisphere summer. They're not the Christmas music I mean either. Christmas shopping malls? Nope. Gift giving? Ummm . . . no. Family get togethers and Christmas meals? Love them too, but . . . no.
None of these are what I mean when I say that, for me, there's music in Christmas.
For me, there's a subtle music in Christmas that plays in a unique key. It's often faint and I need to listen for it amidst the distractors. Thankfully, it seeks me out and sings to me loudest at this time of year.
I hear it best away from bright lights and fanfare. I don't often hear it where tables groan with the weight of Christmas dinner and gifts piled under decorated trees, although even there, people who might seem to have everything, can live desperate empty lives. Often it's loudest and most obvious where there are no Christmas trees, jingling bells or carols; where people are hurting the most, where misery rules, and where chins rest on chests, eyes averted.
Whenever I hear it, the music of Christmas stops me in my tracks and fills me with . . . well, the best way I can explain it is it fills me with wonder. Sometimes its not even music. It's an inspiration born in me and an insight that all is not what it might seem on the surface. Lonely people matter, hopeless people can hope, faithless people have something worth believing, and desperate people have a refuge. The world is not a dead loss, no matter how much greed, violence, alienation and evil it is soaked in, and therefore I shouldn't give up on it.
The music of Christmas opens my eyes to people around me. When I hear it, all I think I know about the world and how it works goes out the window. Humility is not weakness, but strength. Charity is not optional. It's obligatory. Small is not powerless. It's big enough to do what it needs to do. There are no worthless people. Everyone has the value that I have. No more and no less. These are all scary propositions and I continue to wrestle with them.
When I hear the music of Christmas, I begin to see dimly that there is a purpose in the scheme of things and that I am somehow a part of it. Oh, and also . . . I begin to see how pretentious it would be of me to try to persuade you to see things as I do.
I can live with that if you can.
As one of my favourite blues performers, Steve Earle, sings: “I'm just a pilgrim on this road, boys”.
The carols are great. The gifts are welcome. The feasting and drinking memorable. The memories of Christmases past are warm. With all that, it is the music of Christmas that touches me and the music of Christmas that continues to change me.
I wish you a merry Christmas.