Sunday night at Evening Prayer we shared the Christmas songs that shaped our souls. It was an interesting evening of hearing Christmas songs from different genres. The neat thing is that none were of the traditional carols or hymns.
I spent the better part of last week trying to decide what song or songs had most touched my soul and heart over the years. At one time “O Come All Ye Faithful” was my favorite. I would even try singing it in Latin. I have one memory of the song that has stayed with me through the past eighteen years. My Aub was baptized at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on Christmas Eve morning. It was a beautiful service and a beautiful day. That night we returned to the church for the Midnight service. The thirty minutes prior to the service beginning was a musical offering. Just wonderful. As I sat there with my sweet three-month old baby girl, singing along quietly to the music being played, waiting for the service to start, I looked at the candles glowing in the windows and the way the golden light made the wood glow. I smiled at my girl who was wide awake, enjoying the music, and trying out her legs by standing up and bouncing. As she jumped up and down, she ahem, well she created a need for a fresh start. Still so full of joy, I was undaunted. I slipped out the side door with her and went out to the car parked under a street light. I freshened her up, and we started back across the dark churchyard just as the service began with “O Come All Ye Faithful.” I held my sweet one close and began singing my favorite song…..I mean really belting it out since we were all by ourselves. Or so I thought. As I walked up close to the church steps I saw three of the older men standing in the doorway, grinning like a Cheshire cat. “Merry Christmas, Tara!” they said, chuckling. I was only a tiny bit embarrassed. I had a full heart and though it might not have been a joyful noise, it was a thankful and reverent one.
Over time I’ve expanded my world of Christmas songs. As I was looking at videos and listening to Christmas songs last week, I rediscovered one that I have loved over the years but had let slip from my memory. “Nothing But a Child” written by Steve Earle. Ah, Steve Earle. Daddy loved Steve Earle’s music. He had his tapes, and his favorite was “Copperhead Road.” Daddy used to share that one in particular with fellas the sisters brought home, to see what they thought of the music. I believe it was Daddy’s way of testing their mettle.
So when I came across this Christmas song last week, I fell in love with it all over again. LOVE. What a beautiful telling of the journey of the Wise Men. It reminds me of the story Daddy wanted me to read a few years back, “The Story of the Other Wise Man” by Henry Van Dyke. I didn’t get around to reading it until last year, and just yes. If you haven’t read it, please do. A precious and memorable story of what it means to be interruptible. So without further ado, I share with you the first of the two songs that have really touched my soul and rocked my world.
Once upon a time in a far off land
Wise men saw a sign and set out across the sand
Songs of praise to sing, they travelled day and night
Precious gifts to bring, guided by the light
They chased a brand new star, ever towards the west
Across the mountains far, but when it came to rest
They scarce believed their eyes, they’d come so many miles
And the miracle they prized was nothing but a child
Nothing but a child could wash these tears away
Or guide a weary world into the light of day
And nothing but a child could help erase these miles
So once again we all can be children for a while
Now all around the world, in every little town
Everyday is heard a precious little sound
And every mother kind and every father proud
Looks down in awe to find another chance allowed
This a comforting song for me. “…..guide a weary world into the light of day…..”
And the next one is not. It is a challenging song.
I grew up in the “We Are the World” generation. (And I’m not talking about the Justin Bieber version.) How I loved that song. I could only watch the video once a week (pre you-tube, folks) if I was able to catch it on Friday night videos (no cable for us), but I would sit and listen to the little 45 I had on the record player in the den over and over and over. I would listen to hear which artist was singing which part.
As I was thinking about my songs last week, the line “And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time” kept playing in my head. I couldn’t find the song, but that’s because it is called, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” It is done by Band Aid, much in the spirit of “We Are the World.” And it is a beautiful and hard song. The lyrics move me and make me ask myself the hard questions. This one verse alone causes me much grief and pondering.
There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing
Is the bitter sting of tears
The question this song makes me ask (after wondering where so many of these great artists are today–I mean, seriously, this is a Who’s Who of the 80’s music, right?) is:
Who knows it’s Christmas because of me and what I am living?
And my heart makes it harder by asking me this
Every. Single. Day.
The past few Christmases we have been able to be a part of a time with our friends we’ve made at the park and at Daybreak, whether on Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, or the day after. This year I haven’t heard of plans that we could be a part of. And when I realize how much I will miss it, I remember what Miss N said at our Sister Circle just before Thanksgiving. “Why does it have to be just one day?” And I take my head and my heart in my hands, and say, “I don’t know.”
Last Saturday the Fella and I took the littles to see The Nutcracker. We parked a few blocks away (long story) and made the trek over to the Grand Opera House through the rain. We were dressed up for the occasion and had rain gear with us. As we walked past a store with an open and covered front, we saw several of our friends from Daybreak and the park sitting out there, trying to stay dry. The contrast between us dressed up walking in the rain to see an amazing performance and them huddling under a covered area to stay dry just broke my heart. What do I do with that?
This year I am wondering how to make a difference. Who will know it’s Christmas? What moments will I remember as the most precious from Christmas 2013?
I don’t know, but I do know that I have to make it happen. The only way I can enjoy Christmas morning with all the magic and celebration and family and joy and laughter is to know that I’ve done what I could to share Christmas with someone who needs it. And not just today or Christmas day or this season, but each day I have the opportunity to. That is where the best magic and most magnificent melodies of Christmas really come from.