Christmas is just around the corner, and I am feeling a sense of impending joy and sustaining hope which this season invariably makes me attuned to and grateful for. Which is really odd, because I am not a Christian…I am not of any faith I believe in, really.
I married a man, however, who believed. And this man loved music and sang beautifully. Eventually, we were gifted with three children who inherited both qualities; Christmas for our family centered around our church choir. And what a church and choir it was!
We had a formidable music director – formidable for her musical gifts, her demeanor, her ability to make everyone rise to her high standards and expectations. Under her, my musical family flourished, so much so that no one expected anything of me, which was just as well since I have no musical skill to speak of. So the Christmas season, from the herald of Advent, to the joyous celebration of Christmas Eve, was one of listening to the music my family practiced and then presented at church.
I found the music of Christmas, the hymns that is, powerful. And I found the story of Christmas itself redemptive and healing. Who among us has not been moved by the way children redeem us, heal us, make us hope? This story, as I listened to it year after year, watching my family in their various robes of black, blue, green, and red, brought the story to life through melodious hymn after hymn, grew on me as an allegory of redemption and hope. The service of lessons and carols, in particular, was the one that spoke to the deepest reaches of my soul.
As a survivor of child abuse and sexual abuse, I see the world through a particular filter: there is very little to truly have faith in, and children know the way to truth. The story of Christmas is, to me, a story of a child showing the way to truth, as children ever do. So, come Christmas season, the music that calls me is the Service of Lessons and Carols, preferably sung by the combined choirs of West Side, or, since I am far removed from that these days, the choir of King’s College, Cambridge (via YouTube):
My favorite is the 1997 service, which begins with this invitation to its theme: “…love came down at Christmas, love shown to the unlovely that they might be lovely, love that calls us to a common love and to unite our hearts and voices in love and in love’s praise.”
Christmas, to my heathen soul, is a celebration of love – through music, through words.