When I was a child in a small town red brick school house, every Christmas meant that the town folks gathered in the school gym to hear a Christmas program put on by the vocal music department, grades 1-12. The vocal music director was a harsh woman with a permanent frown, never pleased with our performance no matter what we did. We did “heaven and nature sing” until it had just the right sound to her ears; we could tell no difference one time to the next. The evening included violin duets with her husband, both instruments squeaking and squealing like a little shoat removed from its mother. My dad hated those nights, hated the Christmas music, hated the overly warm gym, and hated leaving his easy chair on a week night. For weeks we faced cranky Mrs. S in music and then that one night before the holidays we stepped easily around a disgruntled dad.
The year I was in second grade, a senior named Sonja Swift stole the show with her voice. When it came time for her solo, the lights dimmed, a star shined brilliantly over a cardboard Bethlehem, and the crystal clear notes of O Holy Night filled the gym while tears filled my eyes. Already I knew the joy of a “weary earth rejoicing” and was filled with the true meaning of Christmas.
Tonight when I heard the song at a Christmas program in the MSSU auditorium, again the tears flowed like a lawn sprinkler on an arid summer’s day. The years fell away, and I heard Sonja Swift sing once more. I was attending a Christmas concert where five church choirs of Joplin joined together to present a community program free of charge. One of the ministers said the churches had dug out bodies, cleaned up ruble, and rebuilt homes together these last few months; it seemed fitting they sing of the Christmas story together…and they did it beautifully.
The program was many traditional Christmas carols, some solos, a retelling of the Christmas story in song. There were 140 voices and a 30 piece orchestra. Oh, and there were two beautiful violins, with bows warbling out sweet notes over the strings. The audience was filled with many families bringing small children to hear the music.
In a welcome and a prayer to start the concert, one of the local ministers said he hoped the music would help us with our Christmas Thinking. That is in today’s world we have shopping, cooking and partying until on Christmas Day we are exhausted and no longer have sight of the true meaning of Christmas. He urged us all to start our Christmas Thinking early, that is taking a few minutes to ponder why are we celebrating in the first place? What is the meaning of this season anyway? How do we...you...define it?
Tonight for a little over an hour, I stopped my rushing and worked on my Christmas Thinking. The coming week will spool by faster than a runaway bobbin with each day filled and having no quiet moments. The moments for Christmas Thinking will be few and far between, but I will try to find some here and there. Tonight was a good start on my Christmas Thinking; how about you? Got your Christmas Thinking done for this year?