I’ve been humming and listening to Christmas carols for a few weeks now, cuddling in the comfort of familiar tunes as they stroll through my mind and saunter their way down to my heart. Usually Thanksgiving weekend marks the gun shot take off of the Christmas season for me, so while I’m preparing the turkey dinner, I’m listening to the tunes that I love the most, letting me bask in the memories they bring as I while away the hours in the kitchen.
I can’t ever decide which ones are my favorites because they each give me such different emotional responses. Some give me great joy. Some make me sing ridiculously out loud. Some bring back youthful memories. Some make my eyes swim in tears that instantly appear, just at the sound of the first chords.
I don’t know where that comes from – why some music makes me cry. But it does. Those songs are almost always the religious ones – the ones I was brought up with listening to as December services preluded the grand finale of services on Christmas Eve.
Music, to me, is probably the most meaningful way to celebrate, praise, and glorify my spirituality. It doesn’t matter whether your voice is good. It doesn’t matter whether you know all of the words. What matters is that your song travels from your heart in lyrical proclamation that you believe in the words and the story that it tells. One of hope. One of grace. One of faith. One filled with the authentic spirituality of your soul.
One of the songs that is in my top ten most guaranteed to make me cry hymns is “O Holy Night”. I looked up the history of this song not long ago and it’s truly an amazing story of the power of faith. It was written in 1847 by a wine merchant from France. He was known for his poetry and a Catholic priest asked him to write a poem for the Christmas mass. Placide Cappeau was his name and he looked at the New Testament and imagined being there when Christ was born and wrote a powerful piece of poetry. He felt that it was so good that it should be a song so he asked his accomplished composer Jewish friend to put it to music which he did. It quickly became a hit and was played in Catholic Christmas services. For a period of time there was some controversy over it being a Jewish composer but eventually it was accepted and was and is still a favorite Christmas hymn. The most amazing fact of this piece of music history is one that makes my soul weep for humanity and the powerfulness of faith.
Legend has it that on Christmas Eve in 1871, in the midst of fierce fighting between the armies of Germany and France, a French soldier jumped out of his trench, weapon by his side, and lifted his eyes to the heaven and started singing “O Holy Night”. After completing all 3 verses, a German soldier climbed out of his trench and began singing “From Heaven Above to Earth I come” (also one of my favorite hymns) and the story goes that the fighting stopped for the next 24 hours.
Can you imagine? Can you only begin to feel the magnitude of what that must have felt like. Soldiers feeling their impending death, lying on a dark night, in a trench, waiting for the next strike. Their enemies directly across from them. And then one faith empowered man stands up and opens his heart to the heavens and sings his favorite hymn, not caring if he will be shot down or if it is his last, most meaningful breath proclaiming his faith.
But he wasn’t! It was quiet and still. No one moved to strike him down. He finished all of the verses and then the Germans sang one of their beloved hymns as if in spiritual agreement that for that one moment, faith was more powerful than war. The fighting stopped….
How chillingly powerful is that? If only…. If only divine intervention, like this, could work in today’s world of terrorism and war and peace could be found. A truce to honor and respect everyone’s religion for what it is without harming each other.
I am so fearful of what the world will be like for my grandchildren and the great grandchildren that will follow. I worry about the world and its ability to sustain peace. Will my family be safe? Will they be free to be all that they want to be? Will the politics of the world crumble in the absence of strength and values? And then I wonder if my ancestors lie awake at night worrying about me and where the world would be? Is this worry the normal thoughts of parents and grandparents for life that is unknown after we are gone? Or is this something frighteningly different.
These are my thoughts sometimes, as I listen to the songs that have endured many generations of Christmases past and sung by our ancestors long ago. The tears they bring are borne from a well inside my soul that harbors fears, sentiments, and love not just for my family but for humanity and mankind.
As you listen to the music this Holiday season, may each of you be blessed with memories of your past and feel the hope for a bright and blessed future. And, when you hear the first strains of “O Holy Night” come on your radio, remember the story of that one soldier who bravely stood up and stopped the fighting for a day. You will never be able to hear that song again, without your eyes misting and without saying a silent thanks to him for that one day of peace in the midst of war.
May the spirit of this season, embed itself in your heart and in your soul.
May our wish for peace multiply and spread throughout our families, our communities, our nation, and the world.
And may the joy of the season give you many Moonflower Bloom moments to carry with you throughout the year.