You hear it all around you: why are people so sad, disfunctional, angry, bombing, killing, selfish, greedy, ad infenitum. And yet, at the holidays, we are imbued with the spirit of giving, generosity, caring, helping, remembering that Christmas is about giving rather than receiving. I have often wondered why that happens. Why, one time a year, do people find the good and forget the bad? I think I may know part of the answer.
I’m not a deeply religious person, but I find that spirituality and God’s words can be reassuring and comforting. My friend says “God’s word is medicine for the soul.” Perhaps during this time of year as we listen to the Christmas carols – many of them hymns of praise to God – we become healed for a moment, dosed with God’s medicine for our souls.
Just the other night, I attended the symphony with my mother and sister. The music was gorgeous, uplifting, all encompassing. The devotion the musicians must put into their work, practicing hours on end to play the piece perfectly, the focus with which they concentrate on the music and the emotions and meaning behind the piece, all this suddenly became very clear to me. It is part of the answer.
In centuries past, people were filled with devotion and faith. It was part of their daily lives, a given that was accepted and expected across cultures, races and borders. The famous composers – Handel, Bach, Bethoven, et al – poured their devotion and their dedication into their work, their music, their operas and symphonies. The result is amazing, uplifting, and joyous music. It is healing and moving. Listen with your mind and your body, not just with your ears, and you will see, feel and hear the medicine. This was the music that people listened to, performed in their homes and sang at church, not the sometimes dischordant and negative music we hear on today’s radio. I’m not advocating giving up popular music, because don’t get me wrong, I love me some Maroon 5 and Weezer, but maybe find a way to bring classical music into your life once in a while. Going to the symphony is one way, and the ticket prices are surprisingly reasonable. The music will sound great no matter if you sit in the front or the last row of the cheap seats.
Psalm 98 says to us “make a joyful noise unto the Lord all the earth; make a loud noise, and rejoice and sing praise!” While you are singing Oh Holy Night, or Joy to the World! this season, listen to the words, hear them in your heart, sing them with the devotion with which they were written, and you may have that answer as well.