Waiting for Christmas in Silence. Or Not.December 18th, 2013
Growing up in my Croatia, I didn’t know there was such a thing as Advent. Christmas Eve came quietly. Our city streets and lamp-posts weren’t gleaming with millions of string lights during the darkest time of winter. Christmas was wrapped in a mystery, known only to those who believed.
Perhaps that’s why I love the American tradition of decorating houses shortly after Thanksgiving, playing Christmas music on the radio, putting up lights and trimmed up trees on city squares and corners, watching people getting into the holiday spirit – everyone in their own way… Some by pulling out their favorite red and green sweater; some by writing and mailing their cards early, some by taking time to pray, doing the inventory of their heart’s joys, fulfilled and unfulfilled dreams and hopes, facing that empty space left by a lost loved one. Some by finding ways to reach to those less fortunate…
I travel and perform. I offer a “concert experience” that tells the story of Christmas from a perspective of a child longing to believe, hoping to, in my own way, create an opportunity to get into the spirit of the season.
But I also sing about my own struggle to prepare my ‘outside’ world and create ‘magical moments’ for my family – and to prepare my soul to be still and able to really receive the true gift of Christmas – God himself.
“Sure I love the Christmas Season, all the pretty stars and angels,
scented candles gold and silver, glitter that peels off and makes a mess
right on my brand new sweater which I got me as a present.
Cause this year I’ll be even better, I’ll put up the decorations
bake those peanut butter cookies, I will clean all floors and windows,
make my husband put the lights up, our neighbors will be happy
and I’ll host a sit down dinner, I’ll invite that lonely stranger…
Which reminds me I still have to buy another serving platter,
and since I am going shopping I should really buy the presents…
only three per person this year…. “
So goes the song… and it spins and spins as more and more thoughts and chores come to mind… In the end, it says: “Dear Santa… take me on the sleigh ride, drop me off… where the night is so still, where there is nothing that you have to do… just believe… “
I love how, during the Advent season, the world (yes, the secular world) creates movies, music, shows, all to open itself up to “feel” more kindness, more gentleness, more generosity than usual. I love how people are more willing to open their hearts to believing – like they did as children. And when they do, Christmas happens for them.
And yes, the decorations, scented candles, gold and silver glitter and all the pretty stars and angels – all of that is the ‘outside’ – a backdrop that nudges and awakens our hearts to melt the walls they had put up. A song, a fragrance, a star, a moment of gentleness can awake a memory of time when, as children, we loved and believed without fear.
That’s what my song intends to say. All of this ‘outside’ is only a trigger for what I long to experience within – the true Gift of Christmas – God Himself.
There was one performance this season when I skipped this song. The performance at Lansing Correctional Institution. A maximum security prison. Before we began, we were told that some of the men will never celebrate Christmas outside the prison walls. There were no decorations in the chapel, or in the hallways, or bare offices we were allowed in. There was no smell of baking that could trigger memories for these men.
But we were invited to bring them music. Music that has power to penetrate the depths of a human heart.
I asked them to come with me on this journey and hear the story of Christmas as a child would – for the very first time. As I sang, I wondered how many really wanted to remember themselves as children? How many were truly loved, how many of them were raised without a parent, or in circumstances that led them to make the choices they made?
I knew these were the men who had already looked into their souls and asked those questions themselves – otherwise, they wouldn’t have been invited to attend the concert.
During “Gloria” a few strong manly voices joined in. Then a few more and a few more, until the chapel was filled with the palpable spirit of hope, joy, love and yes, freedom – the kind that we only find in God.
So let’s keep the Gift of Christmas unwrapped, free for the whole world to receive. Let’s share it with every string of lights we put up, with every Facebook status we post and every card we send. Let’s go an extra mile this season, reach out and create some memories for those whose circumstances would otherwise leave them feeling ‘left out’ – on the darkest evening of the winter, thinking that Christmas was just for those who believe.
Article about Prison Concert from Kansas City:
Radio Interview with Archbishop Naumann (Part 1):
This blog was first posted at Tajci’s blog, Journeying Through Life and Taking Notes.