A funny thing happened Sunday after Auburn’s heartbreaking loss to Alabama this past Saturday. Riding down the road and not wanting to listen to the talking heads dissect a game that I did not want to think about any longer, I switched from Sirius XM to FM radio. The first five stations I dialed up were all playing Christmas songs.
I drove down the road listening to the familiar tunes and words. Carols from my childhood mixed with contemporary songs of the season. I found myself humming along, then singing, though my throat was still raw from yelling at the football game. I expect my voice was a full octave lower just from yelling “War Eagle” a thousand times.
It is comforting to recognize and remember words that you have sung since childhood. Certain songs bring up specific memories of times and places and people in our past. I could have driven for hours as the hectic Fall season and endless hours of football chatter gave way to the peace and anticipation of Christmas.
Christmas creeps into our daily lives earlier and earlier each year. Department stores have their trees and lights up before Halloween now, having long ago breached the Thanksgiving season. It does not bother me. We enjoyed Thanksgiving with our family even as some neighbors began decorating their homes for Christmas weeks earlier.
While the visible signs of Christmas have been around for a few weeks, it was not until Sunday that I heard, actually heard, the wonderful sounds of Christmas. It put me in the mood, the spirit of Christmas, as the stories are played out in hundreds of ways.
Sunday evening, my transition to Christmas continued as I attended the “Keyboards, Carols, Candlelight and Chocolate” performance at Auburn United Methodist Church. Four grand pianos, each played simultaneously by talented musicians, delighted the audience for an hour and a half with a program of classical and contemporary favorites.
“Charlie Brown’s Christmas Medley” flowed easily with Felix Mendelssohn’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”. In the crowd of hundreds, I could see heads bobbing, knees bouncing, hands tapping, all in time to the songs of our childhood, the memories of our youth.
The next day, I pulled out some of my Christmas music and sat down at the piano. I have quite a collection of Christmas sheet music and books. Most of it is never played, except for a day or two a year. Energized by the sounds I had heard the previous day, I played for an hour.
Then I picked up the Baptist Hymnal I first played from when I was eight years old. It was copyrighted in 1956, just two years after I was born. I turned to the section appropriately named “His Birth”. There on page 77, I found the first song I ever played in church, “Away in a Manger”. I played every Christmas song in the hymnal that day. Good basic, timeless hymns that were the foundation of my love of the Christmas season. You know them all.
It is the beginning of December at the end of a chaotic and painful year. We are now in the Season of Advent, which literally means “coming”. It is the time Christians prepare and wait for the coming of the celebration of Jesus’ birth and anticipate the second coming of Christ.
Music helps us to anticipate and prepare. It puts our hearts and soul in the right place. Hope, love, joy, and peace are the messages of Advent. They are all around us if we only listen. Listen to the sounds of the season. The wonderful sounds of Christmas.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org