'Tis the season to make music -- or at least, that's how it seems. Today, I played my first of 5 gigs this Christmas. I have the great privilege of playing the viola in several symphonies and other groups. And this afternoon, I participated in a performance of Handel's Messiah.
I'll be completely honest: I was not really looking forward to it. Most gigs pay, but today's didn't. That sounds really selfish, but I said I'd be honest. I had to play violin instead of viola. And I will play in three more performances of this oratorio over the next couple of weeks. I just plain didn't want to do it.
Stay with me here. I've been feeling a lack of Christmas spirit lately. No one has any money, so any talk about gifts carries an implied undercurrent of stress about how to finance said tokens of love and appreciation. And everyone has crappy things happening to them. So how are we supposed to feel good will toward men (in the non-gender-specific sense of the word) when men don't exactly seem to feel good will toward you?
Then, a few weeks ago, a friend of mine, Melissa over at Moments that Matter, posted an entry about music. Her post prompted me to think about the music I love -- because there is just so much -- and I finally got around to Christmas music. It's that time of year, right? I keep Michael McLean's Forgotten Carols in my car year round because it speaks for my heart. "He Was Here" is about the shepherd who slept through the part with the angels and missed the opportunity to adore the Christ child, and it brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it because of this line:
"I know that as the world moves on through time
There will be more stories just like mine
About the souls who've chosen to believe
In something that they never got to see."
So. The Christmas spiritometer began to rise a little. I kept the CD handy, and started listening with my kids during afternoon clean-up time, when we (read: I) pick up toys and tidy the living room before I turn on a show to occupy them while I cook dinner.
One random day, just like all the other days, I started yelling at the kids to participate in cleaning up the mess they helped make. I was getting really frustrated because they were just not listening. At all. And just as I reached the pinnacle of angriness, I heard another of these carols in the background. It was Joseph's song, when he sings, "I was not his father, he was mine."
Deep breath. I stopped yelling and had this total paradigm-shifting moment. I had this vision of Joseph and Mary parenting a toddler Jesus. Did Mary have to stop him from touching a hot pot? Did Joseph have to reprimand him for being careless with tools? I expect they didn't, but it doesn't matter, because whatever their precious and perfect son did, they saw him with an eternal perspective. They saw him as a child of God.
I know that my little boys are not going to grow up to be anything that will even approach the greatness of our Savior. But they do have one essential characteristic in common with their elder brother: they, too, are children of God. I think if we really saw our children (or, really, anyone) for what they are, what they can become -- we would treat them differently. I bet Mary and Joseph didn't yell at their little ones. Or even at each other.
Yesterday, we drove up into the mountains where there are farms that grow Fraser Firs. We hiked around on the mountain in the cold and finally found our perfect Christmas tree. The nice workers cut it down for us with a chainsaw (always exciting for little boys) and baled it up (also exciting!) and we brought it home. Tonight, the boys "helped" us put on the lights. Add a little more Christmas spirit to the meter.
Jump back to today. I went. I played. And as I listened to the words of that most inspired of compositions, taken wholly from scriptural texts, set to what must be the most glorious music ever composed, I felt a resurgence of the spirit I had been lacking.
We celebrate because we have so many blessings -- even in the worst of circumstances, we have the greatest of blessings. We give gifts to one another in semblance of the greatest of all gifts ever given: a sacrifice beyond our comprehension that makes it possible for us to live in the presence of God forever.
Christmas Spirit is officially back.