December 23, 1999
Music, to me, is one of the best parts of the Christmas season. Many pleasures are laid before us each year at this glorious time. Family reunions, bountiful meals, gaily decorated homes, shops and indeed entire cities ... all these help to focus attention on the true centerpiece of the season, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Special services at the church, pageants featuring youngsters who are just beginning to understand what the fuss is all about ... gifts to exchange with dear friends and family, time to visit those we love but too rarely see ... all of these are part of the fabric of this glorious season.
We select the most appropriate (or affordable) gift for each one on the list and carefully wrap it in festive paper trimmed with bright ribbons and bows. Then it goes beneath the tree until whenever your tradition dictates, or perhaps it provides a reason to make the delivery in person and thus fulfill your vow to visit that one at some point this year. On a calendar, we pencil in the time and location for each of the many holiday events offered by friends, relatives, organizations and others who become swept up in the holiday festivities.
And in spite of the busy-ness, time is allotted for remembering Christmases past, those yesteryears that remain fresh in our hearts and in our minds despite the intervening years. Times we spent with loved ones who no longer walk the earth are vividly recalled and add to the glow, even though the associations are from days long ago. Sweet memories of those who remain close for unique and particular reasons may bring a tear to the eye while adding joy to the heart.
We search the Scriptures for new shades of meaning to this story, but the essence never changes. A baby was miraculously born to a poor couple huddled in a Bethlehem stable on a night long ago that will be forever remembered. The child was worshiped and adored at birth, later hailed as a young itinerant preacher, teacher and healer, then betrayed, persecuted and wrongfully accused by vindictive detractors and finally hung from a rough cross in a manner of execution reserved for the most despicable criminals. There he suffered and died to atone for the sins of all who believe in him, although he himself committed no sin because he truly was the Son of God. His body was laid in a tomb from which he arose triumphantly, alive, three days later, then ascended to Heaven where he dwells still today with his Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit.
This wonderful old story has been told, dramatized and offered to men, women and children throughout all the ages, and it is the reason we celebrate Christmas. We reflect on its meaning and wonder how we can be considered worthy of redemption, but try to live each day as we think our Lord would have us.
Skeptics may scoff at the truth of this story and doubters may turn away, but to my mind its authenticity and veracity are confirmed in many ways, none more forcefully than through the inspirational music of the season. Listen, how can anyone question a Spiritual presence when the panorama of the Christmas story becomes so moving and real through all the elements around us? The carols and anthems bring a sense of the glory, the magnificence of this time of year that nothing else can do. The inspired choruses, the arias and ensembles, the powerful organ artistry, the mighty symphonic chords, even the strolling youngsters lifting their voices as they make calls in the neighborhood - all of this tells me beyond the shadow of a doubt that a Divine, supernatural influence, not mere mortals, brought these works to us and they were moved by the same Spirit that encompasses all of us today. Praise God and bless His holy name forever!
Merry Christmas to all.