do you hear what i hear?

I think a ‘good day’ is a day when I’ve learned something new. There’s a nice feeling of   accomplishment that comes with a bit more knowledge. Plus, ya’ never know when some random fact or skill may come in handy. Need to know all the words to the musical “Little Shop of Horrors” or how to clear a drain using baking soda and cream of tartar? I’m your gal.

But this post isn’t about random things I know. It’s about Christmas! Specifically, Christmas music. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how important music is to life in general. It’s good for the soul and for the brain. It is a part of our history, our development and our emotions. Ever hear a song and instantly become flooded with “swooshes” of memories? When I was pregnant, I used to play music to my ever-growing belly. And I can clearly remember the peaceful beauty of the “La La Dee Doo” song from my kids’ international lullaby cd they listened to as a babies.

Christmas songs are no different. What’s your favorite? Do you like the new ones or the traditional ones? Instrumental or vocal? As for me, my favorite is “Do You Hear What I Hear?” I’ve always liked the build-up from its simplistic beginning into the majesty at the end. I like the thought of a ‘little shepherd boy’ whispering an important message to the ‘mighty king’ about another King.

Did you know that many Christmas tunes are worship songs? Of course as we get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus, this makes sense. But did you also know that many Christmas songs are prayers as well? Such is the case for my favorite.

“Do You Hear What I Hear” was written in 1962 by songwriting couple Noel and Gloria Regney. Typically, Noel would write the music and his wife would write the lyrics. But in this case, they reversed their roles. Noel was walking the streets of New York, worrying about the current missile crisis between Russia and the United States. Noel had experienced World War II firsthand and he felt the current despair in the air.

It was the Christmas season and he had been asked to write a Christmas song. But how could he write a song to epitomize the joy of Christmas when all he was feeling was doom and gloom? On his way home, he spotted two mothers with their babies in strollers. The babies were smiling at each other. Noel thought they looked like two little lambs and he was inspired. As soon as he got home, he jotted down his lyrics and Gloria put the poetry to music. She has been quoted as saying, “Noel wrote a beautiful song and I wrote the music. We couldn’t sing it through; it broke us up. We cried. Our little song broke us up.”

Sometimes we sing the lyrics to a song without knowing what we’re really saying. Or maybe we only know the chorus, sing it loud and proud, but mumble the verses. Maybe we’re missing the point if we don’t listen closely. In an interview from 1985, when asked about “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Noel said, “I am amazed that people can think they know the song-and not know it is a prayer for peace. But we are so bombarded by sound and our attention spans are so short that we now listen only to catchy beginnings.”  Indeed.

“Listen to what I say. Pray for peace, people everywhere.”


Giving credit where it is due:

cd: ‘Lullabye: a collection”

a december prayer

real is rare

Recently a friend posted this on facebook and it struck a chord with me as loud as the Hallelujah chorus.

It’s the holidays. Time for happiness, joy, warm-fuzzies and smiles all around. Right?

Um, no.

For me, as soon as November hits, I start feeling ancy. Well, let’s be real. Not ancy, but more like anxious.

I can’t completely explain it and I’ve stopped trying to. I’d like to say I love the holidays and all the pieces that go with it. Time to be real. I love Thanksgiving. I love spending the morning sipping on a killer-strong cup of coffee, watching the parade from the warmth of my couch and jammies, and then feasting with my family and feeling thankful. After all…

“There is so much to be thankful for.”

I know.

“Things could be worse.”

I know.

“You should count your blessings.”

I know. And I do.

Nonetheless, as soon as the world around me kicks full-force into Christmas mode, I struggle. I can’t explain it. It’s not logical. Why in the world would the season for celebrating Christ’s birth make me feel anxious, sad, and seriously lacking in holiday joy?

Part of it for me is the weather. I know this and can’t do anything about it. I’m sad in the winter. I hate feeling cold. I need sun and bright light. I’ve asked my doctor if he could write me a prescription for a trip to Florida every winter, but that was a no-go.

There’s a lot to do at Christmas time. I mean a ton. Let’s be real again. Making the season bright takes a lot of work and it only comes around once a year. So ya’ get one chance to do it right. No pressure there. Don’t get me wrong, I cherish our traditions and appreciate deeply that my family enjoys them too. But sometimes it just feels like a lot. And then guilt sets in, making me feel crummy again. Not a lovely cycle. More reality here: Every December my poor mom gets a phone call from me. It’s my traditional Christmas breakdown phone call. It makes no sense. In the grand scheme of things, I shouldn’t be complaining. But bless her heart. She never says that. Instead the line of communication is completely open and she lets me vent, cry, freak out and then laugh at myself for my regularity of a holiday freak-out session. She gives me a hug through the phone line and every year tells me it’s gonna be ok. And every year, it is.

So when I read my friend’s post saying “Real is Rare”. I had to prioritize this because it’s so true. Life is not a Norman Rockwell painting or a sappy holiday movie where issues are resolved before the closing credits. Although I like looking at difficult situations through rose-colored glasses, sometimes you just gotta get real and say today was rough.

When thoughts like this pop up, the best place to go is to God. He knows where we’re at and is ready with open arms to listen and extend peace. With that in mind, here is a prayer for December…

Dear God,

Christmas time is when we celebrate how incredibly generous you are. As we prepare to celebrate your Son’s birth, please help me to keep my focus on the right things.

When it’s time to decorate, help me to not be so picky. In the grand scheme of things, no one will die if one light bulb is out or if all the ornaments aren’t straight.

When it’s time to bake, help me to make the favorites my family loves and know that it’s enough. Making every recipe in my book does not make me a superhero.

For those of us with crafty blood pumping in our veins, help us to not bite off more than we can chew. Choosing to sew an entire blanket starting in late December will make us crabby instead of cheery.

Please help me to embrace the sparkle. The sparkle of old, handmade treasures covered in glitter that falls off just a little bit more each year. The sparkle in a child’s eyes when they tell you how excited they are for Christmas. The sparkle in house lights, whether or not they are all twinkling. The sparkle in new-fallen snow.

And while we’re on the topic of snow, please help me not to squelch others’ enthusiasm for this chilly loveliness.

Even though I would prefer my toes sticking into a sandy beach instead of my wool socks, I can be thankful that I have wool socks to keep me warm. (Who am I kidding? I have an entire drawer-full that I will be wearing until mid-April!)

Thank you, God, for my memories of Christmas times gone by. Instead of feeling sad that those times aren’t in the present, help me to be thankful that they happened at all and embrace what’s current and new.

Help me to breathe deeply and fill my heart and soul with your peace. Your love is more than I could ever completely soak in, so help me to share it with others. Guide me in random acts of kindness that will shine Your light – the brightest one of Christmas.