Loving members of my own family have called me a Christmas carol snob, and I must confess the accusation is accurate. I can’t help myself. When I walk into a store, expecting to be filled with the Christmas spirit and am, instead, greeted with, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” piping loudly throughout the store, I start to feel nauseous.
Last week I finally got around to doing some Christmas shopping. Okay, maybe I’ve been called a procrastinator on occasion, too. As I entered store number one, my ears were accosted by strains of the ever-reverent “Santa Baby” followed by another sacred classic, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” I could scarcely keep the bile from rising in my throat. Let me be clear. I’m not above a sentimental rendition of “White Christmas” or “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” but when you interrupt my holy Advent season with tripe like, “Run Rudolph Run” and “Gee Whiz it’s Christmas” I get offended.
Don’t get me wrong. I adore Christmas music. I anticipate it eagerly all year long. Handel’s Messiah, while overdone, still gives me chills. Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, and Respighi’s Laud to the Nativity are a few of thee xquisite musical settings that capture the true spirit of Christmas for me.
There are arrangements of traditional carols that,when performed by groups like The King’s Singers, Chanticleer, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir or the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, leave me wanting more. “Mary Did You Know?” is a more modern carol that makes me weep when I hear it sung well.
Since retiring, I’ve participated in a program through my church that ministers to shut-ins. Weekly, I visit two elderly women at a local senior living facility. Being with them is a blessing beyond words, and I look forward to our precious times together.
One woman is ninety-six and confined to her bed dayand night. Although her mind is sharp, macular degeneration causes blindness,and her hearing is greatly impaired. She spends most of her time sleeping or listening to audio books. She tells me she feels “useless” and wishes the Lord would take her home.
At my last visit, my elderly friend asked if I’d help her sing Christmas carols. I pulled out my phone to Google the words in case some of them had slipped my memory. She requested song after song: “O, Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Silent Night,” “Away in a Manger,” “Joy to the World,” and my favorite, “What Child is This.” Despite the oxygen tube in her nose and a thin,croaky voice, she joined in with gusto, loud, strong and in no way pleasant to the ear. If she forgot a strain, she asked me to repeat it again and again, helping her commit it to memory. “Let’s do this again next week,” she said. “I just love those carols, and I want to remember every word.”
We prayed together, and I left her room with tears flooding my cheeks. Hoarse and exhausted from the effort, my heart and eyes overflowed with Christmas joy. This self-professed Christmas carol snob had been blessed by the rawest, ugliest, most atonal rendition of carols ever, singing that came from the heart and reached God’s waiting ears. Surely the Lord Jesus was in that room!
Cindy L.Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman.Her books are available from amazon.com or hightidepublications.com