Hallelujah for the holly and the holy
It is amazing to me the channels through which spiritual revelations travel to get to my soul. This religious holiday season is a case in point.
I have been listening to a lot of Christmas songs on the radio these past weeks. In fact, one FM stations has featured the 93 days of Christmas, boasting continuous seasonal music for one quarter of the year. I have heard a lot of people react to this with disgust as Christmas carols overlapped with Halloween candy and Thanksgiving turkey. But for me, it has provided me with a new insight into the use of our individual heritages as a link to the eternal.
This revelation comes courtesy of a cheap sound system in my house in Indianapolis. A $69 boom box just doesn’t even turn the volume up enough to spread throughout my small home to play my Christmas CDs. But, the TV in my home and the radio in my car can be cranked up enough for my lame ears to get a powerful sound.
These commercially produced programs found on the radio and cable have such a variety of music with Christmas themes. I can remember when the only seasonal choices beyond our church choir carols were ‘The Night Before Christmas’ and ‘Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.’ I imagine I have heard ‘Silent Night’ sung or played in over 30 different styles in the past month. It comes in all interpretations now: jazz, classical, country, blues, new age and some I can’t label from their sound.
I realized that when I played my personal collection of Christmas music, I listened only to what I felt connected with due to my upbringing and generation. Generally, I am pretty traditional, but since I have been traveling internationally a lot lately, I have been exposed to a broader venue of expressions through art. I now love Russian orthodox chanting, which, come to find out, is different from Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox chant-ing.
The highlights of the trip, as well as a real view of the people I visit, are gained while participating in a worship service in their ‘House of the Lord.’ Sincere, dedicated and godly people do indeed pray and sing in different manners. Some of the practices feel a bit foreign to me, but it is obviously not the case for those who have grown up sharing these moments with their loving families.
Our spiritual life is such a mystery to us mere mortals. We often yearn for something we can understand to put allegiance behind. Thus, we worry so about what others call God or how He or She is worshiped and on which day. Perhaps this shrinks the God we worship to the size of our human mind’s capacity.
The only way we know to express our image of a spiritual being is to use the language of our lives. We tell the story of our universe through pictures, words and musical notes that speak of our experiences. Sort of like my childhood, thinking that ‘Silent Night’ should only be sung slowly by a soprano as it always was on Christmas Eve in my Methodist church.
I’ve come to believe that maybe I would do better to concentrate on what God tells me to be and do rather than on what others choose to signify as the description of the holy image. As a Hindu swami in India told me, the differences between us go away when we remember that we are all told by our spiritual leaders to ‘treat others as we would have them treat us.’ Now, if someone says their spiritual leader says to go rid the world of those who do not believe as they do, then we do have a difference of great importance.
I remember actually crying when I was a little kid because my mom wanted to put up two separate Christmas trees on either side of the fireplace instead of one big tree by the window. Wow, did I have a lot of growing up to do. I’m not so sure I have come a long way as of yet, but I’m working at it. It is apparent to me now that God is certainly not in the trappings of the season. I more and more perceive that God comes in different forms so that more and more people can recognize the presence of a spirit eternal, absolute and good Supreme Being here on earth.
Whatever you call the holiday season, I wish a spiritual awaking for you. Maybe it will be something small that brings new insights to light or a whopper of a miracle that turns your life in a new direction. However you want your songs sung, may they radiate out a loud ‘Joy to the world, the Lord is come.’