Today the Advent calendar is showing me 16 days until Christmas Eve and until I hear “Night of Silence/Silent Night“…
I love the sights and sounds of Christmas, the twinkling lights, the gingerbread smells, The Andy Williams Christmas Album (among the many other favorites). And while I look forward to all of this, I’m trying not to do it all too soon, so that in the end, Christmas remains magical for me and my family. Our culture pushes the commercial side of Christmas at us much too soon; the garland and gold are up in stores before Halloween, and carols croon out from speakers weeks before Thanksgiving. I think the commercial part of Christmas can be summed up best from Sir Thomas Malory or even Mary Poppins “Enough is as Good as a Feast.” For me and my family, we are not plunging into the Christmas season yet…it’s not Christmas…yet…
The Season of Advent
It’s the season of Advent. I love Advent. I love the ancient tradition of the Advent wreath and how our church still embraces this custom—3 purple candles and a rose-colored one to symbolize joy. Week by week, additional candles are lit, until week four, all candles are flickering and glowing, and we know Christmas is very soon. And during the Advent masses, we sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and other timely hymns (but not Christmas carols…it’s not Christmas… yet). This, too, is why I love the church; it helps us slow down and enjoy what’s really important. There’s even a feast day today, the Immaculate Conception, and the faithful sing favorite Marian hymns, honoring the woman God chose to bring his son to us…at Christmas. But, for now, it’s Advent (sometimes called “little lent”), and we wait; we prepare . It’s the fast before the feast. Christmas is coming. And speaking of the song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” have you ever heard the Veggie Tale version from The Star Of Christmas?—the movie is fun for family—and the ending gives me goose bumps every time!
Birthdays and Everything Else
Christmas and birthdays. Not talking about THE BIRTHDAY of birthdays..yet. I’m talking about my birthday. I am one of those unlucky enough to have a December birthday.(Anyone else like that and have a fantasy about a summer birthday party, with sunshine galore, barbecue and volleyball…anyone else?) Not only is mine in December, but my husband’s and my son’s (at Thanksgiving – close enough), my brother’s…my dog even! It’s basketball season and fund raising time, it’s time to shop and bake, cook, and cards (maybe) and holiday parties, and GNO with old friends (Can one really fast in our culture during the little lent?), and more shopping (Everything is on sale!). A normal month is busy, but December….I need a Silent Night!
Everything I could say about the busyness of December (and the culture’s brouhaha) can be summed up in Amy Grant’s “I Need a Silent Night.“ My sisters and I have always been huge Amy Grant fans. For us altos, she is a gift! I love her Christmas music and have been to several of her concerts! The song “I Need a Silent Night” (which can be found on her Album The Christmas Collection) profoundly expresses for me what can sometimes be frustrating about this time of the year. Below are a few of the lyrics that really hit home!
Anyone else grow up with 3 TV channels? I also remember from childhood sitting on the couch with 4 other siblings (couldn’t do that now) wondering and waiting for Christmas to arrive…did it really come more slowly back then? We would marvel in disbelief and surprise. “Can you believe that Christmas Eve is tonight?!! It’s finally here!” Now I’m singing a line from Amy’s song, “December comes faster every year.”
“Night of Silence” added with “Silent Night”—where did that song come from?
With the chaos and overfilled schedules (yes, I feel guilty complaining because life is good)…but still, I need more simplicity, and there is one thing that makes it all work for me on a spiritual level. I couldn’t enjoy the holidays without the night of nights. Christmas Eve…nothing like it. Hope and promise. The feeling of Christmas Eve mass is special. The people dressed in their finest clothes (mostly), the children looking excited, some people sleepy from too much eating before the service, but especially the music. Have you heard “Night of Silence”with “Silent Night”? The two songs sung together without fail…make me cry…every…single…time. And for my husband, too. Of all the Christmas songs, “Silent Night” is the one song that makes him feel the presence of his father; it reminds him of when he was a small boy and attended their Lutheran church services as a family.
The tradition of favorite hymns really do take us back, and I wanted to know more about this song that was now being combined with “Silent Night.” Thank you Daniel Kantor for your inspiring song. “Night of Silence” was published by GIA Publications in 1984 and has been broadcasted worldwide on PBS and NPR. If you never had the good fortune to hear the two songs sung together, you are missing a real treat. Wikipedia explains that the carol “Night of Silence” is a quodibet (Latin for “whatever you wish” from quod, “what” and libet, “pleases”) and is sung simultaneously with “Silent Night.” I like the Latin terms. Also, I would have to agree with this statement from Mr. Kantor’s website: the effect of the two songs coming together can make “a group of average singers sound like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”
Until it’s Christmas Eve
It’s not Christmas…yet! But I look forward to the journey towards the real Christmas and resolve to not lose focus on the real meaning among the hustle and bustle. And while I look forward to our choir’s rendition of “Silent Night” and “Night of Silence” on Christmas Eve, I discovered to my surprise and delight that I could enjoy it a few times before. Check out the recordings by Marty Haugen, David Haas, Yvonne Kenny, Chris Squire, St. Olaf College, Cantus, Theocracy, and many other choirs and singers worldwide. And here is a wonderful version by St. Olaf College (I really have GOT to visit their cathedral someday!!)! In the meantime, for the next 16 days, it’s waiting and preparing and starting to bring out the Christmas CDs and movies. So as we finish up blowing out our own birthday candles and shop and cook and decorate and bake our way through the season, I will remind myself to keep a joyful attitude and my focus until we arrive at THE BIRTHDAYS of birthdays, and through it all, my family will be hearing me sing into my wooden baking spoon Amy’s song (in my alto voice and most definitely off-key)…
I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night