It’s not worth the number of words it would take to explain why we didn’t get a Christmas tree this year. We just didn’t.
Having no tree to decorate, we could not muster enough motivation to do any Christmas decorating at all. We simply shrugged and gave up.
This meant that the beautifully intricate and personalized ornament that a friend proudly presented to me wound up sitting right where I left it—like some miscellaneous flub-dub—on our kitchen counter.
You are now likely imagining my wife and I spending the past several weeks rattling around in a dreary domicile, completely devoid of all those cheerily festive signs of the season, like a couple of ornery old Scrooges.
And you’d be partially right.
We both resigned to the consequence of our lazy languor. Having none of the traditional trappings and trinkets on display, we would simply miss out on the general joy and uplifting spirit of this Christmas season.
Then something miraculous happened. Something like what the Grinch himself experienced after stealing all of the Whos’ holiday miscellany. He was aiming to rob them of their Christmas joy, only to discover—come Christmas morning—a surprising sound “rising over the snow. It started in low, then it started to grow.”
You know the story and you know the sound he heard, which caused his tiny Grinch heart to grow three whole sizes, coaxing an involuntary smile that would reach all the way down to his very Grinch soul.
It was music.
Those intermingled voices of every Who down in Whoville, singing a rejoicing song of welcome to a bright Christmas morning.
And so it happened with us—we two erstwhile Grinches…
As I plucked out familiar Christmas songs on my banjo in preparation for a small concert at a local Christmas festival, my wife began to sing along. Lo, this spontaneous duet ushered a sudden and unexpected flood of Christmas spirit into our home, and it wasn’t just us.
After performing this Christmas concert a few days later, a blind woman in attendance whispered to me, “I can finally feel the Christmas spirit!”
Also, while herding a gaggle of rambunctious teenagers onto a hay-wagon to go caroling around our neighborhood on a frosty evening last week, I recognized that special spirit and magic of Christmas aglow in the misty eyes of many a grateful neighbor as they ventured out into the frigid air to blow us appreciative kisses, as some chose to sing along.
Even as I write this column, Christmas music is playing on a speaker in the other room, lifting my spirits and filling my heart every bit as full as if I’d been typing away beneath a gloriously ornamented, 15-foot spruce tree!
Those traditional trappings of the Christmas season—the decorations, the lights, the trees, candles, garland, mistletoe, pine-boughs, the nutcrackers, snow-globes and gingerbread-houses, the brightly wrapped presents, Christmas carousels and nativity scenes—are all wonderfully splendid.
We are already resolved to start earlier next year—heading up our local canyon to happily hunt for that perfect tree to adorn our home—decking our halls with those storied boughs of holly.
But it is nice to be reminded, every now and then, that Christmas in its purest essence—that spirit of giving, charity, peace and goodwill—does not come from those lovely trappings and trimmings, delightful though they are.
That true essence of Christmas comes into hearts, most directly and undiluted through inspired—and inspiring—songs, hymns and carols of the season.
If I could come and sing a slightly off-key carol on each of your doorsteps this year, I would do it.
But, in lieu of any such unexpected, in-person-performance, I will simply write this last stanza with as much Christmas feeling and heartfelt expression as I can muster. While singing right out loud, as I type…
“I wish you music, I wish you song
With voices echoing, joyous and strong;
I wish you church-bells, ringing true and clear;
I wish you Christmas, A Merry Christmas,
A Merry Christmas to remember all the year.”
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