~photo courtesy of theresolved.com
Deck the Halls, the Holiday Season is fast approaching! In fact, for some time, the chambers of the Retailers' cathedrals have already been decked out, including the playing of Christmas music!
In my opinion, "Silent Night" captures the essence of the Christian myth as no other Christmas hymn. In it's simple elegance, written for guitar and voice, to be played in a hushed ballad style, "Silent Night" takes the darkness of night and transforms it into the brilliance of it's message - God is with us.
To stand in a darkened chapel or glorious sanctuary, holding this one small lit candle, is to hold the light of this message against the darkness of all that steals one's hope, one's faith and one's belief that love is stronger than hate. To sing "Silent Night" while holding this candle is to glimpse past the opposites that so often imprison us and behold the that which is eternal, beyond the opposites. For a brief moment, I am carried upward into that which is Transcendent.
My eyes always well up with tears. My heart and soul fill with wonder and awe. Judging by the numbers of people who attend Candlelight Christmas Services - and I know this from experience as both attendee and officiant- I am not alone in how this beautiful experience touches me.
Nor am I alone in this deep appreciation for all the Christian sacred music of the Christmas season. They are hymns. They are vehicles of worship. They express the proclamation of Incarnation - God with us in the person of Jesus the Christ. These sacred scores of beautiful music, with words that express praise, wonder and awe occupy a treasured place in the worshipful expression of the American Christian community.
~photo courtesy of Bing and Infomofo
In the coming weeks I will set my foot inside the hustle and bustle of the Holiday Marketplace. I will join the migration of holiday shoppers as we search for what advertisers like to tell us is "the perfect gift." Lights will flicker and garland will hang from the escalators. Beautifully decorated Christmas trees will take their places on the counter tops, in the center squares, at the entrances that greet us.
All around us, the music of the season will hover, painting a canvas of expectation, anticipation, and yes, fantasy. And among the melodic brush strokes will be the sacred hymns, including the simple and elegant "Silent Night."
To me, hearing "Silent Night" in the Mall seems like such a disconnect. I can only liken it to bringing a credit card machine into a Candlelight Christmas Service. Or better, watching the choir stand, the Choir leader cue the pianist and voices breaking out in singing, "Louie Louie." Yes, for me, it is that bad.
There I will be in the hallowed halls of the Cathedral to Consumerism - the Mall - and overhead I will hear, in various manifestations, the great hymns of the Christian Church's most cherished proclamation and doctrine.
When did this all start? Who is it that came up the bright idea to take the most cherished of Christian hymns and play them as mood music for Holiday shoppers? And where were the voices of protest from the faithful?
True, many are quite pleased with hearing their sacred hymns being sung while they shop for lingerie at Victoria Secret or check out the latest tech gadgets at Best Buy. But not me. I think doing so cheapens the sacred, profanes the holy, not to mention foists onto those who aren't Christian the essential teachings of one particular religion.
I will admit, in this, I am a Scrooge. What makes my objection to playing these sacred hymns even more ironic, is that I am a Buddhist. Perhaps an uptight Buddhist, but a Buddhist nonetheless. And I say to the Mall owners, as well as everyone else who owns a business and glories in the mad profit of this holiday season. "Show some respect for the cherished hymns of those who believe that 'Jesus is the reason for the season' and stop with the pimping of the Church's music."
In the meantime, I will see you who are Christian at the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. I will be the Buddhist holding the lighted candle as tears well up in my eyes.