Monday, December 13, 2010
A Clear and Silent Night
I heard, tonight, the most beautiful rendition of Silent Night that I've ever heard in my life. It touched me deeply. Maybe I can take you there with me.
The evening started out a little hectic. Bryan was nervous. He was accompanying a friend of ours on the piano while she sang a solo at our church's stake Christmas musical fireside. Another friend also accompanied them on the french horn. Both ladies (the soloist and the one on the french horn) involved in this musical number share their musical talents fairly regularly. Bryan does not. He played the piano quite a bit growing up, but he hasn't played very much since we got married since he's so busy with school and work and since we don't have a piano. So he was nervous on the way to the fireside.
We checked the program when we got there and Bryan's piece was about halfway through the program. We knew it would be well past Olivia's bedtime by the time Bryan played, so we had already decided we might go home after he was finished.
Well, thanks to some sweet friends sitting behind us, Olivia kept herself occupied with peek-a-boo long enough to make it through the end of Bryan's piece. He did just fine and so did our friends he was accompanying. When he came back and sat down I told him how well he had played and he of course told me how many mistakes he had made, but I honestly hadn't heard any of them. By then Olivia was starting to lose it. I was out in the hall with her for a little while and then when Bryan came out to check on me we decided that I'd dash back in to grab our things so we could go home and get Olivia to bed.
But something in me lingered.
Instead, we decided to stay for the rest of the program, but Bryan was nice and stayed out in the hall with Olivia while I went back into the chapel to enjoy the rest of the program. I love children and I love being a mom and I love Olivia, but sometimes it is so nice to be able to sit and focus on what's in front of me without any distractions. There is so much peace and beauty in personal reflection uninterrupted by little things. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does it's a sweet moment. That's the kind of moment I was having.
There were some other musical numbers--all touching and cheerful and well-performed. And then there was a bit of a lull as a plump and friendly man from Spain and his friend set up their guitars and the equipment necessary for us all to hear them. It took a few minutes, but nobody seemed to mind. The calm spirit went uninterrupted by this quiet pause. Somehow I knew it was all going to be worth the wait.
The smooth, gentle twangs from the guitars began. It was a soft and fluid kind of song. I could tell just by listening that their fingers were calm from the familiarity that comes from knowing well how to strum those strings. They danced around in notes that didn't seem possible to write down. It was that beautiful Spanish way of playing that comes from the heart. It was beautiful and calm.
These friends played a short bit of everywhereness at the beginning and then somehow it all turned into a simple and intricate Silent Night. I remarked to Bryan a few days ago how strange it seems sometimes to hear Christmas songs--hymns especially--on the radio being sung by popular singers because, more often than not, they make the song all about how high they can sing or how differently they're singing it and, though the words remain (somewhat) intact, the whole meaning of Christ is gone. This Spanish Silent Night was nothing like the limelight singers on the radio. It was quiet. It was only what it was. It wasn't trying to be anything more. It was, I thought, exactly how this old beloved hymn ought to be shared.
And then I had another thought that surprised me. Had I just told myself that this was the way the song ought to be? A German song in Spanish? I smiled to myself. How big the world is now. And yet how small. How big the world would seem to the person who so long ago wrote Silent Night, that now people the world over hum the solemn tune. And yet, how small the world is that we can all be neighbors and know and love each other. How close we all are.
As I thought about the simplicity and sincerity of the song and its message I caught--for a moment--the feeling I always want to have about Christmas. I'm not sure I can put it into words, but I know that in that moment I just wanted to capture that feeling and keep it in my heart for all of the Christmas season, so that I can hold that fragile and too-fleeting peace and love close by inside me. I wanted to cup my hands around that feeling carefully and keep it dear. It was the feeling of peace, love for Christ, love for my fellow beings, love for myself in spite of all my flaws, and a heart that longs to give and share all that.
And so, in an effort to keep that fragile feeling cupped safely in my hands and in my heart, I've tried to share with you a little of what I felt tonight. I hope I succeeded so that you can feel that way too. I know these little typing fingers can't bring the melody of that Spanish lullaby, but I hope they can bring to you a message of peace and hope through our Savior Jesus Christ.
Every night this month we have been reading and will continue to read The Living Christ. What a wonderful reminder of the reason for this season of giving and joy and hope. I'm excited to give the gifts we've been preparing to those we love on this coming Christmas Day. But those gifts, though made in love and thoughtfulness, are trinkets in comparison to the "matchless gift" we've all been given.
I know that Christ lives and that He loves us. I know that He loves me and I know He loves each of you. May the joy of that love carry you through this Christmas season with hope, peace, and a giving heart.