Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wise Men Still Seek Him

For whatever reason, I am into music. And I am into Christmas. And yes, I am into Christmas music. I remember playing the few Christmas LP's we had growing up, placing the special vinyl discs onto the turntable after carefully moving the decorative crystal pieces off the TV console, placing them carefully on the ground, to open the turntable lid. Perry Como "Home for the Holidays" is the Christmas album I recall the most. I guess my mama was trying to program us early to come back home for Christmas. She succeeded for the most part. 

Over time, of course, we have seen the vinyl give way to the unmanageable 8-track tape, which thankfully moved on to the cassette tape, and then has rested for over thirty years on the CD-rom. While my oldest son believes the truest sound quality comes from the CD-rom {it's all about that bass}, you can even buy the MP3 now. I don't know what will be next, since we are already buying invisible music on that MP3. I will tell you, though, there's something about slipping that vinyl from the sleeve with solemn revere, and trying to get that needle to set down just right and proper upon it to begin that sweet flow of melody.

While I have seen the music morph, I have collected it all the while. My college years saw me making cassette tape mixes of holiday music, needing some to call my own since I was 10 hours away from Perry Como. And while I was going to be going home from college for the holidays, I wanted that Christmas music in early December, too. I would imagine that my first year of working after college - you know that first year with a paycheck! - that I purchased some cassette tapes. I recall vividly ordering a 3-pack of Christmas cassettes that Time Life offered on TV. They are nestled down in my music drawer still. Thankfully, though, most of my Christmas music is in CD form. By the time I started working in 1986, and we married in 1987, the CD was well established after its 1982 debut.

I have a Christmas Eve tradition. I get the house all picked up on Christmas Eve Eve, and on the morning of Christmas Eve, while the boys are sleeping, and Steve has crept off to work in the early early pre-dawn hours, I brew my coffee, and sit on my couch with my favored Christmas mug of snickernut coffee, and play my Christmas music, and just sit and enjoy my tree, as it lights up the room long before the sun appears. It is one of my favorite times - to be still and calm and peaceful. To reflect on the gifts in my heart, to ponder, to treasure, to remember the year past, to contemplate the coming year, to just soak in the season as it reaches its culminating peak.

I have wondered for awhile if I could narrow it down to having just one favorite Christmas song. It would be hard. I have memories of singing these songs over my life span with friends, with siblings, with my children, with choirs at various churches, with Steve. My sister Pattie stands out in particular when I hear "Mele Kelikimaka", as she really enjoyed singing that growing up. Karen Carpenter anything reminds me of so many Black Friday escapades with my mom and my two sisters. "Sleigh Ride" finds me playing french horn in the annual high school Christmas concert. I think of Christmas Eve service, and all the luminaries in the sanctuary, when "Silent Night" rolls into the mix. I recall the boys' Christmas programs and cupcake fingers when "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" prances into the speakers. 

51 Albums, 533 Songs, 30 hours, 56 minutes. My Holiday genre in iTunes as it stands today. Love it. I don't think there is a year, though, where I am not buying another album, so it is an organic compendium with a life its own. I start playing it usually the day after Thanksgiving and go until the New Year. I love the variety of the songs and how they span memories of fifty years of my life. One tender moment last August when my oldest child left the nest, "Mom, I need some of your Christmas music, " as he, too, anticipated the wanting of the Christmas carols in his dorm, preceding his own trek home for the holidays.

But, I do have a favorite song. It's "O Holy Night". Luciano Pavarotti, The Carpenters, Sara Groves, Donny Osmond, Nat King Cole, Faith Hill, Selah, Tony Bennett, Josh Groban, Celene Dion, Jackie Evancho all shuffle through my play list and no matter what I am doing, or which one of these artists is singing it, this song always stops me in my tracks and resonates deeply within me. It's a hard song to perform, and so often doesn't make the Christmas Eve service cut which is geared toward congregational participation, but it is the one that encapsulates most clearly to me the Reason for the season.
O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
I love the related and consequential Christmas sentiment, "Wise men still seek Him." It was one such thought that had us driving south on a dark cold December night to Waxahachie. It's about 65 miles from us. I had heard about a live nativity that a church put on, but it was more than a live nativity - it was a recreation on a small scale of the town of Bethlehem. We are limited on when we can do things in December, and as luck would have it, the night that we could actually go to Waxahachie was one of those rare, windy, bitter cold nights in North Texas. We bundled up as best we could and set out to find the Star over the manger, the little town of Bethlehem.

The photos themselves are not spectacular. I struggle in low light situations still. {Maybe when I grow up I can be a good low light photographer. ;-) } But the night was so special, and we have never repeated this event, so they are all I have. One night, 4 seekers, 3 wise men, 1 manger, 1 star, 1 baby. It was a delight to walk through the stations of the birth, from the religious leaders denunciating the event, to the wise men on real camels with gifts, to the shepherds watching their flocks of real sheep, to the dark hovel with the one bright star, announcing the virgin birth, the Christ child.

It didn't last long. The event was an at-your-leisure tour, so as we ambled our way along the paths, we took it all in and finished up, and headed to search out the nearest Starbucks and a warm drink. I couldn't tell you if the boys really recall this night. I am not sure Steve would ever be willing to drive again to it. But, I remember it still. I wonder what it was really like 2,000+ years ago. I wonder if the Star were to appear today if anyone would really notice it. I think about Mary raising a son she knew was not really hers. I ponder all this in my heart.

And when I sit and stare at my tree and listen to my music, I know in my heart that wise men still seek Him, and the bright Star of shining hope is our beacon in the dark night of our heart, the Light that gives us hope, that makes this truly the most wonderful time of the year.

Oh Little Town of Bethlehem ~ Waxahachie Nativity ~ December 2009

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Authentique
Title: Silhouette cut file


  1. Beautiful Penny! I love Christmas music as well, and even have similar journaling on a layout about placing the needle just so on a record.

  2. This layout is gorgeous! You have such a great eye for choosing papers...