Those of you who know me also know what a huge part music plays in my life. I guess it was something I inherited from my parents who, while I was growing up, always kept a daily “soundtrack” playing on our family stereo. Sunday mornings would undoubtedly have the air ringing sweetly with the inimitable sounds of Jimmy Roselli’s Italian hits as mom took great care in preparing our Sabbath-day supper. Weekdays; depending upon my mother’s mood, one may have caught anything from the velvety jazz sounds of great legends like Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughn – to the top 40’s hits of the day emanating from our little household. Eventually, the proverbial baton was passed on to me via my beautiful mother and I have been faithfully effectuating my melodic responsibility for almost a half-century now.
As you may imagine, thanks to my parents, I have been blessed with very eclectic musical taste. With an opened mind, I often surf the radio dial, and internet alike, seeking out beautiful music of any style (as well as from other cultures) to add to my ever-growing collection. For the past few years I have been favoring contemporary Christian top-40 music. Please don’t judge, give it a try… it’s just plain good music that happens to have a positive message. In these trying times it is comforting to be reminded of a greater power watching over us with unfailing love and forgiveness.
What has all this got to do with Christmas you may ask? Well actually for me, quite a bit. This time of year at the Abate house, Christmas would simply not have been Christmas without a backdrop of holiday anthems gaily sung by Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, and of course, Bing Crosby. Over the years I have held steadfast to this family tradition. However as I mentioned above, the past few years have brought me a fondness for Christian pop tunes and that affinity has introduced me to songs that I would otherwise never have had in my life; exceptionally beautiful music that I not only appreciate for its appealing tunes and catchy refrain, it also manages to open my eyes to my God and my life as a whole.
As we get caught up on the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I find it refreshing to hear an inspiring song that reminds me of why we are celebrating in the first place. Even as a young boy I can remember that on the very same album where Johnny Mathis sang about “Silver Bells’ and “Sleigh Rides,” there was one song in particular that caught my heart and made me think. It was a song called, “The Secret of Christmas.” The lyrics of the song imparts to the listener that … “the secret of Christmas is not the things you do at Christmas time – but the ‘Christmas things’ you do – ALL YEAR THROUGH.” I could not have been more than nine years old but I was dumbstruck by the simple truth in the message of those powerful lyrics.
There is unquestionably something about the Christmas season that causes us to become much kinder, generous, and more understanding human beings, no matter what faith we may follow. How beautiful the world would be, if only we could do so, every day of the year… but I digress. To get back to the music; a couple of years ago an artist named Brandon Heath, released a Christmas album titled, “Christmas is Here.” On that album is the song “Just a Girl.” It narrates the story of Christmas from the prospective of the Innkeeper who put the holy couple up in a stable where Mary gave birth to the Son of God. The lyrics take you away from shopping lists, flying reindeer, dancing snowmen, and colored lights, to wrap you up in the warmth of the true miracle of Christmas
Although I respectfully acknowledge that Christmas is indeed a beautiful holiday, as any Christian truly knows, it is Easter that is the most important and joyous celebration on our calendar, as it is the very basis of Christianity itself! That said, there is one extremely important lesson that Christmas teaches us that can sadly become over shadowed by gifts, décor, and parties, and that is the fact that just as the innkeepers of Bethlehem turned away Mary and Joseph, we all too often turn away from our fellow man.
It is human nature to turn our eyes from suffering and things that we may find unpleasant but it is also a great human responsibility to do our part to ease the suffering. So you won’t give any money to that homeless girl who sits outside the subway station every day begging; tomorrow why not try offering her a friendly smile and some of your home-made Christmas cookies? I am certain that it would lift her spirit to know that someone actually cared enough to make her feel thought of, if only for a moment.
One of my favorite Christmas memories is from my days in New York City. I had a bunch of friends over for a Christmas tree-trimming party. Once the tree was decked out in all its holiday grandeur, my guests accompanied me down to Grand Central Station where, at that time, the homeless were known to gather. We gave them all the leftover food from our party, properly wrapped for presentation, along with paper plates, plastic cutlery and paper cups. The gratitude and smiles we received filled everyone (from both perspectives of the story) with the true meaning of Christmas. So much so, that when my friends and I returned to my apartment and stood together in the soft glow of the beautifully lite Christmas tree, it inspired us to spontaneously grasp hands and sing, Silent night.
Every day we have the opportunity to touch someone’s life. I pray to God that I recognize my chances and he grants me the ability to do the work he has for me here on earth during my lifetime.
Christmas is a time for reflection, a time for giving, a time for loving and, for me at least, a time for music that fills me with the spirit of Christmas and the miracle of the birth of the savior of the world, Jesus Christ. Now along with my traditional holiday musical favorites like Jingle Bells, Sleigh Ride, and Winter Wonderland, I have some new Christmas favorites such as Francesca Battistelli’s “You’re Here,” Downhere’s “How Many Kings,” and the afore mentioned Brandon Heath’s “Just a Girl.” I hope you too take a moment to listen to these songs, as I know that they will touch your heart as they have touched mine. For your convenience, I have posted links to their Youtube videos by simply clicking on their titles.
No matter what holiday you’re celebrating, may God bless you with peace, joy, love of family and friends, and the good health to enjoy it all.
Until Next Time,