Monday, December 1, 2008

The Joy of Music in the Holiday Season

by Rebekah Howell

As the temperature drops and the days shorten, many dread the coming winter. In our household this change in the seasons was not accompanied by distress of being cooped up in the house, but anticipation of the coming holiday season. Waking up to a white blanket of snow glistening in the sun filled me with life and energy for the celebration of the coming of our Lord and Savior. One of the most precious ways my family celebrates the birth of our Lord is through the gift of music.
Many people have forgotten the joy of music during the holiday season. As long as I can remember, music has played a significant role in my family’s celebration of Christmas. Every year, we gather together with all of our relatives for the “Ahlquist Family Christmas Sing.” Of course we would share a Swedish dinner together and then gather around the piano where Grandpa would play. My brother and I eagerly watched as his fingers smoothly glided over the keys, not a piece of music in sight. I was sure he had the whole hymn book memorized! The room was filled with joyful varieties of Christmas tunes including old Swedish hymns, the well-known children’s songs, and the dearly loved Christmas carols. As the family has grown over the years, we have not given up on this tradition. In fact, we now have the youngest children dress up and act out the nativity with Christmas carols interspersed among the story. It is one of my most cherished traditions!
Another musical highlight of the Christmas season for my family was Christmas caroling. Because my father was a doctor, he enjoyed taking us down to the nursing home and the hospital. Usually on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, we would get all bundled up and head over to visit his patients. Whether playing our instruments or simply walking through the halls singing as we went, it was such a delight to share the joy of music with those who had to spend Christmas away from home!
During our first year of marriage, I was excited about developing our own musical Christmas traditions. We lived in a large apartment building in downtown Chicago, so my husband and I decided to host a caroling party. I realized that we hardly knew any of the people that lived in the apartment building, and I wanted a way to share the love of Christ with them. We sent out homemade invitations inviting all of our friends to join us in this musical ministry. I also made fudge and wrapped it up into little gifts for all those we visited. On the night of the party when our guests arrived, we walked from floor to floor Christmas caroling to all who were home. Everyone loved it! Even the night guard was delighted to be serenaded by a group of college students as he sat behind the desk.
No matter where you live, Christmas caroling is a great way to get people together and meet those in your neighborhood that you never seem to cross paths with. Why not invite those you visit to join the group as you go from house to house? And make sure to end the night around a blazing fireplace or with a mug of hot cocoa back at your house! Whether you venture out into the crisp cool night to carol around town or you simply bring the whole family together for a night of singing, it will be a precious treasure in the memories of all who participate!