December 15, 2013: Silent Night

Grant Lane at a grade school Christmas program
We attended a beautiful Christmas performance in Denver this weekend. It was full of acting, dancing and singing. The gifted soloists were backed by a mega choir. They collectively rocked all of the "favorites" of Christmas.

As a pretty blonde songstress sang a perfectly pitched Silent Night, I found myself misty-eyed. In fact, I fought the tears that were edging my eyelids; wanting to stream my cheeks. This song does this to me every time, without fail. And every time I think of a Christmas Eve, many moons ago, that will always delicately rest in my happy memory.

This Christmas season, I am busy. And not busy in a Christmas way. It's been busy in a work, long football season, get engaged kind of way. But I have found there are benefits to all of that. Namely, that I'm not trying to "fit it all in". Rather than me scrambling to pull it all together, I am taking a minimalist approach; no Christmas cards, few gifts, no hosted parties, no cookies or baked Chex mix. Not this year.

Taking off my list the creation of a Christmas "to-do" list has reaped unintended benefits. I am actually enjoying the holiday much more than in prior years. The monkeys in my head aren't thinking through when I will find time to carefully construct handmade goodies for friends. Instead I am occupying my brain with the enjoyment of memories from Christmas' past.

Without the havoc of working a never-ending Christmas list, my brain is instead busy picking up on other's enjoyment while reminiscing on my own. Enjoying yesterday's Christmas performance without the worry of a needed trip to a shopping center is just one example.

Silent Night took on a whole new meaning for me on Christmas Eve night in 2002 at St. Wenceslaus. My older two boys were students at the church's grade school at the time. Grant was still a toddler, nestled comfortably on my hip.

We chose to attend the 6:00 Christmas Eve mass that year. This is one of the less popular Christmas masses at the church with 4:00 mass designated for the children's choir and midnight mass; a typical family tradition.

It was a quiet mass filled with few young families and more empty-nest adults. Perfect for us as we were trying to avoid crowds and limited seating. There were several children scattered throughout the church. Most were school children of the church with parents having the same desire as us on that busy Christmas Eve night.

The choir consisted of a handful of older volunteers. One took the podium to close out the service with her beautiful rendition of Silent Night. As the congregation sang along, something very unscripted happened. A little girl, no older than eight, began signing the words from her middle pew as the song was sung. It was a completely spontaneous act as she signed with conviction; as though no one was watching.

Then from across the church, Zach joined the girl in signing. Soon little Ben and every child in the church were performing synchronized motions to the joyous words of the beautiful Christmas ballet. And the adults watched in awe.

The innocence of their movements as they mimicked the rocking of a child and the pointing to a star was unfiltered and heartwarming. It was apparent that they had learned how to sign Silent Night in school. Surely it was part of music class or a school-wide music program. One we adults didn't attend.

With tears rolling down my cheeks, I watched the most amazing unscripted Christmas performance I had ever experienced. Along with the rest of the congregation, we were reminded of the real meaning of Christmas as projected from the innocence of our children.

When the singing stopped, we all clapped. But found that the choir was clapping with us. The applause was directed to the children; the unintended performers. They knew exactly what the song meant. And the meaning was more than words. It was a lesson from the children on the true importance of Christmas; Baby Jesus.

I am once again misty-eyed just writing this Christmas Eve tale. Taking the time to remember sweet moments like these and the reason for the season is much better than knocking out my typically extensive to-do list. Christmas cards? Maybe next year.


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