Think of all the sounds of Christmas. The music we play in our homes and in our cars. The music we hear in the malls. The music we sing in our churches. The bells on church steeples and the bells of the Salvation Army and the bells that tell us when an angel gets its wings.
And then there are the words we hear and read. The commercials on television and radio. The messages in the Christmas cards you give and receive. The phone calls with family and friends you won't be able to see in person. The sermons you are going to hear between now and December 25th.
And then there is the sound of food. The hum of kitchen appliances, the clinking of dishes and pots and pans, the pop of a wine cork, the ding of an oven timer, apple pies bubbling under browning crusts, the sigh of fresh baking, the crackle of a turkey browning for the last few minutes under the broiler, the hiss of stuffing keeping warm on the stove. This is a season filled with sound.
But there is another sound to this season. The sound of silence as the sun slowly recedes from the earth on its silent cycle through the sky. Shadows lengthen over the landscape, shrouding the world in a darkness that is rich and complete. And with the darkness comes the cold. The world as we know it, here, in this place, is slowly freezing. Becoming hard as iron, solid as stone. Listen to the silence. (...)
As the earth hardens beneath our feet, we have embarked on a season that asks us to thaw and soften. It asks us to glow with affection, to wax sentimental, to bask in the warmth of memories, and ritual, and tradition. As the sun recedes from the earth, we fill our finite world with sounds and sights and songs meant to bring us closer to one another and in deeper connection with our own hearts.
And yet, there is so much in this season that can leave our hearts as self-protective as the freezing shell of earth beneath our feet. There is so much in this season that tragically transforms its colour and beauty and truth into a brazen invasion of manufactured, commercialized, culture marketed as authentic tradition. So much that we call Christmas, actually keeps us from Christmas.
So it is with our lives. Our hearts harden for so many reasons - from the everyday reasons to the profound moments that come only a few times in our lives, from the highly personal reasons to the very public ones. We harden because of the small things in life and the large. For so many reasons, we protect ourselves from the onslaughts of the world with hardened hearts. Why wouldn't we? It is a normal human response and sometimes we absolutely must harden to protect ourselves, to get through one more day, to be able to go on.
But there is also another way. There is the way of openness, the way of love, and I think if you can get beyond the hype and the glitz of the holiday season, it is this other way that we are celebrating.
The sounds of the season wait for us, wait to lull us into their age old promise of rebirth and renewal. The silence waits for us as well, the beautiful silence of a world submerged in the cycle of darkness and light, a cycle that is as much ours as it is the earth's.
Can we retreat, even if only in this brief moment of time, from the demands that the world has imposed on us, and bask in the promise of the sounds and silences of this holiday season?