OK, it is almost Thanksgiving and they are already playing Christmas Carols all over the place, so I am excited to share with you the amazing fact that, aside from adding a wonderful feeling of warmth and cheer to any family gathering, holiday party or shopping experience, Christmas Carols are REAL!
For the first 27 years of my life, I listened to Christmas Carols like most people do. They made me feel warm and fuzzy, they reminded me of sweet Christmas memories and time with my sisters growing up and they generally reminded me of the goodwill of the season. Then one Christmas I listened to Christmas Carols while in a meditative state after I had been praying and communing with Christ – and WOW. It was like I had never heard any of the songs before!
All of a sudden each Christmas carol was alive and the words were true and I could FEEL the truth of the words in my heart. It was the mystical experience of the most common songs I had heard thousands of times in my life. When I heard Joy to the World, I FELT immense JOY for the whole world in my heart that God had sent His loving presence in the form of the Grace and Glory of the Christ! I had this feeling of exploding with the actual reality of the songs. I wasn’t just hearing them as nice holiday ambiance, I was feeling the actual experience of the Christ being born inside my own heart and God’s Grace saving the entire world and it was profoundly, ecstatically and mind-blowingly beautiful.
Now, I will take a moment here to include everyone in this Grace. I believe that Jesus was and is holy, AND I believe the the Christ Consciousness of love, compassion and forgiveness that he embodied and taught is not limited to Jesus the man or even to Christianity for that matter. I believe that the Christ Consciousness and the redeeming Love of God comes to humanity in many forms and that God has always been reaching out to humanity with this immense mysterious Love. Also, the word “sin” in the original Greek actually means to “miss the mark” or “make a mistake” – so when I hear the words “Long lay the world in sin and error pining,” I don’t take it to mean that the world was twisted and depraved and we were all horrible evil people – it’s just that we were in error, we were missing the mark and not connecting to the reality of God’s Love – and in God sending the Christ Love to us (in all manner of forms), we can be “saved” from our mistakes and our ignorance and once again live in God’s everlasting peace.
So – when I hear the Christmas Carols and I am rejoicing with Joy to the World – I am feeling not my gratitude for the birth of one baby, although I am personally very grateful for the birth of that one baby – but my gratitude for the birth of God’s Love into this world. I am feeling Joy for the whole entire world and every sentient being in it – not just for Christians or for those who happen to be celebrating this particular holiday with me.
So, back to my ecstatic rapture… It was a revelation to me when I actually not only listened to the words, but FELT the meaning of the words in my being. Sometimes the songs are so engrained in us and such a part of the background atmosphere of Christmas that we don’t even pay attention to what they actually mean. And of course, sometimes it’s fine to allow Christmas Carols to simply uplift your heart and give you warm fuzzies, you can’t be falling on your knees weeping tears of gratitude every time Joy to the World comes on at the grocery store. But I invite you to just try listening to your favorite Christmas Carols as a spiritual practice or a prayerful exercise. Allow the words to enter your heart, listen deeply to the spiritual truths that are being sung and FEEL the truths in your soul.
Here I have one version of O Holy Night, one of my personal favorites. Just try it – turn the volume up as loud as you can and immerse yourself in the experience of this holy moment.
When you hear the words “and the soul felt its worth” – FEEL the worth of your soul! When you hear “the weary world rejoices” allow your weary heart to rejoice! When the choir sings of the angel voices joining in celebrating the Christ, FEEL the heavenly host and all the angels adoring God and Christ along with you in that very moment. When you hear “Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace,” just open your heart to FEEL that as a reality – the whole world loving one another as God has taught us in every religion and path through out our bumpy history. When you sing the words “Let all within us praise His holy name” – sing it with everything within you, praise God’s holy name with your whole self – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”
It is a whole new experience.
Oh holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul 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
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night divine
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here come the wise men from Orient land
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend
Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name
So – with that, I wish you a most sincerely truly wondrously Merry Christmas!