Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

Music is such a big part of Christmas. We listen to Christmas carols, Christmas hymns, preschool programs, orchestra and band concerts, and recitals. We hear music in the car, in the stores, at the mall and we may even hear others humming the songs of Christmas. Sometimes we find ourselves singing along to the old familiar Christmas songs.

We know there was music at the first Christmas where angels sang to the shepherds announcing the birth of Christ. The heavens and the earth sang for the Christ child and I am sure he heard his mother’s lullaby as she gently rocked him in her arms.

Christmas music brings back memories from Christmas’s long ago and reminds us of family and connections to loved ones. Christmas music reminds us of our own childhood and the joy and splendor of sparkling lights, decorating the tree, baking in the kitchen, Christmas dinner, learning the story of Jesus, and playing the part of an angel in the Christmas play.

Music also has the power to reach tender places in the heart and release pain about sad times as well. Christmas music could remind us of finding out on Christmas Eve that your father has just passed away. Or it could bring back memories of finances being really tight and the family finding ways to give to others, or a Christmas when you were the recipient of someone’s generosity. Christmas music can bring a feeling of homesickness for family and loved ones who have passed to the other side.

This is our first Christmas without Lindsey and when I hear Christmas music I do feel buoyed up and light as I hear the choirs and the musical instruments singing out in joyous praise for God and the miracle of Christmas. But, it also reminds me of Christmas’s with Lindsey and her violin and how much I miss hearing her play. Lindsey started playing the violin when she was nine years old and she took lessons from an aunt that she dearly loved. She seemed to have a good ear and started to quickly learn the hand positions, the notes and the songs.

She played in the early morning orchestra at Grovecrest Elementary in Pleasant Grove for three years. She would get up early and carry her violin to school twice a week for rehearsals. They would start practicing Christmas songs early in the season to prepare for the Christmas concert. We were so thrilled when the music she had been practicing started to sound like familiar Christmas songs. Weeks of practicing and then it would be the evening of the concert. She would be dressed in black and white, the traditional colors for the orchestra.

When we would arrive it would be very chaotic in the lunchroom while the instruments tuned and families found their seats. Up on the stage we would see Lindsey sitting in first or second chair for violins. She would be nervously watching for us in the audience. Our eyes would catch and she would smile her very big smile, we would wave and she would seem to relax, so would we.

After the tuning of instruments and the audience quieted down, the conductor would welcome everyone and then turn and face the orchestra. With his arms outstretched and a nod of his head he would start the concert with the downbeat of his baton. Matching the beat of his baton the song would begin and we would hear the sound of Christmas music prepared by these little performers. They would be diligently playing so as not make a mistake and yet working to keep their eyes on the conductor all at the same time. Feet would be taping and pages turning and then in that moment there would be the most glorious rendition of Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Away in a Manger, Jingle Bells, and other familiar Christmas music.

Then after the applause ended for the song we had just listened to, and the room had quieted down, the conductor’s arms would be raised in ready position for the final number. He would be waiting for the last pair of eyes to focus on him before he started. Then finally the nod and the orchestra would begin to play Silent Night.

Parent’s heads would be stretching to see their child play the most famous Christmas song ever written. Mothers and fathers with tears in their eyes hear the pure melody of Silent Night permeate the sacred space in that simple lunchroom. For a moment it feels magical as the melody transcends the hustle and bustle of Christmas and reminds us all of the greatest gift of all. . . a child.

And in that one moment time a powerful memory is created and stored in the hearts of the parents, where it can never be taken nor can it be destroyed. And this memory is wrapped around Christmas songs and realizing that this Christmas concert is a priceless gift that mothers and fathers will cherish, long after the concert and for a certain mother and father, even long after the life of their daughter.

After the final notes are played and the conductor turns to face the audience, the parents quickly wipe their eyes. The young performers are invited to stand and bow, while the small audience gathered in an elementary school lunchroom, stand to applaud them.

My fondest memories of Lindsey were watching her perform every year in her school orchestra Christmas Concerts where she would perform some of the most beautiful Christmas music I have ever heard. I remember her up on stage even in her older years and her nervousness would turn to concentration and then she would begin to play with such elegance and beauty. She would sway to the rhythm of the music and it was if her whole body was singing the song.

I remember being so grateful that she loved music as much as I did and that she was able to share the Christmas Spirit with her gift of music. We attended Lindsey’s orchestra concerts starting in elementary school through junior high, high school and college at BYU.

Christmas music brings the songs of the angels to the earth during this special time of year. Christmas music can help us remember happy times and can help us connect to loved ones who have passed on. Sometimes Christmas music lets us visit the memories of our childhood and in special moments lets us visit the childhood of our own children. Christmas music heals and renews our souls each year. This year it helped me remember Lindsey in a beautiful way by allowing me to revisit her childhood through the songs of Christmas.

My favorite Christmas carol is Silent Night and I can still remember rocking my babies and softly singing “Silent Night”. Lindsey I hope you can hear me singing the words of the most precious lullaby that I know. It goes something like this. . .

Silent Night

Holy Night

All is calm

All is bright

Round yon Virgin

Mother and child

Holy infant so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly Peace . . . Sleep in Heavenly Peace.