The most anticipated event of the year in my mother’s town of Elkin, N.C. is the annual Christmas Community Chorus. It is a collaborative effort by 34 churches and 106 of the most beautiful voices. They practice for seven weeks prior to the event, as they strive towards perfection. They are always successful at attaining it. The people in attendance sit in a collective reverent awe, as they are enraptured by the soothing ensemble of a Christmas must that goes straight to the heart and soul. It is one of my most favorite childhood memories.
Now, what if I told you that several years ago at this most cherished holiday event, my mother single-handedly turned these Christmas carols into “Christmas Peril?” Because she is such a fan of the event, she decided to take a tape player in order to save the tunes for posterity. The people were nestled all snug in their pews, while visions of the anticipated soprano solos danced in their minds. For a time, she taped inconspicuously. It was a technologically smooth event — or so she thought — until the lights were dimmed for the preparation of the mood for the next lovely song. However, the ambiance was disturbed when my mother inadvertently pressed play instead of record. Oops!
Up from the pews there arose such a clatter! Everyone turned their heads to check out what was the matter! When what to their wondering ears should they hear, but loud strains of the cheerful song from kindergarten days, “Sailing, sailing, over the ocean blue!” Apparently, my mother had grabbed a tape from a recording session my sister and her friend had made from years past. Under the pew, she flew like a flash, punching wildly to find the right button to make her Christmas chaos end.
Unfortunately, Christmas and stress can be synonymous — and it shouldn’t. One Christmas, when my son was a toddler, he knocked the tree over three times. By the third decorating attempt, I was lacking the initial spirit and haphazardly found myself throwing tinsel on a lop-sided, beaten down tree, in only the way that a Griswold would do best.
We are becoming a society of self-imposed holiday stress in this fast-paced, task-oriented society. It can manifest itself in “grinchness. ” If we are not careful, it can defeat the true meaning altogether. We must find a way to de-pressurize Christmas and focus our energies on what truly matters. It’s actually a message that should not only carry us through Christmas, but throughout our lifetimes.
Maya Angelou expressed what “truly matters” in that little way she has by saying, “I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they are gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Concentrate this Christmas on making the people you love feel the best they’ve ever felt by heartfelt words and actions. Perhaps, my mother’s Christmas faux pas was not such a “goof-up” after all. Maybe we should all give ourselves the gift of “sailing, sailing over the ocean blue” with a carefree spirit knowing we’ve opened our hearts to show the most important aspect of Christmas — LOVE!
Merry Christmas! Allow yourself to relax and sail over the ocean blue — !