by Christine Sine
As we move towards Thanksgiving and Christmas many of us are already overwhelmed by the volume of Christmas music that is besieging our senses. Others are relishing the opportunity to listen to favorites and get themselves ready for the celebrations of the season.
One of the delights of Christmas for Tom and I is our annual trip to Benaroya Hall to listen to the Messiah. It is an experience that renews our souls and helps us focus on the true meaning of the season. We also love the lessons and carols at our church, a beautiful tradition of reading nine passages of scripture followed by nine carols. Evidently this tradition was introduced at Kings College Cambridge as their Christmas Eve service in 1918, was first broadcast in 1928 and is now listened to by millions of people around the world. This too is a refreshing, renewing and renewing. Here is the 1992 service. The more recent version 100 Years of Lessons and Carols can be listened to or purchased at many sites.
Why am I mentioning this so far in advance of Christmas you may wonder? It is partly because yesterday I read this inspiring article reminding me of the power of singing, especially of singing in choirs.
It has also been inspired by the time I have spent here in Australia with my new grand nieces and nephew. They all love to sing and be sung too. Their little legs begin to move, smiles break out on their faces and their whole bodies enter into the music and the rhythm. I am sure that in the process they are bonded to those who are singing and what is being said in the songs.
Evidently music – both singing and listening to it – releases hormones which react with the opiate receptors in the brain reducing pain and creating an analgesic like effect in our bodies. Findings also show that elderly singers suffered depression less frequently, made fewer doctor’s visits each year, needed less medication, and increased their other activities.
As Christmas approaches many of us find ourselves overwhelmed by the noise, the consumer frenzy and the cultural hype of the season. Maybe what we need to help us refocus is to find ourselves a choir to sing with! Or get out and enjoy the music that you remember from your childhood. Immerse yourself in the delight of music and the beauty of singing in a choir – something that many of us have not done since we were children.
Some of you might appreciate these resources lists that we have put together through Godspace to help
Or you might like to find a celebration of the O Antiphons – another rich and beautiful church tradition to be inspired by at this season.
If you don’t know what the O Antiphons are check out What on Earth are the O Antiphons with several videos as well as explanations that provide some information for you.
I am so grateful for Advent/Christmas music and the rich traditions that bring inspiration into its use at this season of the year. I hope that you will take time to enter into the season with some singing and rejoicing too.