Friends often ask around this time of year, “Are you ready for Christmas?” I struggle to a reply in the secular way in which they mean, because they won’t like my answer. My tree hasn’t been decorated, I’ve barely touched the Christmas gift list, and I’m still recovering from a Thanksgiving cold. My Christmas Spirit had not arrived.
However, the true meaning of Christmas, by a miracle, seems to come each year with hearing the music I love so much. This year it happened before dawn yesterday as I listened to a solo piano arrangement of “Lo How A Rose E’er Blooming” by Mark Hayes played by a woman I met when I was 8 years old: my first piano teacher, Mary Jo. She was the most beautiful and musical person I had ever met. Mary Jo looked like one of the Charlie’s Angels (high praise in the 70s) and taught me to love music, particularly Christmas music, with a deep and spiritual wonder. It’s the dissonance in one line in particular, “amid the cold of winter,” that really gets me: it says so much about the pain and coldness that so many feel at this season – either as a teenager giving birth or a middle aged parent trying to figure out what their purpose is. But don’t worry – it resolves harmonically (until the next verse). Everything about that piece breaks my heart and gives me hope at the same time. Enjoy here.