Tag Archives: Christmas

Sowing (for Christmas)

It’s all La-dee-dah until it’s go-go-go.

There’s not much spirit unless there’s snow,

Ornamental twinkles in lights aglow

with fa la lahs and the ho ho ho.

And joy and hope and peace are hung,

reminders of a flower sprung

in our midst. Now with our tongues

the joy, the hope and peace are sung.

Yet those upon this world are tired.

Each and every age transpired

without the love and peace desired,

despite the joy and hope that’s squired.

Though darkness settles, spends the night,

morning always brings us light.

Thus we hope. Our homes bedight

with ornamental air alight.

And in this yearly journey shown,

though some desist and some bemoan,

mankind’s joy and hope are sown

and Love is sprung again and grown.

What Sweeter Music

Traditions start as single activities.

A one time event makes an impression so that it is planned for again in order to recapture the excitement and joy of the first one. Nothing celebrates holidays like traditions.

I had the fortune of growing up in a musical family. Both my father and mother were music teachers and my two siblings and I had lives that were intrenched in music lessons, church choirs, band, piano, choir concerts, etc. No time of year was more filled with music than Christmastime.

At early ages, my sister and I would wear out the phonograph playing my father’s vinyl albums of the Robert Shaw Chorale “Hymns and Carols Vol. 1” and the Harry Simeone Chorale “The Little Drummer Boy.” I don’t remember the first time I heard them, I just remember listening to them every year. This grew into my own tradition of seeking out and purchasing a unique Christmas album each year. My collection on CD is extensive. ūüôā

When we were slightly older, perhaps tweens or so, my parents taught us a Christmas carol to sing for our relatives after we made the long car trip to Grandmother’s house – in 4 part harmony. It kept us engaged and perhaps kept us from fighting over spots in the back seat. Our first carol was an arrangement of Deck the Halls, followed in subsequent years by several Alfred Burt Carols. It became a tradition throughout our teens, with my oldest brother contributing the final carol we would rehearse and perform as a family unit (written in a fit of inspiration during his first year of teaching and sent to my parents as a Christmas card – much like the Burt carols).

A most memorable tradition began soon after we had moved to Arkansas in the early 1970’s. My father had become the choral music director at (then) Arkansas Polytechnic College, a place that at the time was known for its band program but never had much of a choir. I suspect that he decided that he wanted to give a grand Christmas program one year. Preparations would always begin the Friday/Saturday before the concert with the search for the appropriate Christmas tree to cut and bring into the main lobby, the crafting of decorations, and last minute rehearsals. The program grew each following year and would begin with small ensembles singing in a pre-concert venue around a Christmas tree.

Antiphonal brass and choirs would perform from the open balconies of the music department lobby. Processional pieces that involved brass and organ announced the start of the program. Unique stage decorations such as large evergreen wreaths of cedar and pine or a mock stained-glass window would adorn the center of the stage.

There were exciting new choir pieces and familiar favorites and the community came out in droves year after year.

My father passed away a few months ago, and these memories have been a comfort these past few weeks. I am fortunate to have a soundtrack for my memories of him, and much of it is Christmas music. Here is a top five (ok, six) list of Christmas musical moments influenced by my Dad.

1. O Come all ye Faithful (Robert Shaw Chorale)
2. Come Dear Children – Alfred Burt
3. Ríu Ríu, Chíu РAnonymous
4. XIV: The March of the Three Kings, from Hodie by Ralph Vaughan Williams (really this entire work, Hodie, is worth a listen)
5. His Yoke is Easy, from Messiah by George Frideric Handel

And finally, a moment of sweetness that expresses my father’s love of music greater than any song, poem, or piece that I could have written.

What Sweeter Music – by John Rutter

I encourage each of you to embrace your traditions, not only during this season of the year, but all year. It might be baking or going to events. It might be meals together or a hike in the woods. It could be singing or storytelling. It could be volunteering to help others. Watch them grow each year. Make something your own tradition and share it with ones you love.


Images within this post are my own.

A Christmas Card

Paper greetings, printed in opaque black,
swirled with ochre tones – and embossed
with tinsel and glare.

The serenity of straw and stable,
low station and artless beginnings-
in the midst of majestic creations.

Or how the mystery of snowfall
obscures the road ahead, yet in stillness
illustrates continuum beauty where we are led.

The green wreath, the evergreen bough-
decked in ribbon – tinged with gold
and captures glimmer and snow alike, somehow.

See the carolers, their faces
reddened in winter’s callous air –
mouths agape with our imagined joyful song and prayer.

In the bleak midwinter,
Snow lay all around, stars shown bright-
then pealed the bells more loud and clear,
Merry Christmas, Noel, this silent night.

A Carol at Christmastime

As with the angels that caroled
His arrival in stable, bare.
Praises, Alleluia, Hallelujah!
A King is there.

And with the shepherds,
Who worshipped with humble hearts,
Praises, Alleluia, Hallelujah!
The Savior has come. To start

God’s kingdom on earth,
A baby, a birth
Of Hope and Salvation
Of Love, Joy and Mirth.

As with the Wise Men
That wandered in wonder of stars,
Praises, Alleluia, Hallelujah!
We’ll find where we are.

At Christmas, our Hopes revive!
Yuletide, our Joy is alive!
Open your hearts and sing
Tell every living thing-

Praises, Alleluia, Hallelujah
The birth of a King!

While this is unabashedly joyful (with many exclamation points), Christmas is a joyful time. I can just imagine this being sung with brass and tympani.

My hopes for you (if you do or do not celebrate Christmas)is a happy, blessed day.

A very Merry Christmas!


Bare trees anticipate
holding snow – amassed
in silent devotion
to the aesthetic

adorning the view
once green – now
lifeless and worn-

white poinsettias look best
when surrounded by red,

reflections from polished silver
are most notable
in darkness.

dropped ornaments
that shatter live on
as recollected ones,

objects to decorate
our mind’s branches.

A Brilliant Light


A darkness dwells, just out of sight,
among these brilliant, twinkling lights

and through the house all decked with green
a shadow stalks the verdant scene-

A dimness to the Advent host
pursuing room-to-room to boast

a victory not fought or won,
yet hides in fear, a braggart shunned.

And words of cheer and light revealed
keep gloominess at bay, concealed.

Joyeux Noel thus shared among
us brings to darkness- light- along.

So sing we all in towns and homes
a Christmas song in merry tones,

persuading those from shadows dim
to brilliant light and life with Him.

Writing a Christmas poem is difficult because the themes are so familiar. The difference between light and dark has been on my mind lately, and it seemed a fitting Christmas thought. My hope is to continue writing in 2015, and that you will continue to read.

I attached a clip below sharing Steven Curtis Chapman’s arrangement of O Come O Come Emmanuel, a text which resonates with this poem, but a different melody than typically associated with the song.

Best wishes this holiday season, Merry Christmas and a happy, prosperous new year.


bellsThings I’ve done in the last 48 hours.

– Baked 6 loaves of special holiday whole wheat bread, with cinnamon and brown sugar*.
– Delivered 4 loaves of the aforementioned bread as gifts to friends
– Ate 3/4 of 1 loaf of the aforementioned, remaining bread
– Searched TV menu for decent Christmas programs, finding none.
– Watched 1/3 of each of the LOTR movies
– Finished Christmas shopping for 6 gift cards, 1 bracelet, 2 sweaters, 6 bottles of shampoo/lotion that I can’t smell, and 2 or 3 things that were bought that I’m not sure what happened to them.
– Drank 1 bottle of Magic Hat #9
– Bought 2 large packs of AA batteries
– Watched the final 2 minutes of 2 different NFL games
– Washed 3 loads of my son’s college laundry to get it out of the floor
– Listened to 1/9th of my 9 hour Spotify Christmas playlist
– Played ukelele for 5 minutes
– Assembled 1 rolling rack
– Ventured out twice to the local megamart after I specifically stated that I wanted my errands completed early, so I would have to experience the last minute madness…yet I forgot 2 things…at 2 different times.
– Pondered how to write a 1 Christmas post that could accomodate my desire to recognize one of my favorite carols/poems.
– Wrote the following sentence – Henry Wadsworth Longellow wrote a poem in 1863, entitled “Christmas Bells.”

It was written on Christmas Day 1863, likely as a result of the news that Longfellow’s son Charles had been wounded in Civil War action earlier that year…and the recent loss of his wife Frances. There is just a snippet below. I encourage you to search out the poem and read all of it. It is short by Longfellow’s epic lyrical poem standards**.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and mild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It has been set to music twice. In 1878, the English organist, John Baptiste Calkin, used the poem with a melody he previously used as early as 1848. The more familiar version was set to music in the 1950’s by Johnny Marks (he of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer fame). I’m partial to the Bing Crosby recording. However, google the recent recording by The Civil Wars, which is very inspiring, and in light of the poem’s origins, somewhat “poetic.”

Wishing you all a Happy Christmas.

*A recipe handed down in the oral tradition from my father to me. Though it has origins in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.
**Pun intended

Facing Christmas

Where is hope, this time of year, as some are wont to shed a tear,
wondering if it exists, in a world that leans and lists.

As if you have the wherewithal to stay above the means at all;
emotions ragged, fractured too – thinking all depends on you.

Hope against itself to win the inconceivable, again
your hope- against all hope will be your dream, your joy, a victory.

Remember this – a tale of old – of a child born in the cold
in a tiny stable there in a town where no-one cared.

Thus began a simple life, bound with hardship- full of strife.
Yet in his story, we can see a dream, a joy, a victory,

all encompassed in a soul who loved his fellow man, in whole
or maybe just in part, because he knew what difficulty was.

Who knows best that love is blind to all our faults, and we will find
that when we stop to ponder this, emotions that we can’t dismiss,

we are bound to seek the aire of happiness at Christmas, where
in a world gone wild, disgraced – we find it on a child’s sweet face.

A simple smile with wondering eyes, full of sparkle, no disguise
will stop us from our self-defeat and bring us back to where we meet

the once-young child in each of us. We celebrate the hopefulness
with inner peace, contentment grows, something that our smiling shows.

And all it seems your heart desires – no more than anyone requires –
is gained by giving of yourself in ways that open others’ hearts and sways

their temperament to one of cheer -especially this time of year-
and bringing forth a simple smile that’s worth the effort and the while.