‘Tis the season…to be busy. Everywhere I go, people seem to be ramping up toward that holiday to end all holidays, Christmas. With presents to buy, cards to mail, concerts to attend and prepare for, cookies to bake, etc., etc., this seems to be one of the busiest times of the year. Even in our congregations, the place where we’re supposed to be focusing on the “real” meaning of Christmas, we can get so wrapped up in all the preparations that it’s easy to lose sight of what we’re preparing for.
In the midst of all the activity and noise, I would hope and pray that we could all find a time and place for one of the most precious gifts of the season: the gift of silence. We all need to find a way that we can slow down, catch our breath, and reflect on just what we’re doing and why.
In music, we call these brief moments the rests. As a singer, I have learned that the rests, those times when the music calls us to be silent, are just as important as the notes we sing. Not only do they allow us a chance to take a breath, but they give shape to the music, as well. If there were no rests, there would just be endless sound, and the result would not only be an exhausted choir, but an overload of noise. Taking a rest, sometimes to let other voice parts carry the song and other times to provide a completely quiet moment in the midst of a piece, allows us to enter back into the song with renewed energy.
One of the best examples of this is found the Handel’s great work, the Hallelujah Chorus in his Messiah. The song is an unending series of praises, with each voice part having its own moment to carry the melody, and it concludes with a series of four “Hallelujah’s”, building and building, and then everyone stops, takes a deep breath, and lets out a final, triumphant cry of Hallelujah. The rest allows everyone to enter into the song with renewed energy, and it is just as important as the many, many notes which make up this glorious work.
My hope and prayer for each and every one of us is that we will be able to carve out those moments of rest in the midst of all the noise and activity of this wonderful time. Whether it be sitting in the dark, admiring the lights on your Christmas tree at home, taking a moonlit walk in freshly fallen snow, or pausing for prayer in the midst of worship, I pray that you will embrace these moments, see them as the gift that they are, and not see every free moment as another opportunity to get something done. For Christ comes to us in the still, quiet moments just as much as he comes in the moments of joyful activity. The point is that he comes, whether we’re ready or not, and he brings us peace, and hope, and joy.