Not a moment too soon

I hope everyone had a joyful and safe Thanksgiving, my family sure did. The turkey was better than ever, the rest of the food was delicious too and the Lions … I dozed off a couple times during the game, and I’m still not certain I didn’t dream that they pounded Green Bay, 40-10, to take a commanding lead in their division.

I was curious to see how they would respond to being called “a bunch of dirtbags” by barbarian-haired loudmouth Josh Sitton, a Packers’ offensive lineman. We probably have Sitton to thank for giving the Lions some inspiration to win. The defense certainly showed up, holding Green Bay to 126 total yards while the offense overcame four turnovers. Mr. Sitton was sent back to Wisconsin with a plateful of crow to go with his cranberries. It wasn’t pretty, but it was perfect.

And instead of waking to see a Black Friday this morning, I woke up in a pristine white Winter Wonderland, snow shining on every tree branch in my backyard as Ted and I took our daily walk around the yard. It would have been unbelievably beautful, had I not been worried about “dashing through the snow” to work.

Now I feel like I can officially begin the preparation for Christmas, the trees can go up — I can perhaps even develop a little bit of the condition known as “Christmas Spirit.”

It’s pretty easy for me to get into the Christmas Spirit. We’ve got a couple “Bah Humbugs” around here, and they’re already fed up with the holiday brou-ha-ha. For me it’s just the beginning, because I’m pretty darn good at ignoring things on TV and radio, mainly because I have a lot of other things going on.

In addition to being an editor, I have a side job as a Lutheran church organist. I took lessons for several years when I was a kid, but I never thought they’d lead anywhere. Five years into my organist career, I’ve found that practicing hymns and playing pipe organ for our congregation once a week is a terrific, fulfilling and inspiring occupation, especially during the holidays.

That means I’m gearing up to play a whole bunch of Christmas carols for our Sunday School children’s program, and a whole bunch of Advent hymns for our upcoming Wednesday night services. Advent services mean soup suppers with homemade soup and sandwiches.

I’ve found that to be the foremost occupational hazard of being an organist: You tend to gain a little weight with all the good cooks you become friends with. The ladies at our church have a well-deserved reputation for good food, and I have the love handles to prove it.

The best part of being an organist is walking into a quiet church on a weekday, taking a few moments to reflect and practicing next week’s hymns in solitude. It’s a beautiful thing.

Our “Bah Humbugs” don’t like Christmas carols on the radio, and I tend to agree with them. Playing them 24/7 tends to lessen the impact of the message, although “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas” never really had much of a message anyway, except that a young girl wants a pet that she possibly couldn’t care for, house or clean up after. Also “Oh Holy Night” doesn’t have the same impact when you’re standing in the dog food aisle at Walmart as it does in a church or a concert hall.

Tomorrow afternoon when I slide onto the organ bench and open my big book of Christmas music for the first time this year, I know I’ll start getting that Christmas feeling. I don’t know how many of our readers are musicians and know the joy of making their own music, but it’s one of those things in life that can’t be overstated. Playing music, especially sacred music, requires one to be a conduit for sounds and ideas that inspire in passing. For a moment, your lungs and your voice are part of something greater than yourself.

People use the term “lost in the music” to describe the sense of euphoria one experiences when a song really hits the right notes. It’s happened to me before where I’ve been playing a hymn that affects me emotionally and halfway through I’ll realize I’m playing without looking at the music. That’s usually when I flub a note while trying to find my place.

A thought occured to me on Thanksgiving Day, that while a great deal was made of some retail employees having to work Thursday for early Black Friday sales at various stores, we take for granted that there are a lot of people who work on Thanksgiving. They’re called police officers, fire fighters, nurses, doctors, tow-truck drivers and gas station attendants. I just wanted to add a special thank you to those first responders and those who take care of people who have nowhere else to go for Thanksgiving. Thank you.

I think it’s time to start developing a little Christmas Spirit around here — not a moment too soon.

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