I’m from Minnesota, which means I’m used to seeing a white Christmas. Most Minnesotans expect a white Christmas every year. But this Christmas the predominant color will be brown. That will diminish somewhat, but not completely, the pleasure I derive from my favorite part of the holiday, Christmas morning.
I don’t mean the joy and excitement of ripping open presents, which was certainly fun when I was a kid. But as I got older, I started to notice the outside. I don’t remember when it first happened. One year I went outside, maybe en route to try out the new skates or sled I had received. Few people were out and about at that time. Birds and other animals don’t make much noise in winter. Few cars passed by. If the wind was still, one could imagine being in the middle of a wilderness.
As I stood in silence I was struck by a feeling of peace, tranquility, and beauty. You have to be from a northern climate to fully appreciate the beauty of six feet of snow piled high at the ends of driveways, drifts threatening to seal shut the front door until April, and air so cold that breathing actually hurts one’s lungs. But on those special Christmas mornings—where a fresh layer of snow colored the landscape such a bright white that one understands the meaning of “pure as the driven snow” and the sky is the bluest of sky blues, crackling with color, and the early morning sun bathes everything in a warm glow—I feel more spiritual than I do any other day of the year.
I’m not a religious person, meaning I don’t go to church, but I like to think I’m as spiritual as the next guy, if not more. On those perfect Christmas mornings, my spirit is filled with wonder, joy, even hope that the basic goodness of mankind will eventually triumph over evil. It sounds naïve, I’ll admit, but on one day a year shouldn’t we all reflect on what good things are possible, rather than what evil has befallen us since last Christmas?
I think about the message Jesus brought to his world. I like the idea of one man so good and forgiving and accepting of all others, no matter whom they might be or what harm they might do to him. Somehow, organizers and usurpers of religion have strayed from that message, and even though they preach it nonstop to their flocks, the world manages to get itself into one war after another about who’s beliefs are the only true beliefs, whose God is the one true God, and whose prescription for living is the one true way to live. What happened to living in the spirit that Jesus proscribed? That seems to get forgotten by the preachers in favor of knocking down other religions.
I ask myself, “Have you lived your life in the manner of forgiveness and acceptance? Of non-violence? Of helping the less fortunate?” I’m glad to answer “yes” to those questions year after year. It’s one of the accomplishments I’m most proud of in my day-to-day life. So on those quiet, peaceful Christmas mornings, when nature has blessed me with the sight of one of her wonders, a winter snowscape, I renew the pledge to myself to work every day at being a peaceful, non-violent, non-judgmental human being, who wishes that the institutions in our world—governments, religions, political parties, corporations—would strive toward a spirit of cooperation rather than competition, or at least of friendly competition to improve the lives of everyone, and preserve the beautiful, wondrous natural world we are privileged to inhabit.
In that spirit, thanks to my nephew Sam Rudy (check out his link to the right if you live in the Twin Cities and are interested in violin lessons), for sending me this most interesting video. It’s the first movement of my favorite piece of classical music, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Beethoven is my favorite classical composer, too. The anniversary of his birth was Dec.16. He would have been 241 years old this year. Beethoven’s Fifth premiered in 1808, meaning the world has been blessed with this masterpiece for more than 200 years. How’s that for longevity, all you pop music pretenders? When you’ve been around for at least 100 years, we’ll start talking greatness for you.
The great thing about this video is that it is designed for the listener who is more visual than aural. I’m an aural guy myself. I can close my eyes and let the movie of my mind play to any music I enjoy. This is how I imagine a visual listener might “hear” music. It’s remindful of a simplified conductor’s score (I used to be a band director, so I know), showing visually all the different instruments and parts rhythmically and with relative pitch locations using bars of different colors and lengths. Enjoy it when you can be uninterrupted for several minutes. I hope you all find your Christmas morning inspirations this year. Merry Christmas.
My Christmas question for you: What’s your favorite personal reflection related to Christmas?