One of my fondest memories of our rural family Christmas was singing in the car. These were back in the days before Bluetooth, iPods, Kindles, smart phones, or streaming videos. Back before SiriusXM, when you actually had to turn a dial to tune a radio and not simply ask it to play what you wanted to hear. These were the days when real conversations were had in the car and sights were seen and a road trip meant something more than traffic jams and pit stops. Often we would go and visit cousins or grandparents during the holidays and on the way there and on the way back we would sing Christmas carols. None of us had great voices but we all can sing. We would drive through the countryside and see lights of distant trees and homes as we sang our happy songs. Those were good times.
Most of the Christmas songs I know were learned singing in the car. “O Come All Ye Faithful”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas” were among my favorites…sometimes mom and dad would sing “Silent Night” in Finnish. My most favorite, however, was “The Carol of the Bells” and still is to this day. I would imagine the bells were angels and ringing a chorus of cheers spreading throughout heaven and the world at the very moment Jesus was born. No song puts my mind in a Christmas place like that one.
So much tradition has been lost in this new information age. All the new technologies we have force us to connect through a device of some kind and pay attention to the icons, avatars, or emojis rather than the flesh and bone people right next to us – yes, there are real people right next to you! Even meetings at work are video conferenced with everyone connected through their laptop or smart phone rather than together…at a table in the same room…with a pencil and pad of paper for notes. Real human interaction is being replaced by impersonal machines that demand our attention and shallow our relationships. Maybe over the next few days we could pocket our iPods and turn off our TVs and instead hold a hand, give a smile, or share a hug. Maybe we could carry on a real conversation instead of string of half-spelled text-speak or wrongly auto-corrected messages.
Maybe you – right here and now – who are reading this on your computer or phone – could set it aside for a moment and attend to the people around you. I won’t be offended if you stop reading…there is no greater gift we can give to each other than to be present in the moments we share.