Photo of a sheet of music being held up by a member of a chorus

This is the time of year when so much is vying for our attention it can be somewhat difficult to know how to listen. The traditional Christmas Carol asks the question:

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear?
Ringing through the sky shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear?

While sitting around our Advent wreath with friends (our tradition of Christmas preparation), we contemplated these words from author Henri Nouwen: “The word ‘listening’ in Latin is obedire, and audire means ‘listening with great attention.’ That is where the word ‘obedience’ comes from. The Latin word for not listening, being deaf, is absurd. If you are absolutely not listening, that is where the word ‘absurd’ comes from.”

Somebody who is not listening is leading an absurd life…It would be easy to spend this Holiday Season being absurd.

Listening has nothing to do with our hearing capabilities. I have met many deaf people who can truly listen and know many people with perfectly fine hearing who are quite absurd. The challenge for us, in this season of noise is to make the intentional choice to listen.

Join me in choosing to spend this Holiday Season truly listening. I wonder what we will hear.

Here are just some of the things I have listened to already. I look forward to and anticipate hearing so much more:

  • The depth of the lyrics of a Christmas Carol and the skill of those who perform it.
  • The well-wishes of acquaintances who look me in the eye, pauses for a moment, and say, “Merry Christmas!” or for those of other traditions who greet me with, “Happy Holidays!”
  • The loneliness of those who experience another holiday without someone they once held dear; grieving their loss.
  • The stories, laughter, and passion of friends who make the choice to live in deep and rich community with me.
  • The silence; when all lights are turned off except the lights of a Christmas tree (and the burning of some candles).
  • The words of Linus (A Charlie Brown Christmas) when he recites Luke 2:1-20, in response to the screaming question of Charlie Brown, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

I look forward to hearing so much more…as long as I make the choice to listen!

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