By Daniel Thomas, CGS Musician
Although I was born and raised in Northern California, I lived in Southern California for 17 years before coming back. And while I had a lot of great experiences, made many life-long friends (including my wife!), and found some truly lovely spaces, I never really acclimated to the “L.A. scene.”
For many years while I lived there Christmas Eve was one of my busiest days of the year. The caroling group I sang with had a standing 10 AM gig at a beautiful private home on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, then usually had another party somewhere in Orange County in the early afternoon. Then I’d play the 5 PM service at my church in Long Beach, then do a four-hour caroling gig at a restaurant in Newport Beach. So by 11:30 PM, I was drained physically and mentally and had put in about 125 miles back and forth on the 405 (and even on holidays, there was still traffic).
Then, I would drive on PCH from Newport Beach home to Long Beach. I would listen to a classical music station that would play lovely choral versions of Christmas carols. Because it was Southern California, the weather was usually clear as a bell, and I could drive up the coast with the lights of the city on one side, and the ocean and stars on the other side. It was not only the most peaceful part of my day, but one of the most peaceful moments of my entire year. I could reflect on the joy I had brought to so many people during the day; but more importantly, I could reflect on the glorious event that was the reason for all of the parties and feasting and celebrating. As I drove down the highway and looked out over the beach and into the calm, starry night, and the strains of Handel or Mohr played on the radio, I could envision the small village in the desert - calm, peaceful, but with the choirs of angels guiding weary travelers towards the unimposing stable where Jesus was brought into the world, bringing with him the message of hope, of love, of joy, of peace.
For that little sliver of time I could let go of all the enmity, the conflict and strife, the ego, greed, and pride that infects so much of the world, and I could reinforce my belief in the best of humanity.
Every year, when someone wishes me Merry Christmas, I remember those moments late on Christmas Eve, and that makes me merry indeed.
I hope that all of you can have that moment of clarity, of peace, where you can leave the cacophony and rush of the holiday season behind and remember why we are celebrating, and give thanks for the arrival of Jesus and his promise of love. I hope that is your Merry Christmas moment.
Christ the Good Shepherd
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