The Rabbi’s Secret

I guess if I write about it, it won’t be a secret anymore.  
I guess I don’t mind too much if you know my secret:

I love Christmas songs.

Since I feel such a sense of relief at sharing this secret, I will add some details:  My delight in Christmas songs began when I first sang them in my elementary school choir, merely mouthing the lines that referred to Jesus as the Christ or Savior.  During my high school years, Christmas Eve dinner spent with my friend Lisa’s family was followed by caroling in her neighborhood.  In college, I discovered gospel music.  Much of the Christmas music that I love consists of upbeat, cheerful (jolly!) melodies, festive piano chords mixed with bells and tambourines, drums and horns.  Some of my favorites– traditional tributes to the season– were actually composed by fellow Jews. If the great Irving Berlin can dream of a white Christmas then it can’t be a shameful secret that I know the lyrics by heart.

This holiday season, thanks to a quirk in the Hebrew calendar, Hanukkah ended during the first full week of December.  This allowed me additional time to indulge my Christmas joy without interference from Hanukkah music.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I would like to add that I enjoy listening to Hanukkah music, a preference that I have never attempted to hide.)  Nevertheless, halfway through the eight-night celebration, I lit my menorah and headed straight out the door to my first Christmas concert of the season.  My daughter and I were delighted to hear her friend perform with the Georgia Regional Girl’s Choir at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Roswell.  The girls’ angelic voices filled the church and our hearts with joy at this preview concert.  The next day, the girls performed downtown with the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra at the Woodruff Arts Center.  Still, being a traditionalist, I am glad to have attended their church concert.

The following weekend, my spouse and I ventured to Buckhead to hear the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus perform at the Cathedral of St. Philip. More than 110 singers strong and celebrating their 30th year, the men of the AGMC were joined by the Atlanta Young Singers of Callanwolde on stage. The pews were packed to capacity with an appreciative audience, while the balcony and aisles filled with a standing-room-only crowd.  The first act set a more serious mood, especially the stirring debut of a commissioned piece, Ring Out Wild Bells.  In the second act, we were regaled with a more lighthearted set, which included some cartoon favorites. I left the church humming about the Grinch, and strains of A Charlie Brown’s Christmas echoed in my head as I drifted to sleep that night.

In Atlanta, perhaps everywhere in America, there is a wealth of Christmas music in the air.  But what I most appreciate is the opportunity to hear beautifully-sung Christmas music in majestic, richly-adorned churches all around the city.  As a rabbi, I celebrate my own spiritual legacy of Jewish music; as a music lover, I rejoice when my spirits are lifted by Christmas songs.

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