I woke up this morning thinking about the old Bill Monroe tune about Christmas Time’s A-Comin’. How he expresses the longing and sweetness of celebrating Christmas with family back home in the country.
Being from the Blue Ridge community (actually the Ebenezer Welcome community, if you like the old names) and sitting here listening to the rain blowing off of Glassy Mountain, I feel the wistfulness in Bill’s voice. For I, like him, am looking forward to spending time with my family tonight.
The Stringer side of my family, as in the families of my brothers and sister along with any friends, cousins, stragglers, dogs or others collected from the byways, have made it a tradition to gather each Christmas Eve to celebrate. We celebrate simply with food, stories and music making (a tradition drawn from the Price side of my family. This musical strain came with my mother, though she herself couldn’t carry a tune, and remains a blessing to my family now.)
After the various guitars, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, bass and even a stray hammer dulcimer have been silenced, our evening will end with a long singing of old carols around my sister as she plays the piano. This may sound like a Norman Rockwell depiction of an American Christmas, but don’t be fooled. Ours is a very Southern Appalachian depiction replete with memories of loved ones gone, tragedies survived, a love for who remains and constant thanks for God’s true blessings.
I like those old bluegrass songs. They bring to mind a truth that still exists in our digital age – an age that tends to obscure what is worthwhile. Those old bluegrass songs were birthed in hardship, or “hard times” as my depression-era relatives called it, but they focus on what remains eternally important – making time for God and helping family, friends and neighbors.
As we wait on this 24 December 2014 to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, remember what is important – that God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to redeem us. He sent us the perfect gift.
I wish everyone a Merry Christmas.