Amid “dreaming of a white Christmas” and “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”, I know of a less familiar Christmas song that carries a different sort of holiday message.
It was penned by singer/songwriter Claudia Schmidt who recently returned to perform at the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts. Maybe that’s why it’s been haunting my brain since Thanksgiving, but in a good way. In addition to her consummate musicianship, Schmidt is a true poet and storyteller whose observations are pithy, witty and wise.
A while back, I discovered “Christmas Eve” on her “Spinning” album, produced in 2006. The tune has a pleasing lilt, but I think it was the lyrics that especially moved me and fellow members of a troupe of local musicians known as Dudley Markham & Friends to add it to the playlist for a couple of Christmas concerts we put together a number of years ago as fundraisers for the Mabel.
The messages Claudia imparts in the song are as relevant today — and perhaps even more so — as they were then. Out for a Christmas Eve walk in frigid below-zero weather, she sets the scene, reflecting that while she has “a nice, warm house to leave”, not everyone is so fortunate: “I think of the ones who are out here tonight, because they’ve no place to go.”
Having known the gift of family all her life, Claudia is grateful for their holiday gatherings “with arms ever open to the hopes and the fears ... we laugh and we listen.” As she walks, her thoughts turn to the people who have not shared those blessings: “I think of those who are lonely tonight, because they’ve no one to love.”
Claudia recognizes how profoundly circumstances — an accident, illness, death or other misfortune — can affect the trajectory of a life: “I know everything can turn on a dime, without a warning shot.”
Perhaps at this point in her carol and despite the “shimmer of moon-sparkled snow,” her hike through the late-night cold was beginning to chill her perspective: “There are those who would rule the world with rage and leave the lonely to rot.”
Not surprisingly, some things really haven’t changed much in the 11 years since Claudia recorded “Christmas Eve.” While it’s true that some tyrants have been deposed, powerful despots are still very much a part of the political landscape, spreading their unique brands of rage and injustice throughout the world.
Maybe that’s why, in this season of goodwill to all, we need to celebrate those remarkable people whose efforts to make our communities the kind and caring places we want them to be: “So I thank all the workers for peace tonight, because that’s all we’ve got.”
Well said, Claudia. May all of us aspire to be “workers for peace” in all its forms — today, tomorrow and in all the years ahead.