December 5, 2013 | 03:01 pm

The True Meaning of Christmas

Last week West End Collegiate Church provided a Thanksgiving meal through our soup kitchen ministry. While our patrons ate turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce, Cynthia Powell and I provided some Christmas background music. As I sang the songs that have given me so much joy through the years, I felt a new kind of tension this year. Some of the lyrics that we sing so robustly during the holiday season seemed oddly cruel to sing to a group of people who may not have had a place to sleep after completing their meals:

Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we've no place to go
Let is snow, let it know, let it snow.

Or

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more

Every time we sang a song from the last sixty years, I felt a pain in my heart. Shopping? Decorating? Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Many lovely distractions that probably mean very little to a person who is in a desperate situation.

But when we sang about the Story, the tragic, cold, miserable story of a young woman giving birth in a stable, it felt right to me. These songs are about hope, peace, justice, and light. These songs, with their mournful melodies, reflect the tension of darkness and light in our world today. These songs are timeless.

The lovely people who came to eat at our soup kitchen appreciated all the music. I am sure they were not as fixated upon the lyrics as I was. But if they heard one line from one song, I hope it was not about silver bells and street lights. I hope they heard about a lonely family with no place to stay, finding peace and comfort and joy.