Advent 8: held by music…

The one ‘social’ event I have attended fairly regularly in these Covid times is a music session in our local pub. We sit around tables and play folk music. The quality of the musicianship is… irelevant. I drag myself down there sometimes, but always come home the better for it.

Music is a big part of our advent. The arrival of the Christmas muzak. The promise of carols, just a short while down the road. For us too, there is another kind of Christmas music that makes and appearance; the sort that cuts through to the heart.

Over the Rhine’s Christmas albums for example;

Or Low, or Tracey Thorn, or our dear friend Yvonne;

At some point, Covid allowing, we will gather to sing together. I will play the piano as if wearing boxing gloves, Michaela will play her trumpet, in which we will hear whisps of that Salvation Army band on a busy shopping street… Emily and William will weave some sounds on Fiddle and guitar that will make me weep.

Music carries us. It allows us to feel. It becomes a place marker to give pause in the press of life.

(Musicians need our support more than ever… consider buying some actual albums this year.)

Here is a poem I wrote a year or so ago trying to make sense of the complexity of feelings that overwhelm me at Christmas and how music comes closer.


Peace be with us


In the quiet space between snowflakes

We listen to sad songs, and

Feel the prickle of tears, pushed

By beautiful broken things

Less than half-perceived

But never forgotten


In the warm space you made for me

I hide, guilty for those we left outside

Wishing our table was bigger

That every mouth was filled

Every refugee was home

Like we are. Hoping that


In the dark space between all those twinkling lights

Peace is waiting

Like scented water

Fingered by frost and ready to fall –

Ready to anoint our dirty old ground

Like Emmanuel

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