I promise, this is it for Christmas – but I had one more to fit in from my list! This carol seemed a fitting way to bring the season to a close because what makes more sense than to share the news after a great event has taken place?

Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere;
go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.

This is an African-American Spiritual dating back to the late 1800’s, although a precise history isn’t really available. Some think it was written by Frederick Jerome Work, a black composer, teacher and scholar; and then published by his son John Wesley Work in the 1907 anthology, Folk Songs of the American Negro. Others feel that John Work simply recorded an older spiritual for the first time. Either way, it probably started life being sung by people who rarely had their voices heard. People who were not even allowed to have a voice. And yet, here is a song that is filled with joy, celebration and faith. Incredible when put in context.

To me, this kind of sums up what Christmas is. A time of celebration and joy mixed with sadness, contradiction and sometimes disappointment. For some, it is a time for reviewing the foundations of a belief system. For others, a time to renew relationships and celebrate family. In amongst all of that, for many it brings to the surface reminders of loneliness, loss and pain.   If we consider the historical context of the African-American Spiritual in the late 1800s, we find a people emerging from a civil war with new found freedoms – cause for celebration. Yet, this emergence was fraught with conflict, danger and challenges that, it could be argued, continue to this day. The example provided by these old songs is powerful. The ability to sing despite the challenges is inspirational. The deep desire to move beyond circumstances that were and are beyond one’s control brings tears to my eyes because of its strength and courage. The faith relied upon to do this is more than I can really understand, and is something to be considered.

When I am a seeker, I seek both night and day;
I seek the Lord to help me, and He shows me the way:
Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere;
go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.

As we shift past all the festivities of this season, I come away with a renewed sense that music provides something very powerful. I see it in this Spiritual and have seen it in so many places over the past few weeks. The words and tunes that are so familiar and longstanding are that way for a reason. I am reminded of a video that was circulating on the internet recently. An older Jewish woman was singing to an African-American Alzheimer’s patient. As she sang “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” there was suddenly a recognition from deep inside someone whose voice had been lost, and this lovely woman started to sing along. Here two women shared a beautiful moment – and it didn’t matter at all that they were of different faiths, they simply enabled each other to sing together despite the circumstances. So I leave you with this, let us sing it together.

He’s got the whole world in his hands;
She’s got the whole world in her hands;
We’ve got the whole world in our hands.

Merry Christmas.