Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Past: Artists Share Christmas Celebrations December 2006

Christmas: A Celebration of Joy
By Lorraine Walker
First Published December 2006

Over the past several months, SGM Radio has had the privilege of featuring many gospel artists from various walks of life. As they vary in age, upbringing, way of life and ministry, their Christmas celebrations have one central theme: Family. We asked a few of our SGM Radio family of artists to share with you their Christmas thoughts and traditions.
David Hill, David Hill Trio, Whitesburg, GA: “It's 6am on December 25th in the Hill household and every year the story is the same. My wife and my children are still sleeping soundly and I've already been up for an hour or so. I love Christmas! I love it so much that it's hard for me to sleep the night before. Every year I end up making "accidental" noises to wake everyone. When they finally get up the hot chocolate is made and Nat King Cole is singing "The Christmas Song" on the stereo. What a joy to give gifts to the ones that you love. Isn't that the heart of our Father? He is the ultimate "Gift-Giver" and the reason that we celebrate Christmas is proof of that fact.”
Phil Cross, Poet Voices, Ringgold, GA: “My first and favorite Christmas song lyric:
Grace Has A Face ~ by Phil Cross
Verse I:
In search of a child, they traveled so far,
Led by a star to a place of joy.
Now the wise men tell a beautiful story,
Describing the glory of a baby boy.
Hope has hands, freedom has feet,
Truth will stand, the Word will speak,
The holy and lowly finally embrace,
For love has a heartbeat and grace has a face.
Verse II
Compassion has a tear, joy has a laughter,
And here ever after, peace has a smile.
Redemption’s blood has veins to flow in,
A temple to glow in, Light is a child.
Hope has hands, freedom has feet,
Truth will stand, the Word will speak,
The holy and lowly finally embrace,
For love has a heartbeat and grace has a face.
Sheri LaFontaine, soloist and songwriter, Toledo, OH: “I'm looking forward to just being with family and doing some Christmas caroling. I love how the people's faces light up when they see us standing on their door step.”

Jerry Bennett, soloist, Nashville, TN: “My story to a lot of listeners is probably unknown. I was raised in a troubled family, although my mom was a Christian, I had a father who was an extreme alcoholic. We never had a lot and were very poor. Violence and abuse were something we lived with. My favorite song through those years was a song that always spoke a peace in my heart when it was late at night and I awoke and could look out my window. In my head [I’d] hear the song "Silent Night, Holy Night" as I would hum it in lateness of the dark. Many times I visualized the peace and reverence of that Christmas night as the moonlight would shine against the frozen crust of the snow. When we sang that song in church, I still could visualize that awesome sight at night from my bedroom window.”

Barry Shadrix, Shadrix Trio, Whitesburg, GA: “Christmas is mine and my wife's favorite time of the year. I have a large family. My dad, in fact, had 7 brothers and 2 sisters. We have always gotten together as a family and had a big Christmas party. We would always of course- EAT, then we would exchange some gifts, but my favorite part was when we would all gather around to sing. We would sing Christmas songs, hymns and would have a little church in my grandparent's home.
We still get together every year, and the family continues to grow. We have always been such a close family, that I look forward to seeing everyone each year. For the past 2 years, since Jill and I have been married, we have had a lot of ground to cover when it comes to Christmas parties. She also has a large family and we usually have family Christmas parties nearly every weekend for the month of December. We usually do not book singings after the first weekend of December so we have time to visit with all of my family and hers. I'm already excited about it!”

JW Cooper, Jr., soloist, Richton, MS: “Christmas brings back many fond memories for me. There is something exciting in the air and that ever-present sense of "not knowing" that came from shaking presents and overhearing muffled conversations late at night. I love the nip in the air, and the memories of gathering around the gas heater (we did not have a fireplace). Our family Christmas parties were always interesting to say the least and though attendance dropped off after Dad passed away, we still look forward to our yearly gathering. It feels like I have stepped into his shoes sometimes and I love doting on my Mom and my three sisters and of course all those "youngins".
My sisters and I try to "out pig" each other with wacky pig-themed gifts. My middle sister is the current champ, giving me one of those bobbing hula dancer dolls...only it was a bobbing hula dancing pig! I love the classic Christmas carols...Burl Ives, Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, etc. and Mom knows I look forward to her annual cheese ball, and the other goodies that only come around this time of year.
Mostly I look forward to getting outside alone at some point and reflecting on the true meaning of the holiday we celebrate as "Christmas". I try to always send up a "Happy Birthday Jesus" with my prayers of thanksgiving and appreciation. Christmas is by far my favorite time of year and when I have to spend it offshore, it is tough.[JW works on an oilrig in the Gulf of Mexico]. I put myself in the mindset that it is "just another day" so I can get through it. Being with my "second family" helps tremendously and we all lean on each other; even exchanging gifts and having our own little party so far from our homes and families.”

The final installments in our SGM Radio ‘Christmas Montage’ are lovely word pictures by a couple of Canadian artists. Many in the Southern states don’t have memories of a snowy Christmas morning, but here in Canada that is one of our blessings.
Mike Moran, baritone, The Torchmen, Ontario, Canada: “When I was about 13 or 14, my mother and I were asked to sing at the Midnight Christmas Eve Service in the Anglican church in my hometown of Hespeler, Ontario. The church was a very old church on the side of a steep hill, and after the service, when we came out you could see in the street lights the snow falling in big flakes, and it was so cold that the snow squeaked under our boots. It had all the ingredients to make it feel like Christmas, and after more than fifty years later the memory of it can still bring that feeling back to me.”

Andrew Martin, soloist, Ontario, Canada: “Snow is falling and the air is crisp. The spruce trees are laden with thick snow and, as you're walking, you see in the distance the lights of home as they glow against the fresh fallen snow. You take in a breath and you smell the wood fire burning inside. Through the windows you see the garland with little white lights as it hangs from the banister of the stairs; the tree in the corner with all of its beauty and you are taken back in your mind to Christmases from years gone by when you were just a little kid.”
Ok ... maybe you're not all coming to my house this year so let me share one of our Chirstmas traditions. I just described above what our house looks like starting on November 1st every year. I would decorate earlier but my wife says that the neighbors may look at us funny if I do this in August! We are HUGE Christmas fans here at our house and everybody gets into the decorating and Christmas mood. The funny thing is we decorate our home and then are so busy on Christmas tours that we generally only get a few days here and there to enjoy it! I think that might be the reason we decorate so early. One family tradition we enjoy every year happens on Christmas Eve. We all load in our car, drive around our town and look at all of the lights while sipping on Hot Chocolate. We turn on the radio to listen to the Christmas music play and we all still anticipate (well maybe it's just me) the special news bulletin. The bulletin announces that the Air Force has just spotted an unidentified object and, as the planes scramble to see what it is, you hear the pilot cut in and say, ‘You are not going to believe this! I'm seeing a red sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. Just a minute it's Santa Clause!’ I can remember doing this with my parents when I was just a kid and now my wife and I enjoy it with our girls.”

So whether your family tradition is like that or not, the greatest thing is to gather with those you love at Christmas and enjoy the moment (with soft Christmas Jazz music of course, and a fireplace, and decorations, and the food, and.........).”

Let me take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very Merry and Blessed Christmas from SGM Radio!

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