by Father Mark Goldasich
Christmas is a time for stories. So, take a few moments for yourself, grab a cup of hot chocolate, get comfortable in your favorite chair and enjoy this tale called “Silent Christmas”:
The wife of a poor merchant died, leaving him with five children.
When the merchant came home at night, he’d bring a bag of groceries, food for the next day. After setting the bag down, he hugged each child. Before they ate, he read from the Scriptures and prayed. Many nights, the children begged their father to sing with them. He frequently played his guitar and sang quiet folk tunes.
The first Christmas after his wife died, the merchant said to his children, “This year, there’s not enough money to buy presents. Instead, we’ll draw names, and you’ll make a present for one of your sisters or brothers. My gift to you will be a fine Christmas meal and a special song that I’m writing. We’ll learn it and then sing it in church on Christmas Eve.”
True to his word, the father wrote a wonderful song of joy for the children and began to teach it to them three weeks before the night of the Nativity. The children loved the song so much that they sang it with great gusto and volume.
A rich man, who lived upstairs, hated Christmas and hated music even more. Night after night, he listened to the children sing the new Christmas song. It irritated him so much that he developed a plan to silence the singing.
Several days before Christmas, he knocked on the merchant’s door. “I’ve come to make you an offer,” he said to the father. “I’ll give you 100 gold coins if you promise not to sing for three months.”
The father looked at the children. “That’s more money than I can make in two years,” he cried. “We’ll be able to buy presents for everyone in the entire family!” The children cheered as the father accepted the bag of money and the rich man’s terms.
That night, they began to plan silently how they would spend the money. The next few evenings, after they ate, they sat quietly reading and thinking. On the fourth night, one of the younger children said, “I’d rather have music than any stupid present. This isn’t worth it.”
One by one, the other children agreed. So, the father retrieved the sack of money and walked up the flight of stairs to return the bag to its owner.
“We’ve discovered something more important than money,” he said. “I’m sorry that our singing irritates you, but it fills us with joy. Our family can’t imagine Christmas — or life itself — without music. When we sing, we celebrate the best news that has ever been given to poor people: That God so loved the world that he became one of us, living as a human being.”
When the merchant rejoined his children, he said, “We’ll learn to sing with greater feeling and less volume. In our joy, we don’t want to irritate our neighbor. What do you say to that?”
The oldest child spoke for them all, “We say: Let the music begin!” (Adapted from “Stories for the Gathering,” by William R. White.)
As we celebrate Christmas in this time of COVID, may God remind us of what’s most important in life . . . and help us sing his good news to the world!