Yesterday marked the first day of Advent. This season of expectation is present everywhere you turn. People are bustling with their Christmas shopping, smells of cinnamon and warm cookies fill the air, and the town transforms into a magical wonderland of twinkling lights. The atmosphere is rich with the anticipation of this most wonderful time of the year.
One of my most favorite things about the Advent season is the beautiful music that comes bursting on the scene as if packaged and tucked away for a whole year only to explode in glorious song at the close of the Thanksgiving holiday. Music is such a vital part of Advent that I don't think it would be the same without it. Concert halls resound with orchestral Christmas classics, churches echo the angelic choruses from the choir lofts and carolers warm the hearts of neighbors with their simple harmonies. Some of my personal favorites are those nostalgic Christmas tunes I grew up listening to on the family record player: Bing Crosby's White Christmas, Nat King Cole's The Christmas Song and Gene Autry's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I loved that last one so much I begged my mother to sing it to me every night of the year! There is something about music that touches the human soul.
In her book A Touch of the Infinite, Megan Hoyt explores the emotional connectivity humans have to music. In her chapter, "The Science of Relations", she discusses a scientific understanding of why humans have an emotional reaction to music. Interestingly, Ms. Hoyt explains that musicians admit to a heavy focus on the technical aspect when composing a piece, but that the emotional connectedness within their music is a mystery. She goes on to share that neuroanatomist Andrew Arthur Abbie believed that "pathways from the brain stem and cerebellum to the frontal lobes could weave sensory experience and coordinated muscle movements into a homogeneous fabric and when that happens, it is the key to perfect expression in art." It has only been recently that scientific studies support this idea of the connection between movement, the brain and music. For me, this truly comes as no surprise and causes me to pause and reflect on our amazing God, the creator of man and music.
The Father knows every fabric of our being and admittedly proclaims that when he created man it was very good. When sin entered the world, we moved away from the Father, but being created in the image of God we have within us the divine desire to be in harmony with our Creator. We long to reach Him to be made whole.
There is no satisfaction for the Soul of man, save one, because the things about him are finite, measurable, incomplete; and his reach is beyond his grasp; he has an urgent, incessant, irrepressible need of the infinite. ---Charlotte Mason, Ourselves
Our God is a jealous God who longs for us to reach for Him. He knows us so well. He knows how to woo us by every good gift from above. This includes the good gift of music. That is why I believe Charlotte Mason includes music appreciation in her curriculum. She recognized God's good gift of music and knew it had to be included in the feast spread for students to partake.
Miss Mason proclaimed that the Divine Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind. She held that all good things come from the Father and are revealed in His good creation. Miss Mason believed that the great recognition of parents and teachers is that God the Holy Spirit is Himself, personally, the Imparter of knowledge, the Instructor of youth and the Inspirer of genius. She claimed no distinction between the secular and sacred by supporting the idea of the Florentine mind of the middle ages that
...every fruitful idea, every original conception, whether in Euclid, or grammar, or music, was a direct inspiration from the Holy Spirit, without any thought at all as to whether the person so inspired named himself by the name of God or recognized whence his inspiration came.
---Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children
This is why I believe our souls are stirred at the hearing of Handel's Messiah as well as Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. It is an invitation from the Divine, a stretching out of the hand toward us. It is up to us to reach for it and recognize the true Giver. When we do, we are participating in the restoration of God's good world.
The musical atmosphere of Advent is magnificent because it is a gift of the harmony of the Trinity. The Supreme Educator is teaching us with love and grace His truth, beauty and goodness. As parents and teachers, may we be good stewards by spreading the musical feast not only during this season, but the whole year through.