“Do You Hear What I Hear?” This is one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs. I have heard it over and over again yet I never grow tired of it. It’s message is strong and pure. But sitting here this evening, it occurred to me that I never took the time to check into how it came about. So, with my curiosity peaked, I did a little investigating. This song came to be in 1962 and was a combined effort of Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne. It was written as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Regney was inspired to write the lyrics “Said the night wind to the little lamb, “Do you see what I see?” and “Pray for peace, people everywhere” after watching babies being pushed in strollers on the sidewalks of New York City. So this is how this beautiful song came to be and what the circumstances were, or what served as the backdrop, if you will. All of this and more can be found on Wikipedia, if you are curious. I read this and quite honestly, just sat for a while thinking. I had always just enjoyed hearing this song, often singing along in the pure rapture of the music and what I perceived its message to be. And of course, the song is indeed about the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. But as always, if one looks just a bit further, there is always something more, yes?
In truth, I am sitting here even now and wondering how to proceed with what I intended to write. I mean, think about this for a moment. These two people (who were married, by the way) are literally in the midst of what was one of the biggest crisis of that time period. The threat of nuclear war, one that could take place on our own soil was very, very real. People everywhere were more than a bit concerned about how this was going to turn out. I was very young but I was there in 1962. Too young to realize the magnitude of what was happening but smart enough to know something not very good was going on. People were fearful and the prospect of panic was not very far away. This was indeed frightening stuff, my friends.
Obviously however, not everyone reacted with fear. These two people, the lyricist and the musician, this husband and wife chose to actively do something to try to allay the fears and perhaps change the outcome of this crisis. Do you think that they just had a Holy boldness in that moment or do you believe that they felt the same fear and trepidation but decided to feel the fear and do it anyway, as the saying goes? We know the answer to this question, do we not? They were frightened as badly as anyone else. Yet they chose to take action and move forward in spite of their fear. And because they did so, thousands of people back then were comforted and calmed. It was a message of hope and strength which was so much-needed then. And that song has sold tens of millions of copies since then and has been performed by hundreds of artists. Amazing, isn’t it? The power of words which are given properly at the right time in the proper moment can and will change our world. Words have done so in the past and will continue to do so today. And those words my friends, dictate what our future will be.
“Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” Does this sound at all familiar to any of you out there? Of course it does. So, I would share a few items with you this evening, if I may. First, choose carefully and wisely your words for they are as feathers in the wind. They are not easily reclaimed once they have left the safe haven of our heart. And trust me, they are never forgotten no matter how hard we may try to do so. Just remember that as humans, we are all fallible. We all become angry at some point or offended or hurt…..You can fill in the blank here yourself. The bottom line is when the unfavorable attacks us, we want to react and defend ourselves in some fashion for we feel we have been wronged! And we react with our what? Our words and those words can often hurt every bit as much as attacking someone physically. Actually, wounds caused by a verbal attack do far more damage than almost any physical hurt can cause. So I ask of you, please think and rethink before you react. Is there not enough pain in our world to satisfy us yet?
The second thing I would like to speak with you about is….Well, let me just say this. Do you hear what I hear? When a statement is made and when words are spoken, do you hear what I hear? Yes, you do indeed hear what I hear. Or better said, you hear the same words that I hear. But your perception of those same words, what you glean from their meaning is almost always different what I or anyone else derives from those words. I might also add that the emphasis we place on any particular word in a sentence changes the meaning of that statement. As an example, please be kind and read this sentence – I didn’t say he took the money. Okay, easy enough, right? Now read it once again with emphasis on the word in bold print – I didn’t say he took the money. Now again – I didn’t say he took the money. Now indulge me a few more times please – I didn’t say he took the money. – I didn’t say he took the money. And then try this – I didn’t say he took the money. Or how about – I didn’t say he took the money. Do you see how your perception of the statement changed based on what word has the most emphasis put on it? As I say, we all hear the same words but in truth we do not because of how our mind perceives those words. This is why we should become well-practiced in the management of that potentially vicious little fellow who resides in our mouth, our tongue. How is it said? “Out of the same mouth comes forth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not be.” Realize the truth of these words, friends and neighbors. If what comes out of our mouths is a flow of inconsistency, then how do you think this affects those around us and how then does it ultimately affect this, our world that was given us to care for and manage??? Is it any wonder then that this world of ours is in conflict and confusion? You see, the words we use are to be consistently peaceable and kind and therefore easily entreated by the spirits of those round’ about us. This is how healing will come upon the Earth.
There are other factors, of course. Nothing is perfect in an imperfect world. But it is what we can strive for, what we can become. And if you wish to place blame for the conditions on our planet somewhere else? Say, on the shoulders of our leaders perhaps? Okay, I will give that one to you for that is fair enough. To those whom we place our faith and confidence in to responsibly make decisions for the welfare of our country and world, we expect more. To properly serve its citizenry, those who have been given the mantle of leadership are expected to be servants of said citizenry. But I would ask you this question as well – If it becomes a situation where the leaders are no longer acting as the public servants for which they were elected but rather have become servants unto themselves, what then? The answer there is a simple one but not an easy one. If they will no longer fulfill properly the position they were entrusted with, then they should be asked to leave that position. And it is the citizens who elected them, you and I who must hold them accountable for their office. So you see, we are the ones who are to blame for a lack of leadership in our respective countries and nations. Because we are the ones who either allow or disallow things to continue as they are, be it good or bad. It is our job, our responsibility to speak clearly and say our leaders, “Do you hear what we hear?” So, the good news is that in order to effectively change our world is that it is all up to us. And the bad news is that in order to effectively change our world it is all up to us. It’s kind of funny if you think about it. But it is the truth of it, to be sure.
In closing, I would say that our nation and our world is in turmoil. That is an irrefutable fact. There is violence and discord in so many areas of the world. A good many of us, the majority of us actually, feel anxious and fearful much of the time. A sense of foreboding is quite prevalent nowadays. We seem to be a nation which has lost its way in a world which seems to be spinning out of control. What are we to do and in which direction do we turn in the midst of our fear? I believe we know the answer and we know where to begin already. You see, back in 1962, there was a lyricist and a musician who were living in a fearful time. I believe we spoke of them earlier this evening, yes? And in response to their fear, did they withdraw and run away, hoping desperately that someone would step up and do something? No, they did not as you already know. Instead they took a stand and used the gifts and abilities they were born with and wrote a song that affected the masses then and still blesses millions today. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Well my friend, do you hear it? The winds of change are blowing now. And please do remember that our words carry much power, power that can and will bring about a different outcome than what has been set forth. Will you now step up with me and greet those winds head on with a grand expectation and the confident hope for a better tomorrow? And be not afraid for fear is indeed the real enemy of our spirit. Come, let us bring about change in our world for it is our world after all. What do you say? Do you hear what I hear?
I do apologize if I have kept you longer than usual. As I have mentioned, most often when I write something I don’t know where it is going. I simply follow what flows through my fingertips. I truly hope this has been worthy of your time this evening. I speak of our being able to effect change because I am led to do so. And I believe I am led to do so because we can, through a collective effort bring our world back into balance, if you will. But to do so, we must become accountable to ourselves and more importantly, we must become accountable as well to all those who share this Earth with us. I pray for blessing and goodness upon us all. If you find these words worthy, please pass them along. I thank you for your attention. Take care with yourselves.
Authored by William J. Thompson, Jr.