One of the songs that the choir will sing for the Holiday Concert is “Touch Hands.” The music was written Minnesota composer Abbie Burt Betinis. She based the piece on a poem of W. H. H. Murray. It goes like this:
Ah friends, dear friends, as years go on and heads get gray,
how fast the guests do go!
Touch hands, touch hands, with those that stay.
Strong hands to weak, old hands to young,
around the Christmas board, touch hands.
The false forget, the foe forgive, for every guest
will go and every fire burn low and cabin empty stand.
Forget, forgive, for who may say that Christmas day
may never come to host or guest again. Touch hands!
The music is lively and bouncy. And yet the words seem a bit wistful. Who knows when each of us will complete our journey? Taken in a larger sense, the poem is really not about Christmas per se. We sometimes have a sense of loss or regret for not having done one thing or another. Some would say that the holidays were invented so that we have the time to touch hands, to make amends. We all wish to extend goodwill, peace and joy as did the reformed Scrooge. It feels good to celebrate.
At the end of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” Dylan Thomas paints a haunting image of his early life at this time of year. His last three sentences read:
Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steadily falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.
My wish for you at this season is that you are able to touch hands (or elbows!) and celebrate the many gifts of existence with which we are all blessed. Then you will be able to face the close and holy darkness with peace in your heart. Touch hands! Touch hands!